What it feels like to have a panic attack

Yesterday started like any other day.

After I woke up, I kissed my husband and baby and gave my dog a little pat. I checked my phone, read my Facebook notifications, and prepared myself for the day ahead.

And then it started…

I could feel my chest starting to hurt…really hurt. It started to become harder and harder to breathe. My palms started to become sweaty and my vision a little blurred.

I knew what was happening. I was having a panic attack.

But that’s pretty par for the course when it comes to me so I didn’t think anything more of it. In my life, anxiety has been an ever-looming presence since I can remember. It’s cost me relationships, goals, and I’ve missed out on more things that I’ve wanted to do than I can say. But again…that’s all normal occurrences for me.

This time, though, something was different. For the past few days, I’ve been pushing my anxiety down- trying to forget about it and focus on things that I felt were more important and that needed to be done right away. I let myself push that anxiety down into the depths of my body and hid it away for another time…another day. This, I would come to find out, was the wrong decision.

I was quickly aware that this panic attack was different from the others. It wasn’t one of those times where i’d just cry, roll up in a ball, and call my husband to calm me down.

No. This was not one of those times.

I’ve had what probably equals to thousands of panic attacks in my life, but never before have I felt what I did yesterday. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post.

The purpose of me writing this is to walk you through my experience in a way that makes it easy for those who don’t have anxiety to understand what it feels like when a panic attack is happening. I have had experiences with people who don’t get how anxiety can affect a person. In fact, there have been many people in my life who discount my anxiety for being laziness or me being just plain weird. Today, I’m looking at these people and saying,

“No. I’m not lazy. I’m not crazy. I am affected by something that so many others are who fail to speak up out of fear. Fear that you’ll ridicule them. And fear that they won’t be accepted.”

It ends today.

Yesterday, I was struggling hard to keep it together- to continue working, to take care of my son. Hell, feeding him lunch seemed almost impossible because all I wanted to do was lay down and cry. But, of course, I didn’t have that option. So, instead, I stood in front of my almost one year old son, tearing up his lunch into little pieces while balling my eyes out. His little eyes looked up and me like he was scared- scared of what was happening to mommy. I know, as a one year old, he was just confused. But, in the moment, I was so afraid that he was scared of me.

I finished tearing up a piece of cheese into little bits for him, sat down to eat my own lunch, and felt a wave of anxiety wash over me like a giant ocean tunneling over my body. I couldn’t breath.

My hands turned white as I gripped the kitchen table in front of me- struggling like mad to take a breath. It wasn’t happening. My chest felt as though there was something inside- pushing back and trying to escape.

It felt exactly like when you go running in chilly weather and the cold air gets trapped in your chest. Every breath I took was intense pain. It’s a scary feeling when you need more than anything to breath, but you know every breath you manage to take will be excruciating.

Was I having a heart attack? It certainly felt like I was.

All the while, my son is sitting there eating his little lunch, smiling at me, rocking back and forwarth doing a little dance. He had no idea the sheer terror that his mother was feeling.

Finally, I knew it was time to grab my phone and call someone. My husband answered the phone and I burst into hysterical tears. Immediately, he responded, “I’m on my way!”

I’m an extremely lucky person. I married a man who loves me unconditionally. Even though I have an extreme anxiety disorder, he’s never treated me like I’m any kind of burden. And that’s what it feels like to me- like I’m a HUGE burden to everyone around me.

We managed to quickly get a baby sitter here so that baby Flynn wouldn’t have to go to the hospital with us- I worry about the germs and how he would react having to be there for what i assumed would be a long time (and I was right).

My husband rushed me to the hospital. All the while, I’m sitting in the front seat of our car- shaking, crying, and trying like mad to take a breath that isn’t sharp and incredibly painful.

After waiting in the ER waiting room for a while- all the time trying not to cry in front of all these strangers.

Note: My husband told me to let it out. I mean, I’d never see these people again. But I still felt like I couldn’t. What if they thought I was crazy? What if they ridiculed me and gave me crazy looks? What if they reacted to my panic attack the way so many others have reacted to them in my life? I couldn’t take it. I just couldn’t. Not again.

They brought me back and asked me a ton of questions. The nurses were sweet and concerned about me. They quickly hooked me up to a ton of wires and did an EKG because they were concerned about my heart.

All of that looked fine- thankfully. And now it was time for them to take my blood.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do blood. The word alone makes me feel sick. So, of course, I start to panic even more- completely balling my eyes out.

They gave me some medicine that was meant to calm me down and promised me that they’d give me about half and hour to let it set in before they drew the blood.

Literally…not two minutes later the lady came in with the needles and tubes. My husband was upset with them. He knew this was only going to make things worse. And he was right.

The minute I saw everything, I started shaking even harder and spiraling completely out of control. My husband held my hand as I shook and cried. They took my blood- and moved the needle around so much that it was excruciating.

Then, the meds they gave me kicked in I fell asleep for about two hours. And suddenly…we were in the car.

I couldn’t remember anything that had just happened and it was so frightening. I thought, for a moment, that I must be in a dream. I don’t remember waking up, getting dressed, having the wires taken off of me, or talking to anyone while we were being discharged. To lose time like that when the last thing you remember is being poked with needles and hooked up to machines is a truly scary thing.

After that, we went and got my medicine, went home, and had a very loving and cozy night while trying to feel better.

This experience is one that I will never forget. My anxiety is debilitating and a lot of the time I find myself wondering “Why me?”. But here’s the truth. If not me, it’ll be someone else and they’ll have to experience the sheer torture of a panic attack. So many people do every day and are too scared to reach out to anyone. Some people even kill themselves because they think something is wrong with them and that they aren’t important enough to be helped. The thought of this really makes me sad. Because everyone is important enough to receive help. EVERYONE deserves to feel safe in their own body.

Anxiety feels like the worst is about to happen. It feels like pain shooting through, not only your body, but also your mind too. Panicking feels like you’re one breath away from dying and you’re too scared to tell anyone in case you’re actually just going crazy.

To those who don’t think anxiety is a big deal- guess what? It is. And you’ve never been through it so you don’t have a say in the matter. Done.

Panic attacks don’t have to be anything like the sort of thing I went through either. They can be quiet, they can be internalized, they can be irritableness. They can be so many things and so many people have no idea that this is the truth of the matter.

It is my hope that this article will inspire those of you who suffer from anxiety to come forward and share your stories with others. Inspire other people to speak openly about their panic attacks and let each and every one of us know that it’s ok to seek help.

It’s ok to tell someone when you need help.

It’s ok to take time for yourself if you need it.

It’s NOT ok to tell yourself you’re a burden…because you aren’t. Listen to me when I say this: You can’t possibly be a burden to those who love you when you’re feeling this way. If your body/mind is in distress, that’s more than enough of a reason to feel ok to reach out to someone.

I had someone tell me to suck it up once when I was having a panic attack. It made me feel depressed and annoying. What I should have told them was that they need to suck it up and admit to themselves that they have probably needed help in the past too- but they were just too proud to admit it.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”

And I- my body, my mind, my whole being- is more important than the fear I feel telling everyone that I need help.

And, you know what, YOUR health is more important than the fear too.

To those with anxiety,

Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should be feeling. If something feels off and you can’t seem to nail down what it is- you aren’t going crazy. Your mind and body are working to tell you something. It’s ok to reach out when you need help.

It’s ok to be vulnerable because that’s the only way we get stronger. 

Lot’s of love to you all,

Ellen

 

 

 

 

 

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