Panic and anxiety attacks

What are you doing, why are you here, they are going to judge you, what are you wearing, they are going to wonder where you’ve been, they’ll notice that you’ve been crying, they’ll notice you’re not eating, they’ll notice you are eating, you look a mess, you’re life’s a mess, why does everyone hate you, why do you have no friends, why are you lying to your friends, people think you have no friends, why do you smile when you want to cry, you have so much work to do, why are you so tired, you have no money, you’re an embarrassment, you’re stupid, no one will ever love you, you’ll be alone forever.

I think a lot of people wonder what it feels like to have a panic attack, I used to have them a lot in secondary school and 6th form, and I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I say that I often felt like I was dying.  The majority of mine happened in the middle of the night, usually when I was lying awake plagued by dark thoughts, consistently coming one after another, but feeling as though I couldn’t at all control where my mind was going, it often felt like I was losing my mind.  It was then it would usually start, I began to notice the early symptoms and I think that only served to make them worse as I would start to panic about having a panic attack, oh the joys of anxiety. 

It would usually start with feeling hot and cold at the same time, like my core was on fire but I was still freezing, then the pins and needles would set in, beginning in my hands and moving its way up my arms.  It was the frantic beating of my heart that would really scare me though, I felt like my entire body was jumping with its intense beat and rate, as though it felt my body was doomed much like my mind, and it was trying to escape.  When this sets in it is like nothing really makes sense anymore, I’m never fully aware of where I am, often trapped in the confusing thoughts of my mind.  I know once or twice the panic attacks led to hallucinations, almost like stress dreams but I was awake, the one I remember most distinctly was when I was convinced I had somehow pushed my Mum’s entire business off of a skyscraper, I promise it was scarier than it sounds. 

I never really worked out what exactly caused them, I know that I was very unhappy towards the end of school, and I’m sure that added with the stress, and the insecurity of my friendship group at the time, all contributed to it.  I can only be grateful that I rarely experience them now, or that they have filtered out into smaller anxiety attacks, which although are still unpleasant I find easier to manage, it’s more of a mind over matter situation for me now.  If I become afraid or anxious about something irrational, I know I just have to force myself to do it, force myself out of my comfort zone, even if I’ll hate myself for it for the moment, I know it’ll be fine in the end.  Sometimes, it’s just a case of taking myself out for a walk, putting on some upbeat music, so I can clear my head and put things in perspective, and remind myself that putting the bins out is not something to get anxious about.  That’s the thing I think most people forget, anxiety isn’t just about social situations, for some people, its not about that at all, sometimes it’s the most menial tasks that trigger you for no reason at all. 

At the end of the day though, we just have to do every little bit we can to try and overcome it, small victories to some people can be big for us, so as long as you’re doing your best, you’re doing enough. 

Liv

Living with Depression

Depression is different for everyone, it is a mental illness, and everybody’s minds work differently, so I’m sure that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  For me though, my depression isn’t something that is obvious to anyone around me, such to the extent that I have managed to keep it hidden for 5 years.  It’s not like how you hear in the media, that I had a psychotic break that lead to it, or something dreadfully tragic happened to my family and triggered it.  For me, my depression didn’t surface out of any one major event, but rather it is just something that is a part of me. Depression runs in my family, and evidently, I got the gene. 

There were triggers that made it worse, that made me realise that there was something wrong, of course, but I know now that the things that happened that caused my mental breakdowns really just brought these depressive feelings to the forefront, when I think really they were always there. 

My reaction to feeling like everything was spiralling out of control, like I had no purpose in life, like I was worthless, wasn’t to ask for help, but to put a strong emphasis on how together my life was, so that my friends would think that I was more than fine, that I had a perfect little life with everything figured out.  That could not have been further from the truth.  For me though, having other people believe that about me, somehow made it easier for me to believe that too, or at least it gave me motivation to keep going, to get up in the morning and keep doing well in school so that my perfect reputation wouldn’t be ruined.   

When it’s written out like that, I guess it seems sad that so much of what happened in my school life, I only really did to convince people that I was fine and normal.  Now I want to make sure I do things because I enjoy them, rather than for any other reason.  I called it ‘survival mode’ in which the focus of my life used to be just ensuring that I created a persona that would allow me to get from waking up in the morning to going to sleep in the evening, without raising suspicion that I wasn’t okay.   My mantra used to be, ‘this day has to end.’  Not exactly a healthy or appreciative way to live your life.  It’s not really living at all. 

Not everyday was dark though, I definitely had some really good times and some really good friends too.  It was just in those low moments everything that was going on in my head made me believe that I didn’t have anything good going for me, and anything good that had happened I somehow managed to make into a negative, where I saw myself as not good enough, clever enough, pretty enough.  Maybe it seems shallow to people who can’t understand, but essentially it felt like there was a black hole in my gut and every good feeling I was capable of got sucked in and I was left with an empty void, or just such deep sadness I hardly knew where it stemmed from.  I just knew I needed it to stop but I had no idea how I was meant to just miraculously become happy again.  Back then, I didn’t know it was depression, I just thought that something had gone wrong in my brain, that maybe I was crazy, and so I shouldn’t confide in others, because I would just become a burden. 

Now I know what it is, it’s easier to handle, because I know not to ignore the signs of a potentially bad day.  I can do things to alleviate it, or to lift my mood.  I have a network of friends now that know the truth and I can reach out to if I need to talk.  There are other things too, like exercise that I make sure I get time to do, because it makes me feel so much better afterwards, I feel lighter, happier and like I’ve really achieved something, which helps to expel any negative thinking.  A great example of that was just today, I woke up feeling pretty low, and then my sister was very off with me and I started doubting myself and blaming myself for her low mood, but I got myself out and did a class at the gym which made me realise that it was all in my head, and allowed me to get past it so I could enjoy my day and be productive. 

Sometimes, it’s simple things like changing the way you live, that allow you to lead a much healthier life, both in mind and body.  I have to make sure I take care of myself and my mental wellbeing so that I don’t slip back into old habits which harboured that negative thinking.  I talk to people and confide in them when it gets too much, I eat healthy, I do exercise at least a few times a week, and I have this, my writing which is an outlet I greatly need sometimes.  I’ve never been happier. 

I can’t lie and say that things aren’t still difficult, and there aren’t still points where it feels like I’m getting nowhere, and it’s always going to be this hard, so what’s the point?  The point is, now I have accepted this for what it is, I won’t let it own me, I have my process to deal with it now.  We fight depression because there is a life worthy of living, and for me that is how I get from today to tomorrow, having a goal in my mind of what I want my life to look like, and I know if I ignore my depression then that’s not going to happen, so I face it straight on. 

That’s how I live with it, with the knowledge that I will beat it.