Yesterday I had a hell of a panic attack. This may not seem surprising to you since I write a blog about anxiety and as a sufferer you may assume I have panic attacks all the time. Not true. Do I have anxiety attacks, rumination, racing thoughts, monkey mind, unsteady breathing and racing heart, and all the other truly darling things anxiety brings, yes. But not so much panic. I would say I average one panic attack every six months and they are usually a one and done, phew glad that is over with, let’s carry on with our day, sorta thing. Now there was a time in my life, the nervous breakdown which you will hear me reference often, that I was in a constant state of panic attack for months so I am not a stranger, but it has been almost a good 4 years since then. My last panic attack was in August and it was isolated to a situation meaning once I got back home I was fine and unfrazzled. And prior to that August one I had not had one for almost a year.
And then there was yesterday. I was in the car on the highway on the way to work. If you have read my previous blog entries you know most of my anxiety happens in the car especially on highways. I have had anxious thoughts almost everyday on my way to work but like I said, it never really escalates to panic. Yesterday I was tired, I had not slept. I have a little bit of stress happening with the planning of a wedding, my Grandma is ill and possibly not going to make it through the weekend, things at work have intensified. It makes sense. Only on the surface I do not feel like I was thinking of any of those things. What I was thinking is, I feel anxious, remember that time I had a nervous breakdown, oh god what if that happens again, is it happening now, what if I have a panic attack and I can’t calm down and I am already half way at work, I am having a panic attack. Shit. Call the fiance, tell him to come get you. Turn around, go home. Turn around, turn around. I wont make it home, I am going to pass out.
It went something like that. My thoughts normally always go to “What if I get as bad again as I use to be” ( the nervous breakdown constant panic attack state aforementioned). On strong days I shut down those thoughts real fast with facts. 1- you came out of it 2- it led to great spiritual growth 3- You did not know what it was then, you have knowledge and resources, it won’t ever be that bad and many other self affirmations I have stored for such occasions.
But on weak days, when I am tired especially or have pent-up stress, not much helps. So I did call the fiance and he strongly urged I do not turn around and he was right because once you turn around and go home your confidence goes down. At least for me. Then negative self talk begins, “You are not strong enough to push through” and it becomes a cycle where you always turn around and then you get trapped in the fear that you cannot push through and you just always default to staying home and that is dangerous territory. So I arrived at work and he showed up to offer hugs and support. Once he left I was on my own to battle the mind and make it through the day. For the most part when I have a panic attack in the car, almost immediately as I step out of the car at my destination it immediately lifts like magic. Yesterday it did not. As I emerged myself in work the anxiety and lingering panicky aftermath started to fade and by 3:00 I chuckled to myself over how absurd it is that I don’t feel anything like I did this morning. Man is panic and anxiety weird! So now you are thinking, yay happy ending, she felt great by 3:00pm and she conquered the day. Not really. So I left work and on the way home I started to feel frazzled again. And then this morning I woke up with residual anxiety. Now lucky for me I am working from home today but I believe strongly that if I had to drive to work I would panic again over memories of yesterday. BUT at least I could tell myself that I survived yesterday and I survived today.
The big difference to panicky me now as opposed to panicky me during the breakdown is now I don’t panic over panic as much. It is so uncomfortable, it makes you feel like it will never go away and you won’t ever feel better and sometimes feels impossible to beat but I just tell myself that I have felt this way before, and then I have felt better in days following and it is an ebb and flow and just go with it and take it as it comes and it too shall pass.
In the past I would have freaked out and reacted so much to the panic which obviously just makes it grow. So although I did freak slightly I kept going forward and I guess sometimes that is the best we can do. Today I sit here with residual anxiety. I feel worried about driving to work tomorrow and if I am being quite honest I feel a panic attack creeping up just thinking about having a panic attack tomorrow but I try to take the perspective that each attack is an opportunity to implement techniques for coping and each incident that I cope will make it easier and easier. It is why I truly believe I have been able to keep panic attacks at bay in the past.
Send me some good vibes for tomorrow’s commute!
( Good vibes back at ya!)