Follow Up to Anatomy of a Panic Attack

Having discussed the details of what my panic attacks look like, I figured I ought to share some of the things I’ve learned to help lessen their severity. Not that I remember to use them all the time, or that they always make everything better, but they do help.

I guess the first thing is to try and buy some time between the first sign and the full-blown attack. Once I figure out how to recognize the first signs, there are lots of things I have learned that actually help, when I get to them in time.

There are three key elements of a panic attack:

– The mind, the thoughts, catastrophic exaggeration, dread, whateve

– The nervous system, breathing, adrenaline, heart rate

– The body itself, muscle tension, posture, pacing, etc.

So what should I do? How can I address the symptoms?

– Reboot my brain. Right now my brain is conditioned like Pavlov’s dog: Stress →freak out. Stress→freak out. So my counselor and I were talking yesterday about how to rewire that pattern. If I can get a better thought in there, recondition my brain, then all would be swell. Not the easiest thing to do. So we’ve worked out a plan. I’m writing a new response. At first, it’s going to be Stress→freak out→new thought. Eventually, if all goes according to plan, I can move to Stress→new thought, and skip the freakout.

The new thought? It sounds silly, but it’s a happy place. My Great-Grandmother’s kitchen. I can get there, to a time when I was about 17, and we’d go for tea, in her kitchen with bright yellow curtains, the same flower and butterfly magnets on the fridge that had probably been there since I was a child, colourful placemats, the tea cozy with its matching hotpad. I can smell her, her hair, her soft skin, the fabric of her dress. And Great-Grandpa, perfectly neat in his button-down shirt and sweater vest, not understanding a lot of English, but radiating love and kindness. Baba would let me sit on the floor next to her chair at the table, and rest my head on her knee, and she’d stroke my hair. It’s one of the most real places to me, one place that I can recreate almost effortlessly, and fairly accurately, according to pictures I have. And the abiding sense of peace. I can’t begin to explain the overwhelming flood of peace, serenity, and love that washes over me when I go there in my mind.

So, the plan is to go from Stress→freakout to Stress→kitchen. And the way I hope to get there is to practice getting into that place when I’m not in crisis, and that will make it easier to get there when I am.

– Breathe. My breathing is noticeably constricted when I panic, so consciously changing my breathing to slow, deep breaths is a good idea.

– Move. Get out of the physical posture I’m in, stand if I’m sitting, sit if I’m standing, stretch, whatever.

– Muscle tension is a big part of a panic attack, so the thought it that if I notice tension somewhere, I exaggerate it. tense the muscles very tight, and then release, noticing the difference between the severe tension and the relaxation.

– And the meds. It freaked me out at first, the thought that I required chemicals to handle what other people seem to have no problem with. But a psychiatrist said the most reassuring thing to me the other day. Diabetes is treated with insulin. Psychosis is treated with anti-psychotics. Depression is treated with anti-depressants. Panic disorder is treated with anti-anxiety meds. There is no shame in that. With a trusted person at the end of the pen on the prescription pad, meds are my friends. So I take them.

I don’t have this figured out. Knowing what I could do and actually doing it are two very different things. But I’m trying. Every attack is a chance to look back and learn, to spot the opportunity to make the necessary changes in my body and mind.

I won’t be held captive by these forever. And, if you suffer them, you won’t be either. There’s hope. There are ways. And there are other people who care, and can empathize. Take comfort, my friends.

 

 

 

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~ by Trillian on 10/07/2010.

2 Responses to “Follow Up to Anatomy of a Panic Attack”

  1. YOur grandmother sounds so special. You are very blessed. Thank you for sharing your helpful ideas.

  2. […] Thankyou for giving me hope in resopoding better to my panic attaks at present i feel like i just need to surive the moment of panic itself. I have tried the breathing tehniques but it is hard i take alium however i am aware that this is not the most appropriote medication for this condition and i am wondering what you take for it? I too suffer from panic attack disorder and both depression and borderline personality too i would like if i could read more of your blogs and maybe you could check out mine?? Having discussed the details of what my panic attacks look like, I figured I ought to share some of the things I've learned to help lessen their severity. Not that I remember to use them all the time, or that they always make everything better, but they do help. I guess the first thing is to try and buy some time between the first sign and the full-blown attack. Once I figure out how to recognize the first signs, there are lots of things I have l … Read More […]

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