Today I am doing a collab with the wonderful Lauren from I’m Fine, Stop Asking. She has an amazing blog and you should all go and read her inspiring content! This post that she has written is absolutely amazing and has some tips that I will now carry with me forever. Thank you Lauren! and without further ado here is her post:
P.S I have also written a post on her blog so feel free to go read it!
Picture this. A ten-year-old girl sits on her living room floor, clutching her favourite stuffed dog, watching Spy Kids with her parents. Everyone’s laughing. Her little brother spills some popcorn on the floor. Mom rolls her eyes. A pretty normal Friday night.
Suddenly, and without warning, this ten-year-old feels “off.” Something is not right. Breathing quickens. Palms feel moist. Throat feels tight. Chest hurts. Breathing quickens again and again and again; hyperventilating begins. I’m having a heart attack, she thinks. I’m going to die.
If you hadn’t already guessed, that ten-year-old was me. Do you know any ten-year-olds? Some of them don’t even know what a heart attack really is. Most of them are definitely not concerned about having one. But I was not like most kids.
By the time I was ten years old, I had already developed three severe anxiety disorders: emetophobia (the phobia of vomiting), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and panic disorder. Now, with GAD and my emetophobia, I had experienced panic attacks before.
But these panic attacks had triggers. For example, if I felt nauseated and thought I might throw up, I would have a panic attack. Or if my parents didn’t answer the phone when I called over and over again, I would panic, thinking something terrible had happened to them.
But this was different. There was no trigger. Everything was normal. Everything was calm. Those first panic attacks due to panic disorder made me feel like I was truly about to die. Even at age 10, I knew what a trigger was and my panic attacks “made sense” (as weird as that sounds). But with panic disorder, they came out of nowhere. They made no sense.
Thankfully, I am not that anxious ten-year-old girl anymore. I am now that anxious twenty-five-year-old who has learned a thing or two (…through lots and lots of therapy!)
I am not here to tell you I am in any way cured. I still suffer from all those disorders listed above and more. However, my panic disorder is nearly completely under control. I haven’t had an “untriggered” panic attack in years.
Panic disorder can be one of the scariest things in the world. It really does feel like you are having a heart attack/dying/can’t breathe/etc. Here are some tips I have learned along the way that have helped me get where I am today.
1. Practice Deep Breathing – Or At Least Try It!
When I was nine years old, I saw a psychiatrist for the very first time. Since then, I have seen dozens of psychologists, doctors, therapists, counselors…you name it. Although I learned different techniques from each person, one of the things they all said was to try deep breathing.
Deep Breathing has been a huge lifesaver for me – but I was skeptical at first. In a panic attack, I focused a lot on my breathing, which just made things way worse. So how would paying even closer attention to my breathing help?!
It finally clicked when my psychologist said to me, “Your brain can’t be anxious if your body is calm.” And it’s true. If you can master deep breathing, it is almost a sure-fire way to at least gain some control over your panic attack.
It’s okay to be skeptical – but there’s a reason why so many people suggested this to me (and to others). After some practice and perseverance (and by some practice I mean I tried it for years), I found that deep breathing helped all of my anxiety disorders, not just my panic attacks.
2. Learn Your Triggers
This may sound a bit contradictory because I just said that my panic attacks had no triggers. But in reality, most panic attacks do have some sort of trigger. Even random panic attacks brought on by panic disorder.
I am incredibly (annoyingly) aware of what’s going on in my body. Heart flutters? Panic attack. Tickle in throat? Panic attack. Weird dull leg pain that lasts less than 10 seconds? Panic attack. Whenever something felt “off” in my body, I would have a panic attack. Now, as soon as something feels “off,” I begin my deep breathing exercises and 9/10 times I can fully prevent a panic attack!
3. Seek Help and Support
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help I received from my many therapists along the way, as well as my incredibly supportive parents and family. If your family doesn’t understand your mental illness, there are tons of support groups – both in person or online – that you can join. Learn coping mechanisms and don’t give up on them if they don’t work for you right away.
Find out what kind of support your country offers when it comes to mental health care and take full advantage of whatever resources are available to you. Having a great support system, both medically and in your personal life, can make a huge difference.
So, there you have it. Remember that these are just the methods that have worked for me. There are TONS of different coping strategies and approaches to therapy that may work better for you. But let me tell you, if ten-year-old Lauren, who thought life would never get better, can get through this, so can you.