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 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 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 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.

lightsworn lightsworn
22-25, M
9 Responses Oct 4, 2009

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I experienced my first ever full blown attack just a few days ago. I've never been so scared in my life. I was sure that I was going crazy. Or dying.

Its been about three days and Im still not up to par. I hate not feeling like myself. For no reason at all I find my heart racing and my mind going a million miles an hour. Today is the first day I've attempted work. I didnt make it the whole day, but I feel accomplished that I made it somewhat. The fear of another one is damn near debilitating. Im constantly on high alert. And I don't want to go anywhere for fear it will hit me.
I was prescribed anti anxiety pills to help with the sleeping. I am a little leery to be talking meds but at this point i will do anything for sleep. Over the passed 3 days I've slept maybe 4 or 5 hours total. Every time I sleep tho, it all comes back.
I find myself irritated how long its taking me to bounce back, but reading stories like yours helps me find hope. Im scared, but now I know that it can be done, I can get over this.
Thank you for that.

wow thanks a lot..i needed this. i also have this problem.

Antares22X you really have a handle on the panic! I've battled with panic attacks since I was 21. I also had my very first one when I was stoned. I definitely believe that mj is a strong contributor to panic disorder. I continued to smoke daily for another 4 years until my panic disorder was so bad I had to stop.<br />
All of the points that you suggest are spot on. I have learnt a lot over the decades I've had to deal with panic. Sometimes it fades away but unfortunately has been extremely bad over the last couple of years. It takes strength and determination, as you have, to fight it....and it's a battle that can be won. I have done it before and will do it again.<br />
As for the breathing....most often when panic begins if you stop to take note you will find that you're breathing from the upper chest (rather than from the stomach). Upper breathing reduces the carbon dioxide level in your blood, which instantly changes your body chemistry and triggers the first symptoms of panic. The trick is to keep the carbon dioxide levels correct by breathing slowly and deeply from the doubt you would probably know that too! <br />
Thank you for your's comforting to be able to share the experiences of others. :-)

ive been suffering from panic attacks for about a year now and i have one almost every day. My exams are coming up next month and im scared incase i cant concentrate because im worrying about having a panic attack. Ive been seeing a psycologist for a month or so because they are so bad but nothing seems to be helping and it scares me even more to think that i am the only one who can stop them but I just dont think im strong enough. Do you have any tips to help me? thankyou

I have been dealing with panic attacks since I was eleven. I did not know what they were as a child and only recently was diagnosed with gad. Basically I worry myself to the point where all I can do is sit curled up on a ball trying to breathe and keep my heart calm. I did not want to take the normal medications so the nurse practitioner prescribed an antihistamine. It has helped a lot. <br />
I am learning to work on my breathing and I use pressure points to relieve some of the tension. I also found a few alternatives to taking a presc<x>ription medication. Valerian root really does calm me down and relaxes my muscles(but the stuff stinks), taking a long walk during the day when the weather is nice, listening to music, and yoga also helped. <br />
I have not stopped worrying. It is so ingrained by this time that I don't think I ever will but I have learned to deal with the side effects of what too much worrying can do to my body.

Thank you for those words. I haven't had a panic attack ever since october of 2008. There have been a COUPLE of times when i have felt that "rush" - that sudden feeling where your body's energy just.....feels really off. But I have been able to keep them at bay by doing specifically what you are suggesting. <br />
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Panic attacks are the result of a destructive circle of 1) You feel the sudden rush. 2) You then worry about the sudden new feelings. 3) The worry adds to the current rush and amplifies it. 4) you worry more and it just continues to repeat.<br />
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What I have been able to do since I wrote this article, and it has only happened twice since, is that I immediately distract myself. I either get to organizing some stuff around my room, I talk to someone, or put in some music to listen to and focus on that. By breaking the cycle you prevent it from becoming anything. My most recent was yesterday actually....first one in many months. (the sudden high energy freaky feeling) but it lasted less than thirty seconds because now I can just brush them off.)<br />
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I know everyone here and anyone else who reads this you CAN do it. You just really need to look into yourself and not be afraid to shine the light into some of your shadows of your soul. Often these negative events are some kind of emotion, past experience, something even current - an issue which your body is trying to tell you to "focus on this. this area needs healing." <br />
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So I wish you the best. Introspection is the best way to deal with this....well...really the only way. I remember being so scared when i was first dealing with this because I wanted someone to help me, someone to fix it, but no matter what there was nothing they could do. It was all within me - I had to deal with it -no one else - just me. It was daunting, felt impossible, but inch by inch we eventually reach a mile and before you know it you are beginning to deal with the causes and sometimes don't even know that you are. Eventually they will fade into the background of your life, maybe popping up once in a blue moon, but eventually you will forget and they will be no more.

I don't know if the panic attacks are still an issue for yo or not, but I used to have them a lot in college. Just FYI, mine were usually triggered by woory or guilt of some kind. WHat helped me "survive" the physical symptons without freaking out too badly was having some one to call and talk, about ANYTHING, just talking and knowing I was not alone and if some really happened, someone would know. Hope all is well now.

Honeybunny – It is interesting that you happened to come across that information twice in such a short period. I know for me it was very hard trying to not fear the thing that had scared me the most. I found that in looking for the purpose, as I don’t think anything is random, I was in a way defusing my fear. Kinda like when you finally understand “oh my dad spanked me for “this” reason” – you kinda understand why you had to experience it though you didn’t like it. I am also interested in the fact that you study astrology. My mom has done some of the same in her time and has always managed to generate some very useful information. It is so freaky how that works! I guess the comfort you can have in “driving far away-really gets me” is that at least today there are so many roadside service organizations and features on things now that should you run into trouble it is infinitely easier to take care of yourself today than it was in just a couple of decades ago. At least we don’t have buggies – lol.<br />
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Honeybrew –perhaps somewhere in your embarrassment in having them is linked to the trigger? When I had mine I went back and documented everything I was doing, from what I was physically doing to what I was thinking. Do it long enough and I am sure that you will find a pattern emerging. Before I realized my fear of death was the trigger...I actually had no idea that it was that which was bothering me. But it seemed so clear after I did discover it but it was only after I started doing a lot of backtracking. Anyhow, I do wish you the best and I hope that the deep breathing helps you out. Breathing keeps the heart under control and from what I have gathered, once the heart starts getting pumped that seems to be the most uncomfortable part for everyone (because of what comes with it). <br />
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I wish you both the best!

I had never had a panic attack until last year.. and it freaked me the hell out. Since then I've had them off and on and it ****** me off because I can't seem to find anything that would be triggering them (phobias, underlining fear, ect.) I've had to figure out how to deal with them on my own since I'm too embarrassed to seek any outside help. Your breathing advice sounds useful. I've started using meditation techniques and that has helped keep some of the "rushing" at bay. Very nice post.