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

 

 

 

 

 

Anxiety Chat: That Overwhelming Sense Of Dread

Should I publish this? Gosh…I really don’t know. It feels like something really personal, ya know? But at the same time, I feel like a lot of people out there must feel this way too, and maybe some of them feel alone. At least I have a great support system to lean on. I can’t imagine having to feel this way if I were on my own. I’m lucky that I don’t have to.

So…I see a therapist. I don’t think there is any shame in that. In fact, I think everyone should have a therapist. Honestly, there is nothing huge going on in my life right now that is negative. In fact, everything is really happy and I’m content right now. However, I still have this horrible sense of dread that fills me up sometimes.

I’ve been getting these feelings since I was very young. Like, about as far back as I can remember. The only difference is, I know there is something I can do about these awful feelings now and I didn’t know that was possible as a child. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, either. I mean, as a child I could never put into words what was happening to me when dread seemed to take over my mind. I could also never form the language to describe that I was having a panic attack or why I needed to be in a quiet place for a moment. It’s really hard to have anxiety attacks, and I think it’s even worse for kids when if they can’t understand that those kinds of feelings aren’t necessary. Here is a video that came across my newsfeed on Facebook. I think it’s important for everyone to watch it so that they know the signs to look for in kids that have high anxiety.

Lately, my therapist and I have been discussing those overwhelming dread feelings. We have talked about how I am robbing myself of my full happiness by being so stuck in the mindset where I automatically go to the worst place possible in all situations. It dawned on me in the middle of something she said…

*DING!* A lightbulb went off.

It’s so obvious why I’m so terrified of losing everything. I hadn’t been able to place why I had so much random fear for seemingly no reason. It’s because this is the happiest i’ve ever been in my life and I’m so afraid of that going away. I’m afraid of going backwards. I’m afraid if those horrible panic attacks and feelings of “what’s wrong with me?” that I had in school.

I am afraid something terrible is going to happen to ruin my happiness and the people around me who are happy too.

I am so afraid of the worst that I forget to enjoy the good that’s happening. Hell, I just bought a house, the GREAT that’s happening.

I’ve really done some thinking about this for the last few days now and It’s starting to become easier to accept that bad things are going to happen, but I can’t let them stand in the way of me being happy now. It’s sometimes really hard to grasp that for me. However, I know that when I really get into that mindset, I feel a whole lot better. So…I’m trying me best to go with this way of thinking.

I once saw a quote that really resonated with me. It said, “If I prepare for the worst then I won’t get hurt.” That rang so true for me. I always feel like if I prepare myself mentally for bad things to happen then they won’t be as bad. And, by doing this, I’m robbing myself of peace now.

The point of this blog? To remind those out there that those feelings of dread are a sign of you pulling yourself down for no reason. See your doctor and talk about how you can improve how you feel but also take away the idea that you’re going to change your way of thinking.

You can’t let these feelings overpower you. Acceptance is key here. If something bad happens, you’ll get through it the best that you can, but worrying won’t make it any easier to deal with. So, why not enjoy the now and deal with the bad IF it actually comes along. Chances are, it won’t as much as you were expecting it to. And if it does for some reason, then it does. Right?

Don’t let anxiety run your life. Take charge of it and show it who’s boss. Instead of hiding from the feelings, address them- literally talk to yourself out loud if that’s what it takes. The important thing is that you feel better and that you take the time to appreciate what you have while you have it.

For my birthday, my sister sent me a little cloth bag that says, “Life is tough my darling, but so are you.” Whenever I find myself struggling to get through a difficult moment, I remember that little phrase and it really helps me. I hope it does the same for you, or that you can find a quote or phrase that speaks to you in that way.

For now, I’ll end the blog here because I feel like I have gotten some things off my chest that I’ve been wanting to say now for a while. I’ll also leave you on a high note and show you an adorable picture of my husband playing with our son from outside the window. <3

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Aren’t they too cute?!

Questions:

What are some ways you deal with your anxiety?

Do you have a therapist?

What are your favorite quotes?

Ellen 🙂

 

 

 

 

A letter to anyone trying to lose weight:

I get discouraged too sometimes.

No matter how hard I stare at Kale, it never turns into a doughnut.

How disappointing.

Sometimes, when Shuan T. tells me to, “Keep going! You’re looking great!”, I want to yell back, “My legs are jello now! I don’t look great- I look like I’m melting! Stop smiling at me!”. Instead, I do the “cize bounce” until my legs fall off and I curl up into a sweaty ball on the floor while my husband tries to hand me water. In no way is it glamorous and it shouldn’t be.

Now that it’s been a few days of my new healthier lifestyle, and I’m not completely starving anymore, I can look at this situation a little more clearly. Here’s what I’ve learned:

If I look at exercise as “Therapy” instead of “Torture”(because that’s what it feels like- a little dramatic, I know) then it starts to become a time for me to focus not on the pain but on the bettering of myself. Instead of it being something I HAVE to do, it’s something that I am starting to like doing because I enjoy the feeling of persistence, consistency, and, of course, the feeling I get when the number on the scale goes down.

I won’t lie though, it’s still hard. When they say that it’s not about getting your body in shape, it’s about getting your mind in shape-well…they really aren’t lying.

And getting your mind into shape- ESSENTIALLY, changing you OWN mind- is one of the hardest things to do.

Here’s when it pays off:

The numbers go down. Not just the scale numbers, the measured inches off your body too! But that comes with a big price: You’ll want to binge on sour patch kids until the cows come home, but you have a fruit salad instead. And you know what? It was actually delicious…but it wasn’t sour patch kids and it never will be.

I try to look at things from a humorous perspective sometimes in order to keep myself going. If I’m being really honest, I’ve stopped and full on cried in the middle of a workout before because I was just too uncomfortable to deal with it anymore. And that’s ok. We’re not robots and sometimes our mind needs a break.

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Here’s what I’ve learned about eating healthier food. I literally have to make my husband take the unhealthy food to his office instead of keeping it here.

Poptarts? No way.

Chef Boyardee? Not happening.

Little poop cakes that I made? Let them eat poop!

I have learned that I am basically an animal when it comes to snacking. That’s what really gets me…

Breakfast:

Whole wheat toast and hard boiled eggs

Lunch:

Garden salad

Dinner:

Grilled veg and quinoa

Snacks:

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…but really though…its a problem…

There’s a quote that says, “Don’t focus on losing weight, focus on being healthy”, which I think is a great message. However, can’t I focus on both? I think so. I don’t think it’s a crime to want to feel better in your body and want to be healthier in the meantime. People say not to look at the scale, but I think as long as you’re not stuck to it all the time, it can be a really motivating factor in weight loss!

Everything is moderation people. Everything in moderation.

Here’s what it boils down to:

Diet and exercise can suck sometimes, but they are also a way to make ourselves better and that is a beautiful thing. I can’t control the world around me but I can control what goes in my body and how I take care of it at the same time. I will never stop wanting cupcakes- i’ve just accepted this as fact. There will be no existence where I walk by a cupcake store and don’t want to eat them all. The good news is, I can have one cupcake- but one- that’s all. And a lot of the time, I really shouldn’t even be having the cupcake so I won’t. Portion control is also a beautiful thing because it teaches you how much you really need in order to feel your BEST! And doesn’t everyone just want to feel their best all the time? I know, for me, I am constantly searching for things that make me feel happy and grateful, and I already have a lot of that in my life. Going on this healthier lifestyle has made me realize that I don’t have to be perfect- with anything that I do. Because imperfection is such an awesome and unique kind of thing- it makes you who you are.

There will be times in your healthy journey where you want to throw in the towel…not just throw it in but dip it in chocolate sauce and eat it. There will be times when you take a day off from working out simply because your brain/mind needs a break from it all. There will be times you eat that slice of pizza but don’t have dessert because of it.

There will be times when you hate the process. There will be times you want to scream and won’t know why you’re doing this to yourself.

In those moments, remember why you started and remember that you’re stronger than you think you are. Have the cupcake if you must, but spend some extra time in the gym because of it. And don’t give yourself too much of a hard time because of it- you’re a human being and you’ll get a little better every day.

And when you’re your best self, you’ll look back on this moment, smile, and take a huge bite of something really delicious because you’re one wild and crazy guy or gal.

Ellen 🙂