Panic Attack (or Panic Disorder) and What to Do
Welcome back to Consider Yourself Hugged! Click here to listen to Episode 110. OR click YouTube below to watch! (***Disclaimer: I provide these notes as a skeleton for the show - nothing fancy 😄)
From my book, Life Without the Monsters
I don’t remember my first days at school. I don’t remember my first dance or my first communion or my first confession. I don’t even remember my first kiss. In fact, I have very few memories of my childhood. My first panic attack, however, is a vivid memory. My father was a country music singer, and during the summers we would often travel with him and his band. We were still a happy family at that time – at least I thought we were. Those are actually some of my fondest memories – traveling through the country in whatever beat-up car we were driving at the time, my sister car sick and parents fighting. You know - what family vacations are all about!
At the age of nine we were on one of those summer trips. Remember when you were at the swimming pool as a child and your parents would say, “Don’t run! You’ll slip and fall!”? Well, I was running around the hotel swimming pool, and I did slip and fall. My memory after the fall was not one of a hurt leg or a bumped head. It was one of fear. I suffered my first panic attack. I was away from home and scared. My heart was pounding, my breathing was fast and shallow, and the feeling of fear was overwhelming. That feeling was soon to become very common.
It’s very difficult to put into words how a panic attack feels – especially as an 11 year old child. I did fine during the day. When night fell, however, I became absolutely terrified. Every night was the same – the fear, the inability to breathe, the sense of being out of control, and the feeling that death was surely on its way. I remember wanting to breathe, but being unable to. I remember being so scared and wanting it to go away so badly. I remember hating that I was going through it again! It happened night after night after night. My mother took me to several doctors. They did tests, but they all came back normal. “Those doctors don’t know what they’re talking about! There is definitely something wrong with me.”
Because of the panic attacks, there would be no sleepovers at friends’ houses for me. Nighttime was my enemy, and I could not be away from home. One night I became brave! I was in the sixth grade, and decided to try to spend the night at a friends house. It’s funny what we remember. I recall David Bowie’s song “Fame” on the radio. The tune to that song scared me even more, not to mention the rumor of devil worshipers on the hill behind her house!! The feeling was coming. I was absolutely petrified, and knew calling home was a necessity. At 3:00 in the morning, my mother came to get me. To this day when I hear that song, shivers go up my spine!
I have a favorite analogy. It was like I was living with room darkening shades around me. There were times when the shades were pulled up and I would see things as they were, realistically. “Of course I can get another job. I don’t have to teach. There are a million other jobs out there. Everything will be fine. This is not a catastrophe, and I will feel better soon.” The sky would look normal. The grass and trees would look normal. I could get up and go to the bathroom and think I was over it and would be OK. I could have conversations with people. My muscles weren’t tense. I wasn’t afraid. And then WAM!! The shades would close, and I would be back in my world of illusion, my world that made no sense. Everything looked so different when the shades were down. It was like I was out of my body looking around at a strange world. I was so jealous of everyone else and their “normal” lives. That’s what it really boiled down too – I just wanted to be normal. (Listen to story)
Links to Resources
Anxiety & Depression Association of America
What to do:
1. Tell yourself IMMEDIATELY that you are not dying and this will pass.
2. Breathe! I’ll show you
3. Use a paper bag if you’re hyperventilating
4. Call someone. Michael.
5. Recognize catastrophic/global thinking.
6. Think of someone who has healed from what you’re going through
Thanks for joining today! As we’ve always asked in the past, please pass the show link along to your friends and subscribe, download, and review wherever you are listening. If you’re a woman and you haven’t joined our private FB group A Place for Women, please do that now! It’ll be your source of encouragement.
And until next time, Consider Yourself Hugged 😘🤗