7 Ways To Calm Your Mind, Body, And Soul During An Anxiety Attack

7 Ways To Calm Your Mind, Body, And Soul During An Anxiety Attack

It is OK not to be OK.

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Everyone gets anxiety attacks whether you will admit it or not. Seven little things that help me find my inner peace are ones I feel everyone should be aware of.

1. Try the "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" grounding exercise.

Answer these five questions out loud for sensory awareness:

What are five things you can see?

What are four things you can feel?

What are three things you can hear?

What are two things you can smell?

What is one thing you love about yourself?

2. Try out this breathing .GIF.

Breathe In Help GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY Giphy

3. Listen to a song that reduces your anxiety.

4. Use some lavender oil.

Rub it on your temples.

Put some on your wrists.

Inhale.

*Calming.*

5. Tense up your muscles (and then relax).

This may sound counter-intuitive, but just give it a try:

Start tensing at your toes and move up through your body — legs, abdomen, arms, neck, and jaw. Hold it for four counts. Then, relax your muscles. Feel the tension melt out of you.

6. Download an app on your phone.

There are my top apps for helping with anxiety (and they are FREE):

"Recolor" (a coloring book app).

"Wordscapes" (like a crossword puzzle).

"PicrossLUNA" (kind of a play-off of sudoku).

"Words With Friends 2" (just like Scrabble).

7. Reach into your freezer and grab an ice cube.

Just one of many distraction methods.

Reach into the freezer and grab an ice cube or an ice pack.

Hold it firmly in your hand.

Place it on your toes.

The idea is to distract your mind from anything else.

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An Open Letter To The Meadville Medical Center And Its ER Staff

When did kindness become a deserved thing in the healthcare field; and only if you're not on drugs?
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Yes, that cover picture is me, coming off a ventilator...at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, a two-hour drive from my house, not at Meadville Medical Center.

This is very difficult to write. We live in a small town, and you are the only hospital for over twenty miles. In fact, I live so close to you, that I can see your rooftop from my back garden. I can walk to you in about ten minutes if it’s not overly humid out. The Life Flights pass over my house as they arrive at and leave your facility, and my young daughter and I pray for every one of them.

My daughter had to call an ambulance on May 30th, as I had a sharp and horrible pain overtake me so suddenly, that I thought my neighbor (who I threatened to report for dealing drugs) had shot me through the dining room window at first. There was no blood to be seen, but the pain was so severe, that combined with the cold sweats and dizziness, I was genuinely afraid I was about to die.

I can’t express in words how proud I was of my girl as she explained to the 911 operator what was the matter and where we lived. She was brave and helpful as they took a blood sample, handled what I later learned was a seizure, and kindly got me into the ambulance from my difficult entryway. She called her Auntie and calmly told her to meet me at the ER. And while memories of the horrible experience I had in your ER twenty years ago still haunted me, the care and attention the ambulance drivers showed me encouraged me that I would be okay.

If only.

There were so many people, and I was half delirious with pain and inexplicable symptoms. Thank God my sister in law, Sheri, was there to help me fight for my life. For the sake of our small town and six degrees of separation, I will call them Nurse A, B, C, and D, and Doctor H. Your staff literally, unapologetically bullied me within an inch of my life.

When I arrived, it was apparently Nurse A who triumphantly announced to everyone involved in my care that I was on drugs, case closed. Despite Sheri and I repeatedly telling them that I hadn’t taken any narcotics, and I won’t take anything stronger than Motrin 800, they persisted in asking what I took. At one point I heard Sheri saying, “She does everything naturally, you're wasting time.” No one cared.

When Nurse A informed me that they needed a urine test, I told her to straight cath me, as I couldn’t stand up. It was Nurse A who told Doctor H that I faked two seizures on the way from my house (I am still amazed by her mystical powers that she could surmise this), and insisted again that I was faking everything. With utter disgust Doctor H said, “She can stand, get her up.” At Sheri’s protest, Nurse A reiterated, “If she can move her legs she can stand.” My legs, which were almost involuntarily moving to find relief from the pain in my abdomen, gave out on me when she insisted I put myself on the bedside commode. I passed out again and urinated on her.

When I woke up to Sheri frantically calling my name, I was greeted by an absolutely disgusted Nurse A, who complained that she needed to go change her clothes, and rolled her eyes at my faking another seizure. She informed everyone who came in next that I was faking these symptoms, and four attempts to straight cath me failed. In that moment, I was sure I was going to die.

Everything after that came in blurry and fragmented vignettes, like an awful out of body experience. There were Nurses B through D or more, all repeatedly asking me what drugs I took. Everyone scowled and frowned, passing on the information that I was faking everything. There were four of these nurses when I woke up on the way to a scan, and all but one asking me what drugs I took, and telling me to stop faking as I hysterically screamed that I could not breathe when I lay flat. I was terrified, confused, out of my mind, and unable to breathe when I lay flat, and they reported that “she hyperventilated herself” in the scan lab.

All the while, Sheri valiantly insisted they would find no drugs in the blood work, and that I probably hadn’t been to a family doctor in years. I lay in your ER cubicle and reconciled myself to God, convinced that I was going to die and be labeled a drug addict.

At some point, something shifted, and suddenly I received the blanket I had asked for hours before. Apparently, my temperature had dropped so low, their fancy thermometers couldn’t read anything. I remember a young man trying to find a vein and saying, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not trying again.” My head was elevated, and the panic of not being able to breathe alleviated somewhat.

Suddenly Doctor H was almost kind, and I heard him telling Sheri something about “a mass” and “blood in her abdomen” and how some other hospital was better equipped to help me. She told me she okay-ed it, and I recall telling her, “I trust you. Just get me out of here.”

In fact, knowing someone else would care for me gave me such peace, that I literally lay completely still as an older man inserted an IV line into my neck with no anesthesia.

We assume the blood work came back and the scan verified what we desperately tried to tell everyone from the beginning; I wasn’t on or seeking drugs. But there was no apology from Nurse A, her fellow nurses, or Doctor H. I may be corrected, but I spent five or six hours in your ER defending myself to the same people who should have been fighting for my life.

As I lay there, talking to Yeshuale, three people in what looked like tactical suits came alongside my bed. The first was a woman who looked like she was speaking into a walkie talkie. Behind her two men. I thought to myself “Oh, state cops. I guess I’m just going to die in prison.” I was so out of it, confused and weary of being asked what drugs I took, I believed your ER staff had called the police and they had come to take me away. All I could think of was what would become of my young daughter.

Thank God, I was mistaken. The blonde woman wasn’t a police officer, but part of the helicopter team, on the phone with Magee in Pittsburgh so she could begin administering blood to me. Blood. Something your staff considered less important than accusing me of using and seeking some weird drugs. Behind her, a tall, blonde man smiled at me and explained that he was taking me in a helicopter and I would be fine. It was like hearing from an angel, and I remember saying, “Todah, Yeshuale!” repeatedly in my head and in a whisper. “Thank You, Jesus!”

Four blocks away, my daughter and the friend she was staying with waved as we flew over my house.

To my surprise, I woke up two days later, attached to a ventilator, one of my sister friends sitting beside my bed. I learned that I’d had two masses in my uterus, which tore itself open and bled into my abdomen. I’d lost four liters of blood and had a transfusion in the Life Flight. When they took the vent out, (my friend took the picture above) I made a joke about being a tough Jersey girl as I signed to the ICU nurse, but inside I was an emotional wreck. Still, as the days went on, I determined to treat everyone with kindness, and was treated the same way at every turn.

Kindness. The one thing I never received from your staff.

What was so special about me that your staff felt interrogating me about my apparent drug use was more important than helping me? My address? Because for some reason all the drug dealers in town seem to want to take over my block? So, we’re all on drugs, then? Do you realize that half my neighbors brag about going to your ER to get pain pills, and how easy it is? I never asked for anything but a Tylenol, and that was on the Life Flight. So, again I ask, what made me so unique?

And, I must say, it’s not even that your staff didn’t believe me. They were mean, hateful even. Rolling their eyes, talking about me like I wasn’t there, saying everything I did was a ruse to get drugs. When did it become okay to treat anyone like that? How was it alright for your nurse to walk in and determine that I was on drugs? How was it alright for her to set the tone of disbelief, unkindness, and abuse? How was it alright for the doctor to allow this and roll with it?

Yes, I said abuse. When someone is screaming that they can’t breathe and you tell them to stop faking, that is abuse. When you berate someone, and accuse them of something to the point where they believe they’re being taken to jail to die, that’s abuse. When you refuse to give someone a blanket, hold them down to the point where they’re bruised, that’s abuse. When you waste time to the point where an ambulance won’t get to the next hospital fast enough… that’s abuse. Your staff verbally, emotionally, and physically abused me.

Not only were they abusive, but they were comfortable with it. Your staff was comfortable with it, and didn’t care what it would cost me or my family. All but one nurse, who Sheri now tells me insisted that there was something wrong with me and took me for the scan. That nurse saved my life. People are comfortable with abuse because they get away with it. Abusers get smug, arrogant and even careless, because those they abuse say nothing. Your staff was smug, rude and uncaring to the point that they displayed a sick sort of disgust for me that was completely obvious. My sister in law later confirmed to me that it wasn’t all in my head.

At what point did this behavior become acceptable? Is it because you’re the only hospital for a 30-minute drive?

And, so what if I had been seeking drugs or high on some unknown concoction? Would that have made it okay for your staff to treat me thusly? Would Nurse A have been justified in declaring my altered state and treating me like garbage? Would Doctor H have been justified in how he treated me? When did nursing and healing give anyone that sort of power? When did people cease to be worthy of kindness, quality health care and gentleness based upon their drug use, or the address they live at?

When did you decide who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and who does not? When did your medical staff earn that right to decide also?

If we’re completely honest, most of the people I know who abuse pills go to your ER at least once bimonthly to get refills. Your ER physicians pass out opioid scripts like candy and then mistreat the people they’re supplying? Thanks to you, I must hide the pain medication I loathe to take now, because someone will surely break in to my home and steal them if they know I have them. You, and other hospitals like you, are feeding addicts and creating innocent bystander victims like me, but that’s another conversation.

This is difficult to write, because you have your hooks in all over this town. This is difficult to write, because the trauma of that night is still fresh in my mind, and I often cry when I think about it. This is difficult to write, because the reality that I have had to now teach my child to ask any ambulance we ever need to call again to take us to Erie shouldn’t be necessary. This is difficult to write, but it needs to be said, especially since I’ve been finding out that I’m not the only person this has happened to.

You need to address these issues. You need to stop handing out scripts like promotional coupons, and perhaps you won’t have nurses and doctors assuming everyone’s on drugs or seeking them. You need to discourage the abusive and toxic behavior of your staff, and hold them accountable when patients complain. Let me put this into perspective for you: I’m pretty sure Nurse A is the same age as my oldest daughter, and my child would eat mud before she treated anyone like that. Why? Because my kids were never allowed to behave that way in the first place, but to stay on topic, she grew up with consequences, and as an adult still recognizes their severity.

As the events of that night become clearer to me, and I continue my peaceful, miraculous recovery at home, I am determined not to hold on to bitterness about what happened to me at your ER. I am determined to make the most of the second chance at life I’ve been given, and leave your abusive staff in the past. I’ll probably pass some of them in the super market, or sit behind them in church, our town is so small. And while you and your toxic staff will cease to haunt my future, I will surely haunt yours. Nurse A, Doctor H, and Nurses B through whatever… will never forget the night the woman with the blue hair nearly died because they were too busy wrongly judging to actually care.

I am determined to walk out the rest of my life in kindness, the very discussion I had in a blackout with God while your nurse accused me of faking a seizure. I will pray, hoping with all hope that kindness will once again be requisite for employment in your ER and every area of your corporation. Believe me, it’s possible and good for profits. The entire time I spent in Pittsburgh at Magee I never encountered a single unkind staff member from the surgeons to the housekeepers.

I know you can do it.

Cover Image Credit: Heidi Owens

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'Suck It Up' And 20 Other Things People Without Mental Illnesses Say That Show They Don't Get It

If you've ever said any of these, please try harder.

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**Trigger warning: I don't believe anything here is outright dangerous to anyone with a mental illness, but please - if you're worried you might read something here that could trigger you negatively, put yourself first and don't read. As a fellow struggler of mental health, I want nothing more than your safety and health.

As someone who has lived with mental illnesses for the majority of her life, I've heard a lot of garbage and ignorant things said regarding mental health - and so have my friends who also deal with mental health issues. Some of it really is founded from lack of knowledge and is said naively, and these people are usually willing to learn and be informed on why what they've said is incorrect or potentially hurtful.

However, most people who say any of the following things genuinely believe them. As in, they actually think what they're saying makes sense and can't understand why you...well, I'll let these statements (and my comments) speak for themselves.

Again, if at any point you read something that strikes something painful within you or starts to trigger something, please stop reading and take care of yourself. And remember - YOU ARE VALID. You come first.

1. "Just work out more/Try working out!"

Every person with a mental illness just rolled their eyes and/or did a major facepalm. There is a very common misconception about how exercise can help with mental health that is pretty ignorant, as statements like this misconstrue the connection between working out and mental health. While working out releases endorphins that help you feel good, it isn't a magical cure that makes depression or anxiety go away. It can certainly help, but it's not a one-fix cure.

Also, someone with depression or anxiety may not have the mental or physical energy to work out, let alone leave their bed or the house. Oh, and let's not forget that working out can bring on its own wave of anxiety for some people like me - worrying about how you look, if you're doing things right, what others in the gym might be thinking about you...it's a whole ordeal of its own.

2. "This will pass."

See, I know that. But when my mind drags me under a wave of depression or anxiety, it becomes very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your mind becomes wholly encompassed with negative thoughts and feelings that make you stuck in the moment, and it can be very hard to remind yourself that this is just now.

3. "Just get over it."

Wow, I'm cured! I just thought to myself "hey you, get over it" and I just was magically over it! Oh wait, that's not how mental health works. So kindly educate yourself and until you have, don't talk to me. I don't need people who make me feel worse about how I am in my life.

4. "Oh, suck it up."

Well, fuck you too, asshole. Also, I've actually tried "sucking it up" and let me tell you, it only makes things worse when you finally hit the point where you can't internalize anything more. The mental and emotional fallout becomes more intense and painful and just WORSE.

5. "Don't worry so much."

Gee thanks, I didn't try that one yet. It's not like I have absolutely zero control over the anxious reactions spurred by chemical releases in my brain that cause the anxious, worrying thoughts. But sure, I'll just "worry less!" Because clearly, it's so easy.

6. "If you just stopped overthinking, you'd be fine!"

Overthinking is a big part of anxiety and is not easy to stop. It feels like a nonstop cyclone of thoughts whirling around your head. It's not a simple matter of "Okay, let's stop thinking about that now" - it's an ongoing cycle of "what if's" and "But what will x think about me/say about me" and So. Much. More. It takes a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and medication to even start on "stopping overthinking." Come back to me when your mind races at a thousand miles per hour with no clear way of slowing it down.

7. "I get depressed/anxious too!"

No. You get sad and worried, not depressed or anxious. There's a massive difference between "sad" and "depressed," and between "anxious" and "worried." The two terms are not synonymous in either scenario, so please stop trying to make me feel better by acting as if you understand when you most certainly do not. If anything, you just made me feel worse by confirming to me that you really have no idea what I'm going through or what to say or do to help.

8. "God, I'm so bipolar" (about going back and forth on something)

No, you're not. Just because the prefix "bi" means two, doesn't mean you're bipolar. Anyone who has bipolar disorder sure as hell wouldn't be saying something like that in the completely wrong context.

9. "Just try and relax, it's no big deal!"

Big sigh on this one...Trying to "just relax" is so much easier said than done. There's no telling when something might suddenly occur that will inevitably send your mind off into an anxious whirlwind or depression central. Also, we've tried...relaxing is nowhere near as easy as you think when you have a mental illness. Trust me.

10.  "Have you tried [insert natural remedy here]."

I would smack everyone who suggests CBD oil or some other natural "remedy" as the best way to resolve or assist with mental health. That stuff may work for milder cases or certain people with more intense cases, but I can assure you it probably won't completely eradicate depression or anxiety for everyone. Give me the reliable, proven-effective prescribed medication over something natural with no serious evidence of helping anyway.

11.  "But you're so [insert complimentary phrase here], how can you be depressed?"

Pretty, smart, have a good life...insert any of these or something similar, because apparently, people seem to think that only people with bad lives or who've been through negative situations can have a mental illness. Since when does having good looks mean you're exempt from having a mental illness? If I'm smart, are you implying that I'm too smart to have a mental illness because I should know it's all in my head? I could go on. And going off this...

12.  "You've hurt yourself?? But you're so pretty."

If someone admits to self-harming or that they self-harmed in the past and THIS is your response, you need to check your priorities. Self-harm is a major sign that someone is struggling at a dangerous level and need help NOW. Being good looking, smart, etc. doesn't mean you don't struggle, as I've already said. You can be pretty, smart, successful, and other positive things and still have a mental illness, still struggle to the point where you feel cutting is your only way to properly release the toxic feelings inside.

13.  "But you always seem so upbeat and outgoing!"

Just because someone has a mental illness doesn't mean they're always down and introverted. I have depression and anxiety, but I am still able to go out and be happy and upbeat while out with friends or while working. Having a mental illness doesn't put a cap on all other emotions, and it doesn't always rule our lives. (Just a lot of the time.)

14.  "But you have so many good things in your life!"

Yes, and that has nothing to do with having a mental illness. Try again.

15.  "Oh I also have OCD, I'm super organized/I always do ___"

No, you do not have OCD. That's not what it is at all. OCD isn't just being obsessively clean, but thank movies and TV shows for that stereotype. One of my writers wrote a piece explaining what OCD is based on her experiences, so give it a read. Also, people with OCD are not crazy, so can we please end that stereotype in entertainment media too?

16.  "Isn't depressed just another word for 'sad'?"

NO. NO, IT IS NOT. As I've already said, "depressed" is not an interchangeable term for "sad." There is such a massive difference between the two. There is absolutely no reason that in this day and age, anyone should still be unclear about what the difference between depression and sadness is. You can easily open an internet browser tab and Google the difference.

17.  "Stop feeling bad for yourself, it could be so much worse."

...Well, I certainly feel much worse now. Saying something along these lines essentially invalidates the perfectly valid and legitimate feelings and experiences of someone with a mental illness, and reduces them to "just feeling bad for yourself" when that isn't what's happening at all. People with mental illnesses aren't sitting around and moping about their situation in life - they are legitimately struggling, and you aren't helping.

18.  "But everyone gets depressed."

No, everyone gets sad. There are physiological symptoms and behaviors that occur when someone has depression, and most of the people you just implied by saying "everyone gets depressed" most certainly do not express those symptoms or behaviors. Also, re: "sadness and depression aren't the same thing."

19.  "Could you stop being sad about nothing?"

One, let me redirect you back to the whole "sad and depressed aren't the same thing" point. Two, trust me, if we could stop feeling depressed so often, we would. Depression isn't something we'd wish on our worst enemies. And three, if someone is depressed, it's usually not "over nothing."

If your friend, family member, etc. is dealing with depression, please try and understand what's causing a depressive episode. Be there for them and ask them what you can do to help them through. It may be as simple as sitting with them while they fall apart so they aren't alone, or making them a cup of coffee or tea. Being there for someone with a mental illness is not always as hard as you'd think.

20.  "I think you should stop being sad all the time and just be happy!"

This was said to a friend of mine who went through an abusive relationship and came out with PTSD and depression. First off, anyone who says something like this to a person with depression clearly doesn't understand that depression isn't a choice. It's not like an on/off switch that those with depression choose to keep off. And once again, let's go back to my point of "depressed and sad aren't the same thing."

21.  "I will never understand and I don't care to."

I know this sounds harsh - and it is. Someone actually shared with me that they'd been told this before, and by a good friend no less. This is one of the most cold-hearted, awful things you could say to someone with a mental illness. If you can't try to understand what someone is struggling with and say straight to their face that you'll never try to...I mean, how could someone even think to say something like this to a person who's a part of their life? And saying this to someone you just met would be even worse.

If you are living with a mental illness, please remember:

You are LOVED. You are WORTHY of everything your mind tries to say you aren't worthy of. You are AMAZING and have things to be proud of.

You are STRONG, even when you don't feel like it. The fact that you are still here and getting through each day one at a time is proof that you're stronger than you think. Your mind tries to stop you and set obstacles in your way, but you've made it through so far and you can keep going.

Also - just because one or several people in your life show they don't understand, doesn't mean no one does or ever will. This article and so many similar ones show that others do get it, that others are experiencing what you're dealing with too. There are social media communities out there that are filled with people who get it, too. Find them. Find your people, both online and in person, and you will be ok. You will get through this day.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

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