How I Dealt With My Panic Attacks
I truly hope that at least something in here might help someone find out how to conquer their own attacks. The first part of this explains what I went through when I first had one and at the bottom will be any and all of the advice I can think of to anyone else who finds it helpful.
A year ago I had my first panic attack since I was 13 (I’m 24). I'd set the back story on that but it really wouldn't be as relevant as how I dealt with my last ones. October 11th of 2008 I was sitting out by my friend's pool at night and had smoked a lot of pot. Had been doing so for a long time, yeah yeah if you don't agree with it. I don't smoke anymore from what you will be able to read. If you don't agree with smoking mj or think that because I did it has nothing to do with your experience, I would encourage you to at least read what I have to say.
Anyhow, I suddenly felt like there was a gusher coming out of the top of my head and I started to feel really light headed. My heart began pounding and my breathing picked up a lot. I went inside not knowing what was wrong with me and it got worse when I laid down in my bed. My stomach started to churn and eventually I had to go to the bathroom to throw up. I really felt like I was going to die. I started to become freezing cold and took and sat in the tub rocking back and forth as my friend tried anything he could to console me. Being high didn't make the experience any better at all....My attack lasted for about three to four hours. I thought at one point I had food poisoning and was about to call am ambulance. Don't know why I didn't but I think the idea of the hospital images running through my head freaked me out even more.
Before going to bed I read a few things online about panic attacks - somehow I figured that might have been what I was experiencing. That night ranks as the most traumatic moment of my life. The moment I woke up the following day I almost had another one simply thinking back to how scared I had been. Luckily I kept it under control.
But it was at that moment that I realized how people could truly become victims in their own home and I felt that I was my own worst enemy. I wanted so badly for it to be like a scrap on the knee and someone else was able to come and make it better for me. But I knew that this was going to be my own personal battle that no one could fight except me. I knew I didn't want to find any way to get medication because then I would become dependent on it...and it wouldn't be solving my problem but masking it. The idea of having one in public bother mortified me.
In seeing that I was setting myself up to become a homebody, I declared to myself, actually yelling in the house, that I was not going to become a slave to anything, not even myself.
I know that the number one reason that panic attacks return is if you fear having one. By fearing one you bait yourself already for another one. Every time I had a fear of having an attack, I would start to get that gusher feeling in my head. So I spent a lot of time typing in a journal of mine covering everything from what I had felt during the experience and spent all of my time trying to figure out why I had one to begin with. What was my trigger, what were my feelings, why was I afraid of what I was fearing. I knew that I was high when it happened...so I actually decided to confront my next panic attack by smoking a small amount of bud and seeing what happened. The moment I got a little high again I felt it all coming back...my head was pounding and I began to have this incredible fear of death again. But this time, since I was already aware of the symptoms I had during my first one, I kinda created like a mental checklist in my head. "heartbeat..elevated. Breething..rapid. Okay I know my stomach will start to feel funny and I will probably get some chills too. I can deal with that. I know a panic attack can't kill you so I just have to ride out these sensations" I kept myself focused on everything physical, not letting my imagination roam as much as it had before.
After waves of some rather unpleasant feelings I kept it from getting that bad, however I still went through every experience I had before...the vomiting, the chills, all of it. After the throwing up was over, I popped in a relaxing song on a headset and focused all of my energy on that song. I ended up asleep on the couch (I think the adrenaline surge wearing me down had more to do with it than anything). I knew that both pot and my own fear of death were two triggers. One was easy....stop smoking. My body was obviously having some serious disagreements with it. So I stopped. But even afterwards, whenever I thought about death, I would start to get that gusher feeling in my head and I knew I had to do everything to keep it under control.
SO I started reading a lot about near death experiences. I had a lot of talks with my mom, who had some in her life as well, but I also found out that she had a near-death experience whenever she gave birth to me (she died on the table for a few minutes). Her words did a lot to make me feel much better about "the other side." I knew I had to stop searching for absolute proof and begin trusting what others said. I may not KNOW the answer, but in having an idea, I knew it was all I needed. We have never been a very religious family and as such I took her words into my heart as a truth...and then I looked up many other experiences as well and found an incredible amount of symmetry to my moms experience and after people had them, virtually every one has said they have never feared death afterwards. TO me the worst thing a panic attack could do to me was kill me. But even then I knew it couldn't kill me, but I knew I had to deal with that fear.
OKAY! If you are still reading up to this you are probably wondering "what is the point of this? Well, with all of the above being said, here is where I guess I want to try and give something to someone else in hopes that it will help.
As another gentleman on here said FOCUS ON BREATHING! I have still had a couple "gusher on the head" feelings a few times ever since, but in focusing on my breathing I have always been able to make the feeling go away.
One thing that my mother said to me that forever helped me with my experience was "Look at your panic attack as your body trying to tell you something you need to work on internally. Find out what the trigger was and instead of being afraid, or angry that you had that experience, look at it as something positive - you receiving a message from deep within yourself which is telling you that there is something you need to confront. Then confront what that trigger is with everything in your soul until you have conquered it. Never give up. Don't think you will beat it, know you will beat it. Find the answers you need. Fear comes from uncertainty. So learn everything you can and embody it."
One thing that has really helped me in dealing with no longer fearing my panic attack last year was looking at how much my life had transformed for better or for worse since that point. I knew there was a clearly defined time, a specific day on the calendar, where I changed.
I used all of the energy that my anger and fear had caused in me by having one to completely change everything that I didn’t like about myself. I knew my thoughts were too negatively oriented. I knew that I needed to stop running from my fear and problems and confronting them directly. I knew that I alone needed to deal with these problems. By eliminating the triggers, I knew that I was putting up a wall between me and ever experiencing that crap again.
Focus deep within yourself, find out what that trigger was. Was it fear of losing someone? Getting fired? What was it that made you so afraid. Once you find out what that fear is, use your power to defuse that fear! If you can dump so much energy into your own self to cause you to have a panic attack to begin with, you can use that same amount of energy to deflect, defuse, and destroy your fear.
The enemy of movement forward is fear. The enemy of fear is knowledge. With knowledge, fear can be eliminated, and the movement forward can continue. It is just like a kid afraid of the dark. Once you learn that nothing is hiding in the shadows, you lose your fear of the closet, for example.
I know it always seems easier said than done. But the only thing that can stop you....is yourself! So as the old saying goes “get out of your own way!”
I have been panic attack free for 11 months by actively seeking out my fears. The very act of seeking out a fear....destroys fear. Courage is another mortal enemy of fear.
In my eyes....if I was able to get through this...I know you guys can too! Many people have conquered their panic attacks and I know you can too! There are many people here who can help you! We are so blessed to have a network of people now just one computer screen away from finding all of the support, knowledge, and courage we need!
Take care everyone. I hope something in my ramblings here might help someone.