Conquering Brighton, Part 1: Oh God, What's Happening To Me?

Conquering Brighton, Part 1: Oh God, What's Happening To Me?

Panic attacks can be a permanent scar, and a visit to Brighton showed me this.

[Trigger warning: discussion of anxiety, panic attacks, dissociation and suicidal ideation. Also, a note from the writer: I know such stories can fill those experiencing anxiety with dread; note that there's a happy ending in the next part of this story].

If I told you this beautiful, tranquil scene in Southeast England -- its rich warm colors and the astounding silhouettes created by an impressive sunset -- was what led to my worst experience of anxiety ever, would you believe me?

If you were an anxiety sufferer, you would scoff at me. “Of course,” you would say, perhaps recalling an incident yourself. “They can happen anywhere, at any time; stressed, or not. Sometimes they just seem so random, and you wonder why it even happened.”

But if you were not, it would seem strange. You may question how it could instigate a panic attack or any form of anxiety, really. How could something so serene have such an effect on a person?

I do not have an answer for you, even though I was the one who experienced it. As I write, I look back and still question why this scene seemed to fuel the anxiety I had experienced. Was it the intense exposure from the sunlight? Was it the oddity of the colors reflecting over the city that made me feel so uneasy? Did I just secretly hate the sun?

What I can tell you is that it was not odd that it happened. I had been experiencing a lot of stress at school, leading to my being home-schooled to avoid the daily sickness and dread I felt for no reason. I was avoiding with my problems instead of facing them.

Do not get me wrong: facing one's fears is not an easy task. I did what many did in a situation that scared them; I escaped from it.

But this did not help at all.

Imagine a stack of cards; something really nice. It is not that stable, to begin with, but it still manages to make itself stand tall as much as it can. Now, imagine someone comes over there with a hammer and literally beats the shit out of it; just giving it a really good demonstration of physics. The paper cards are crumpled and ruined, and an attempt to put it back together fails because the cards are bent out of shape.

This was my first experience of a panic attack. When it finally happened -- something I had never experienced before -- it shook the foundations of my existence. I wanted to put myself back together, but I could not.

What made it worse was that it happened in my place of solace; my room. Before, if the world had proven too stressful, I could at least know that here I was safe and free from the nervousness that latched onto me outside.

But, as I sat there one day, my mind exploded. Suddenly, my head was amassed with a surge of dizziness and confusion, and my heart pulsated as I tried to comprehend what the fuck was going on. I threw myself onto my bed, as an onslaught of thoughts filled my mind. They kept flowing, and they would not stop; some of them demanding I question my existence, the others telling me I was dying and others that I should kill myself.

As I clenched my head between my hands, the only beacon of light was to think of my sister. I saw her smiling over the horrific thoughts that filled my mind, and I remembered how much I cared for her. I knew that I had to stay alive, for her.

Love won the battle, and the commotion stopped, but I had changed. As I returned to my seat, there was a weird barrier that separated me and the screen. An attempt to look at it made my mind foggy and blip as if there was a sort of glitch in my head.

This experience did not go away, and this was unfortunately not the last time it would happen.

On the pier of the quirky city of Brighton, during the magnificent sunset, my mind once again exploded. As I looked around at the scene cast in a beautiful orange glow, unreality took over. Time moved oddly; my awareness of the walk back to our hotel was sketchy and missing its parts. I recall seeing myself in the reflection of a bus’s glass, a neutral glare staring back. The world looked flat, and I felt nothing.

I hoped it would be temporary, but it was not. Existence itself had become unreal. Experiencing the world made my mind foggy, and I felt like I lived behind a pane of glass. Going outside really did not fare well with my mind, and it made me constantly want to escape. I could no longer focus on conversations, returning to my mind; the hideous thoughts of my panic attack returning, making me question who I was, what the world was and why any of it mattered.

I could no longer look in the mirror. This was not an emotional metaphor: there was a literal separation between myself and the person that looked back. Attempts to do so made the feeling of unease and confusion return.

There were times when I would get incredibly depressed for a few moments, my mind filling with notions of my existence being false. I could not escape this, and so I would wait it out. Eventually, it would go away, but they would be a permanent stain on my cognition. I would fear their return throughout the day because they would always return.

Leaping ahead to late 2016, I found I would be returning to Brighton. My original experience, the memories that were still lodged in my mind, resurfaced. My anxiety was already significantly conquered from that period of time a few years back, but I was still nervous. I knew I would fare better (and I did)… but this was where it happened. This was where I had lost control.

It is surprising how something so distant can still create such fear.

End of Part 1.
Cover Image Credit: Robert Wheatley

Popular Right Now

6 Ways To Take The Stress Out Of College, Kinda

When you start to feel overwhelmed by the workload of college, you should practice some of these techniques in order to help make college less overwhelming.

Stress is one word that every college student or worker is familiar with. According to, the formal definition of stress is your body’s response to any type of demand or threat, which is also known as the fight or flight response. Stress in small amounts is fine, but too much stress can cause negative effects on your health, such as heart diseases, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. And as finals are growing closer, students in college have more reasons to feel stressed. College can be very stressful and can cause students to feel very overwhelmed or depressed, especially in their first year. However, there are ways you can handle stress. Here are the six ways that you can deal with stress from college.

1. Exercise.

One thing that has always helped me with stress is taking the time to exercise. Exercise can relieve anxiety and can help you to focus better in class. It’s also very beneficial for helping you stay fit.

It can be very hard to set aside time for exercising, especially if you are taking a lot of hard courses, but try to set aside 15 minutes to exercise three times a week. You could even opt for taking the stairs instead of the elevator to class or taking a longer walk to class. Whatever the case, exercising can really help relieve a lot of stress that can be caused by the pressure from courses.

2. Study and plan assignments.

One of the most common things that almost every college student will do is cram for a test or turn an assignment in at the last minute. Almost every student has at least once tried to turn in an online assignment at exactly 11:59 p.m. on the due date.

However, doing assignments or studying at the last minute can cause unnecessary stress. Therefore, it’s better to either do the assignment right away or break the assignment into chunks each day. Most students will use a planner to help them decide how to break the assignment or studying into chunks.

You can also plan how much time you will spend on each part of the assignment. For example, you may decide that you will spend Monday studying for 15 minutes or an hour the next day.

The one exception to this is if you are the type of person who can't do an assignment in chunks. I’ve heard of several people who work better on assignments by finishing the assignment all in one day. If this is the case, you should at least do it as soon as possible to get the assignment out of the way. This will help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your workload.

3. Avoid caffeine.

This is something in which I personally have a hard time doing since I run on coffee. Caffeine, however, can cause more stress and anxiety since it can cause your heart to race. I notice often that when I drink coffee before an exam, it worsens my test anxiety. Therefore, it's best to avoid coffee before a test or if your dealing with a lot of stress.

4. Get plenty of sleep.

This is the one thing that a lot of students in college don't follow. Especially since a lot of students pull all-nighters where they stay up all night studying for their exams.

Not getting enough sleep can cause major problems with focusing in class and with memory. You can also end up over studying for an exam if you spend too much time studying with no breaks. Pulling an all-nighter won’t help you get the grade that you are hoping to get on your exam. Therefore, it’s best advised to stop studying an hour before bedtime, preferably at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.

It’s also best that you make sure that you are getting nine to ten hours of sleep. Students that get only four or five hours of sleep are more likely to feel stress. Therefore, if you really want to relieve your stress, you should try getting enough sleep every day.

5. Listen to music.

Music is a great way to take your mind off of an assignment or test. Classical music is especially soothing. Listening to music can also you complete assignments. When I am trying to do my homework, I will often listen to classical music since it is not only soothing, but it also helps keep my mind focused. Unless you are the type of person who can’t listen to music when working, then I suggest listening to music to help relieve stress.

6. Try taking one course of interest.

When I was taking Calculus, I knew beforehand that the class would be very stressful since I had never had any experience with taking a Calculus course in high school. Therefore, since one of my interests was acting, I took a theater course right after my Calculus course in order to relieve any stress that I had from Calculus. I'm now thankful that I did this since when I was under a lot of stress from Calculus, going to my theater class helped relieve a lot of that stress since it was something that I was interested in and it kept my mind off of my Calculus course.

If you are taking a really hard course and can fit an extra class into your schedule, you should try taking at least one course that you find interesting or that features something that you enjoy, such as history, theater, or math. Whatever it is, if you know that it will help take your mind off of a difficult course, you should at least try it.

* * *

So, when you start to feel overwhelmed by the workload of college, you should practice some of these techniques in order to help make college less overwhelming. I know more than anyone how difficult college can be and how stress can take a toll on your life. However, if you follow the tips from above, you can avoid the harmful effects that stress can have on your health and start to enjoy college.

Cover Image Credit: Thought Catalog // Unsplash

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Finals Are Worse For Your Health Than The Flu

Recently, I have just been struggling.

From time to time we all have moments where things just don’t feel right.

Whether it be described as waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or, just not really feeling like yourself. The crux of it is you either just woke up, or never went to sleep, and even though every other day of the year you turn the coffee maker off before you the leave the house. This time you did not. Of course the coffee maker exploded, making a mess all over your kitchen.

Oh, and now your phone’s blowing up because all your roommates are mortified by this mess. There is a life lesson being taught in your guys’ group chat about turning the coffee machine off. These days happen. At this point, you know being twenty years old and all. These days are not news to me. They’re almost just a part of me.

Needless to say, the ‘I am a mess’ sort of bad day is something I am almost comfortable with. But recently, I have been having a different kind of off day. Just to clarify, by recently, I mean it happens once a quarter, every quarter. And by ‘different kind of off-day,' I really just mean an entirely off week.

I am a student, abiding by the quarter system, trying to get into graduate school.

And the quarterly off-week I have been getting has been during finals week. Granted, this is no surprise. With my luck I am surprised the haze does not hit me during midterms too. Yet and strangely enough, I have noticed this off-ness is particular to finals week.

I start to cue into my off-week with my body realizing that finals week is coming. Which usually is before I even do. From being awake — to having the strangest cravings at 2 a.m. Forgetting what it feels like to be rested and feeling mountains of stress in my shoulders is an accurate way to think about it. There are no active thoughts on my mind. Just a strong sense of urgency and an extremely tense body. Accommodated with sometimes, nothing yet to do.

It’s almost just subconscious stress.

The dead giveaway that I have reached the full swing of my off-week is a strong dissatisfaction for essentially everything I try to do.

At the end of a day, that probably consisted of 13 hours of running around and studying. It feels like I have done nothing. If I am not done, it feels like I have barely tried. This is probably the hallmark of what I am calling my ‘off-week’. I spend hours (and I really mean HOURS) writing the same paper. Hell, I sometimes spend hours writing the same paragraph.

Despite all the other things I have to do, I cannot seem to move on to doing something else. Because I still feel like the paper, or paragraph, is not perfect.

I have gotten a lot better at removing myself from these situations. They are toxic. But I am not great at it. It is hard when you reach a point of stress where you are so irrational. You are letting your own idea of your worth get caught up in a paragraph.

These are off weeks because I know that I am not perfect.

Something has got to be off if my mind’s under the impression that I can reach the unattainable, which is perfection.

I can’t.

I know I can’t.

And I also know, that I get a whole lot closer to producing I take to be flawless work, when I am not at the same time of writing, holding myself to impossible standards.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

Related Content

Facebook Comments