Let me walk you through one of my anxiety attacks. This is weird for me to explain because I'm not really one to be open about my anxiety attacks. I don't talk about them with my family or my friends. I try to avoid confronting anyone after I've had one. I suffered from depression for quite some time. Even though I was able to overcome that, my anxiety never left. My attacks are irregular and they come during stressful times, but the anxiety is always there. When they do occur, I've learned to decipher when they're coming. I've developed helpful ways to calm myself down, but sometimes I can't talk myself out of the attack itself. What does the anxiety attack actually feel like?
For me, it starts with a heavy sensation in my chest and the worry that I'm going to puke. Not to be cliché, but it does feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest. My stomach starts to hurt and I begin to feel sick. When these feelings start happening, I rush to find a safe place - my bedroom, a room alone, or a bathroom if I'm in public. When all of these feelings start to overtake my body, I try to think logical thoughts. I start counting whatever I can find. I count people, floor tiles, letters, books, or whatever I can find; counting gives me something else to focus on other than my brain.
At this point, if I can't talk myself out of the attack, I just wait for the attack to start. I start shaking, almost as if I were cold. It's the type of shaking when you get really nervous and many times I can't control my hands from spasming. Simultaneously, my breathing becomes heavy. The elephant on my chest has gotten to me at this point and there's no turning back. Then, the crying starts and that's the hardest to control. The tears don't always come and it's easier when they don't. Once I begin crying, it is nearly impossible to shut off. I will think I've stopped, but instead I'll spend another ten minutes wiping my face. In the meantime, I'm still trying to diverge my thoughts and counting the same 16 tiles on the wall. I can tell you there are four tiles across and four tiles down, five of them did not have to be cut or resized, and only one has a crack in it. I've memorized bathroom tiles, wall outlets, and carpet just to calm myself down before.
If I'm in my bed, I'm hugging my knees to my chest and trying to lay under my blankets. If I'm in public, I'm leaning over with my hands on my knees, trying to curl myself up while still standing. I might try to call someone on the phone just to talk or I will try to talk myself through the attack out loud. Eventually, I can get my body to calm down through this process. The crying stops and I can breathe again. Then, I just wait for the shivering to subside a few minutes later. Even though the attack is done, I still continue to count because it keeps my brain focused on something other than what just happened. It helps me from having another attack.
After the attack, I emerge from my room or bathroom stall to go back to my life. I drink a glass of water and wait for the red face to go away. I act like nothing just happened and go on with my life. I work at finding new ways to cope with stress and anxiety and pray that maybe next time this won't happen.
It's difficult and many times it is inconvenient, but I've learned to live with it. Anxiety is not fun; but, it's nearly impossible to avoid the stress of school and life. I've learned to cope with it. All I hope for is that one day I can go without fearing an attack is coming.