One of the most common sensations that humans feel is anxiety. It’s what’s helped us survive all throughout history. But, as many things in life, too much of something can be bad. And anxiety is a perfect case of this.
Anxiety can help you run away from danger, giving you the right amount of blood and oxygen to anticipate it. But what about when you get up on a podium and have to speak publicly? As a comparison, anxiety is, in most common situations, an annoyance. Sure, a small amount can be helpful for focusing on a speech. What about when the anxiety becomes so intense that your mind blanks? Things can become even more complicated if your anxiety increases and causes more than sweaty palms and a trembling voice.
One of the hallmark signs of some of the highest levels of anxiety is a panic attack. Panic attacks are–at least, for me–one of the most horrible things that a person can experience. If you’ve had a panic attack before, you’ll probably agree with me.
Panic attacks are terrifying. They’re scary for the people that have them and worse for those who witness them. The best way I can describe my panic attacks is one of those heart attack scenes from every single medical drama there is. It’s much worse than sweaty palms. Your entire face starts sweating. Sometimes things become cold. Whenever I’m at my worst, my breathing becomes so rapid that my throat hurts. The scariest part of panic attacks for me is that I become so spaced out and uncomfortable that I just seem to blank out enough to be hard of hearing. Like I said, one of the worst experiences ever.
I’ve personally lived with panic attacks since the 9th grade, so I was about fifteen years old. It was difficult enough to try and fit in and make friends in high school. Adding panic attacks into the mix made finding and making friends more difficult. For the longest time, up until about junior year, I was distant enough to not hang out with friends outside of school. Even in school, I could be a bit flaky because my fear of having a panic attack in front of friends was so strong. I couldn’t bear to be around people at all when I was feeling anxious. It was one of the loneliest points in my life.
I’d gone to a psychiatrist before, and I was put on an antidepressant and was told that I had just Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But when my panic attacks became more persistent, my doctor finally decided to re-examine my condition and change his mind.
Things started relabeling themselves whenever I told him that I was afraid of being around friends when I was anxious–which was all the time at that point. That was when he gave me an official diagnosis of Panic Disorder. He started by giving me sedating medications usually used for sleep, but those didn’t work. After we’d exhausted all other options, I was given that small, peach-colored pill called Xanax.
It was a hard decision for my doctor, since Xanax is a known narcotic. But it’s one of the best choices he made for me. The medicine worked wonders and snapped me out of my forty-five-minute panic attacks in fifteen minutes. It even stopped some in their tracks before they could even fully happen.
It’s still been a long journey. I still have panic attacks, and they still suck, but after four years, things have improved. Even though Panic Disorder doesn’t have a cure, it’s easy to forget if it’s under control. When you have a panic attack, there’s an obligatory feeling of doom. Everyone who has a panic attack has probably felt it. But despite that feeling, the world isn’t going to end after or during a panic attack. Life goes on, and because of it, I’ve been able to make some form of peace with my mental illness. I’ve been able to channel that anxiety into something I love–creative writing. Finding ways to harness the anxiety like some people can to focus during a speech is essential for someone with Panic Disorder to heal.
It’s a rocky road, and things don’t always work on their first try. But one thing I’ve learned about people who suffer from panic attacks is that they’re the most resilient people in the world. Even though hope seems lost sometimes, the people who suffer from the worst always find a way to grab hope by the horns and make a better future for themselves.
How do you cope with Panic Disorder? Let me know in the comments below!
Edited by Viveca Shearin