Category: Anxiety Diaries

Anxiety Diaries: My First Real Panic Attack

Thank you, artist, for this cartoon.

 

 

I wish I had some elaborate story where my first real panic attack was just after saving a box of kittens from drowning, and even though I suffered the debilitating panic attack, I managed to come out of it a heroine. Like Superwoman. Or Wonder Woman. Or another female superhero I don’t know the name of.

But no. Because this is me. My first real panic attack was walking across a crosswalk. That’s it. Just a random crosswalk.

Without a car, I do a lot of walking. When I had my first panic attack, I was walking across the street after hitting up Starbucks, just like I had done dozens of times before. The panic came when I was about halfway across, and I suddenly couldn’t move. I froze right there in the middle of the crosswalk at a super busy intersection. This wasn’t a little casual side street, it is a major street with a shit load of cars all waiting to pass. So there are about 20 cars on either side watching me as I stand without moving in the middle of a crosswalk, clutching my heart thinking I am having a heart attack, and not being able to breathe.

There were no warning signs, it just came out of nowhere. Completely random. I always thought a real panic attack would be triggered by something, or I would feel my normal anxiety first. But nope. One minute I’m fine, the next my feet feel like they’re made of concrete, I can’t breathe, my throat is dry, it feels like it’s about a million degrees, and my heart palpitations are so bad I just keep waiting for death to take me.

Luckily, I was able to move my concrete feet enough to stumble across and not die, but it sucked. I still felt like I couldn’t breathe and that my heart would stop beating any second, so I clutched my latte and ran for it. I don’t run, so you know this is serious. Like, if a serial killer was chasing me with an axe in his hand, I would try really hard to do a fast-ish walk.

It was about a week later when I realized I was traumatized by my first panic attack, and could no longer walk across that damn street. Since then, I have had all kinds of panic parties. When I’m riding in the car, while walking my dogs, just before falling asleep when the heart palpitations start, when I’m watching cartoons normal shows that adults watch.

I’m an introvert with social anxiety that now has her worse panic attacks when going outside; it’s a miracle I ever leave the house.

What about you? Have you ever suffered a similar experience? Tell me about so I don’t feel like a crazy weirdo.

JennSig

The Anxiety Diaries: Heart Palpitations

 

How cute is this heart plush? I want it.

At the very beginning of my new life with anxiety and crippling panic attacks, heart palpitations were my worst enemy. Nowadays, I don’t get them as often, but when I do, it ultimately leads to a panic attack lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours or so. They are by far one of the worst things I experience, since I can literally feel my heart beating. Everyone has different situations that cause them to go into ultimate panic mode: for me, my biggest fears are not being able to breathe, choking, or that my heart will suddenly stop beating. Enter heart palpitations. Every time I can feel my heart beating so severely, I am just waiting for it to stop. It doesn’t make me feel better knowing it is still beating, it only gets me more anxious. So that leads to more anxiety and restlessness, which then makes the heart palpitations even worse.

It’s a vicious cycle with seemingly no end in sight. Have I mentioned how stupid panic attacks are?

Some nights, it is so terrible that I pass out as I am listening to the heavy, frightening beats, and wake up the next morning not sure how I managed to fall asleep. Other times, though, it takes me hours to relax.

stopheartpalpitations

Here are some helpful ways I have found that help me put a stop to the heart palpitations:

Distract yourself. It is by far the best way to start slowing them down. They won’t go away immediately, but if you can find something else to occupy your mind, they gradually calm. Personally, I have to get up and watch TV, read a book, or even write a blog post. The moving around helps as well as the mental distractions.

Get exercise. If you’re getting heart palpitations during daylight, you can go for a walk outside. In reality, any type of movement is helpful. I have found by moving around, I don’t notice the heart palpitations. once I think they’re gone, my heartbeats actually calm, really making them go away. It’s just a little trick I have learned.

Drink cold water. While you’re up, get a glass of cold water. For some reason, cold water slows down your heart rate and helps about 50% of the time for me. Mine get pretty bad, so I won’t lie and say this is a magical cure. Others swear by cold showers, but.. pass.

Perform breathing exercises. Anyone struggling with anxiety disorder or panic attacks should know proper breathing techniques. I’ll be honest here: they don’t work for me all that often, but that doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. Completely worth a try.

Things you shouldn’t do if you get heart palpitations frequently:

Drink excessive amounts of alcohol

Drink caffeine before bedtime

Take certain medications

Stay off Google. You WILL somehow end up on a page telling you palpitations mean an impending heart attack. Just don’t.

JennSig

Welcome to the Anxiety Diaries

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Preface: I love this cartoon. I wish I was the first person to think of Anxiety Girl, as this would absolutely be the name of this series. But like many things, I only admire great ideas other people come up with first, so Anxiety Diaries it is.

I need someone to make me a cartoon.

In all seriousness: I am officially (by a real doctor not run by Google) diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic attack disorder, social anxiety, and a little clinical depression thrown in too.

About GAD: With GAD, you have an overwhelming feeling of stress and worry and anxiety.  Usually, it is not about having panic attacks all the time, but you just have this sense of doom almost always. Sometimes you feel perfectly fine, then all of a sudden you get this feeling of panic, usually having no idea where it came from. It is not the same thing as regular stress. It is often debilitating and keeps you from doing normal things that normal people do.

I originally visited my doctor due to being tired all the time. It turned out extreme fatigue is a big symptom of GAD. Any time I get into a particularly stressful situation, an overwhelming feeling of fatigue comes over me. I can be completely energetic and well rested, then all of a sudden I can barely keep my eyes open. Like any psychological condition, it is different for everyone.

My GAD looks like this:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea/stomach cramping/vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Body shakes
  • Heart palpitations

About Panic Attack Disorder: First of all, not everyone with GAD will have panic attacks, and not everyone who has an occasional panic attack has a disorder or an anxiety problem. That’s just a fun thing I have. Life really enjoys being a bitch and throwing me these fun adventures.

When you have a panic disorder, you have panic attacks frequently and without warning. They usually last several minutes and are an irrational reaction to something you fear. Some people with panic disorder have triggers that set it off, while others have absolutely no warnings.

I am somewhere in the middle. Sometimes, I am perfectly fine then all of a sudden I swear I am having a heart attack. At other times, I know it is coming before it has arrived because of a trigger. This is actually me having anxiety about possibly having a panic attack, which then causes my anxiety to spike and gives me a panic attack.

Sound ridiculous? It is. This is literally the stupidest disorder to suffer from. Most of it is in your head. I am insistent that the bigger imagination you have, the worse it is going to be for you.

And this is how my panic attacks go:

  • Heart pounding, heart palpitations, which makes me feel like I am going to die.
  • Hands sweating.
  • Dry throat, can’t swallow, afraid to swallow.
  • Confusion/disorientation.
  • Irrational fear of doom.
  • Physically shaking from head to toe.
  • My mind working in overdrive: it tries to convince me it’s nothing while also convincing me my heart will stop beating any second.

The fact that I not only have general anxiety basically all the time, but moderate to severe panic disorder (I have at least one attack a day, usually), it’s a miracle I can function as a human and that I ever leave the house.

Welcome to The Anxiety Diaries. It’s a party you were invited to but won’t attend because you’re too afraid to leave your house.

JennSig