A Typical Panic Attack, As Told By My Senses

A Typical Panic Attack, As Told By My Senses

It's time to get real and personal.

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Anxiety affects millions of people. Technically, every person experiences anxiety up to some extent in their lives. It might be feeling nervous before a big exam, a concert performance, or a competitive business presentation. For me, anxiety has always been a different story. I had my first panic attack when I was nine years old, sitting in my fifth-grade classroom. I went to the nurse's office because I thought I was sick with something, but little did I know that panic attacks would affect my life for years after that!

Panic attack symptoms vary for every single person. For me, it starts with a horrible, wrenching, worrying feeling deep inside my gut. My hands start to sweat; they get cold, clammy, and chaotic. My vision gets cloudy and blurry, which causes me to feel dizzy and confused. My stomach churns, there are millions of butterflies inside it that flutter, desperately trying to find peace. I feel so sick and worried, I start to hyperventilate and gasp for air. If it's a bad one, my legs restlessly tremble and I dry heave. My mind races rapidly, until it ultimately reaches the finish line. After about thirty to forty-five minutes, I am good. I can breathe again. Everything is fine.

The physical symptoms are not even the hard part about having panic attacks. The hard part is having to deal with it in public when I am busy with other people, or when I am all by myself and feel lost. I get panic attacks during class and work for no reason, because my stress builds up. It's difficult to hide for sure. Luckily, I have amazing people in my life who support and understand me so much, including family, friends, peers. My mom has really been my number one supporter every day and is a great listener. She would do anything for me; I am so grateful. As I grew older, I became a lot more comfortable with being open and talking about my anxiety.

Never judge anyone for their circumstances or how they act, because they may experience the awful feelings and tiresome struggle of panic attacks or anxiety. A lot of people who have met me do not know that I experience multiple panic attacks every day. Some people ask me why I'm jumpy, uptight or leave parties early. A manager at a restaurant I worked at even called me a "spaz" a few years ago. I want the mental health stigma to stop. I'm not afraid to talk about it anymore. What is there to hide?

Panic attacks are like mountain lions or wolves that sneak up on me during very inconvenient times. I realized that they are not dangerous, and are not a threat. For anyone who does struggle with anxiety or panic attacks, this is a wonderful thought to digest. You will be okay, you will get through this! Panic attacks are a real thing. You are stronger than you know. I am confident that one day I will be completely better, and minimize my panic attacks as much as possible. I am almost there. I refuse to fall prey to this lurking predator! My anxiety is not my fault and it does not define me. With the right stepping stones, I'm on my way to eliminating this!

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I Ghosted My Old Self For 5 Months In An Effort To Reevaluate My Life

My life fell apart faster than a drunk dude approaching a Jenga stack.

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BREAKING (not fake) NEWS: It's true, you have to hit your lowest before hitting your highest.

I want to share my lowest with you, and I'm almost ashamed to say it had nothing to do with the loss of both of my parents. I like to think I handled that like a warrior.

Turns out I didn't, and the hurt I've been burying from that hit me all at once, the same moment my life fell apart faster than a drunk dude approaching a Jenga stack.

My life flipped upside down overnight back in August. I had my heart broken shattered, lost two very important friendships that I thought were with me until the end, lost my 9-5 job, my health took a hit stronger than a boulder, and I was absolutely lost. For the first time, ever, I let go of the reigns on my own life. I had no idea how to handle myself, how to make anyone around me happy, how to get out of bed or how to even begin the process of trying to process what the f*ck just happened. I was terrified.

Coming from the girl who never encountered a dilemma she couldn't fix instantaneously, on her own, with no emotional burden. I was checked out from making my life better. So I didn't try. I didn't even think about thinking about trying.

The only relatively understandable way I could think to deal with anything was to not deal with anything. And that's exactly what I did. And it was f*cking amazing.

I went into hiding for a week, then went on a week getaway with my family, regained that feeling of being loved unconditionally, and realized that's all I need. They are all I need. Friends? Nah. Family. Only. Always.

On that vacation, I got a call from the school district that they wanted me in for an interview the day I come home. It was for a position that entailed every single class, combined, that I took in my college career. It was a career that I had just gotten my degree for three months before.

I came home and saw my doctor and got a health plan in order. I was immediately thrown into the month-long hiring process for work. I made it a point to make sunset every single night, alone, to make sure I was mentally caught up and in-check at the same exact speed that my life was turning. I was not about to lose my control again. Not ever.

Since August, I have spent more time with family than ever. I've read over 10 new books, I've discovered so much new music, I went on some of my best, the worst and funniest first dates, I made true, loyal friends that cause me zero stress while completely drowning me in overwhelming amounts of love and support, I got back into yoga, and I started that job and damn near fell more in love with it than I ever was for the guy I lost over the summer.

But most importantly, I changed my mindset. I promised myself to not say a single sentence that has a negative tone to it. I promised myself to think three times before engaging in any type of personal conversation. I promised myself to wake up in a good mood every damn day because I'm alive and that is the only factor I should need to be happy.

Take it from a girl who knew her words were weapons and used them frequently before deciding to turn every aspect of her life into positivity — even in the midst of losing one of my closest family members. I have been told multiple times, by people so dear to me that I'm "glowing." You know what I said back? F*ck yes I am, and I deserve to.

I am so happy with myself and it has nothing to do with the things around me. It's so much deeper than that, and I'm beaming with pride. Of myself. For myself.

I want to leave you with these thoughts that those people who have hurt me, left me, and loved me through these last couple of months have taught me

Growth is sometimes a lonely process.
Some things go too deep to ever be forgotten.
You need to give yourself the permission to be happy right now.
You outgrow people you thought you couldn't live without, and you're not the one to blame for that. You're growing.
Sometimes it takes your break down to reach your breakthrough.

Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

My god, it's so f*cking good.

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Creating When You Feel Like A Shell Of Yourself Is Difficult, But Imperative

Pull the words out of the mind that's being poisoned by the harmful thoughts. Let the words live.

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Creating is one of my favorite coping mechanisms. Whether it's something unstructured like writing a poem or something like sitting down and writing an article, putting my negative energy into producing something I'm proud of is extremely cathartic. Sometimes it's just the thing to pull me out of a slump — otherwise known as an episode.

But sometimes the slump is too deep, the episode too severe. Sometimes even putting words to paper or picking up a paintbrush is too much. Right now feels like one of those moments and creating even in the slightest feels impossible.

Here we are. Baby steps.

We have to fight the urge to succumb to what the voices in our head tell us. Whether it's at the extreme of hurting yourself or engaging in a harmful behavior or simply indulging in your own sadness. The latter can be more harmful than it sounds. The latter can be the first step in getting bad again.

Get a piece of paper. Grab a pen. Open a blank document. Start typing. Pick up a guitar. Write or paint or play until your hands go numb. Create as if your life depends on it because sometimes it does. Even if it's nonsense. Pull the words — the color, the notes, anything — out of the mind that's being poisoned by the harmful thoughts. Let the words live.

It takes a lot to pull yourself out of the depths of mental illness. And the process is exactly that: a process. However your process starts — a conversation with a friend, a text to a hotline, a visit to a hospital, an appointment with a therapist — the little things that keep your process going are just as important.

May this serve as a reminder to return to whatever that means for you today.

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