For years I didn't know what was going on. It was clear to me early on that a few specific thing send me into panic. I 'd lose my glasses, or go to the dentist, or be picked on at school. I also had panic attacks about lost keys, missed school assignments, and bank errors. Sometimes I have had random attacks about speaking in public and entering new situations. Some of my panic triggers make sense to me. Some do not.
In my worst seasons, I had panic attacks that happened once or twice a day for months. I have multiple panic attacks in a day. The first mega attack day was in the third grade. I had 10 panic attacks in a row. I lost my glasses and I started a new school. I still remember the waves of panic crashing over me. I sat at my desk and struggled with attack after attack for the whole school day. I was moved into a special ed classroom. These mega attacks have hit me through the years. It's always if I'm hit with many triggers.
I've seen things turn into panic triggers. Here is my worst: I sought help in my early twenties, but unfortunately, my mental health provider did something human and stupid by having an affair with a guy 25 years younger than her. The guy was being torn apart by the relationship. The guy was also a very close friend of mine. My mental health provider stopped my sessions, informing me that she was having the affair with my friend. I was dropped and left without care. Yeah, and then speaking to a mental health provider became one of my triggers. Dang.
Here is reality of my panic attacks. They hit like a tornado. The shortness of breath. Hyperventilation. My heart races. Trembles shake my body. Cold sweats and goosebumps follow. I often throw up. Uncontrollable sobbing. Dizziness. Wailing. It doesn't make sense. It's terrifying to those around me. It's terrifying to me.
To know me is to know my panic. Most of my attacks last about 20 to 30 minutes. It's taken years to build strategies to survive and to find drugs that actually help. I sometimes think it is beyond ridiculous to think I'm going to be a writer. What if a panic attack blindsides me? People who love me understand. Everyone else is not so forgiving.
I wish I could say I got the health care I needed for this right off and it has been all good. That is not my story. It took time to get help because mental health workers cause me to panic. This is the first time in life I've ever had the moxie to even speak of this. I do have healthcare now. I do have good medication. I can still have a panic attack now and then, but it is down to maybe two a year and never multiple attacks.
I have solid ways to deal with panic. When it comes, I recognize I'm having attack. I speak my mantra: "This is a panic attack. It is a problem that is not the problem. It cannot hurt me. It cannot stop me. It just chemicals poured into my body. My fight of flight system is messed up. The chemicals will dissipate and then I can deal with the real problem." I breathe slowly, repeating the mantra, until the panic ends.
I am a person with a rare gift for words, but I'm also this broken person, who has been broken for most of my life by panic. I hope that my struggle helps you to be brave and face whatever you are facing. I hope that you say what you need to.
I will be back next week with more of Chicken by Chicken.
Here is a doodle. Girl in the Moon.
Here is a quote for your pocket.
Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears. Crissi Jami