In the Heart of a Panic Attack & How To Cope

Place : Victoria Park, London  •  Photos : Angélique  •  Sweater : New Look

I usually write blog posts in the aim of being informative, helpful and guiding. But right now I wanted to write a more rough one, about my own experience of anxiety. Especially because I faced a major anxiety level a few days ago, and because I believe anyone dealing with it could eventually relate, which would hopefully be helpful in the end.

Back to my high school years, I used to faint a lot without knowing why. I made all the tests possible, I checked every aspect of my physical health, yet no doctor could point at any particular issue I eventually had. Most of the time, they would just leave me hanging with the words « It’s just in your head ». Which at that time, made no sense to me.

I mean, maybe it’s all in my head, but then ? What am I supposed to do with this information ? Aren’t there any options, medications, or help for me ? Just telling me it is in my head, will not change the problem, at all. In fact, it would actually make it worse.


Why ? Because it gives me a feeling of being guilty. Of faking it. Of having no problem at all and just making it up. To avoid class, sports, activities, people, maybe ?

But that’s the heart of it. I don’t do it on purpose, I just cannot control what my mind tells me to avoid. Back to my 15 year old self, and so on until recently, I was scared of everything and probably everyone. If you know me, you might think « Wait, that’s not true, you are brave and not so shy ! »But that’s another thing about mental health issues. It is so easy to hide it, that no one could tell you are struggling with it, when truth is, you are six feet underneath.

It is actually easier to fake being happy and healthy, than being anxious or depressed. Back to those years I was talking about above, everyone thought I was the happiest girl alive. But I was dealing with severe depression, self-harming, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety. Yet I had no idea what anxiety truly was.

Now it sounds weird to say I didn’t have a clue what anxiety was, because I believe we are more aware of it nowadays. But trust me, I used to have panic attacks during class lessons where I couldn’t breathe anymore, my heartbeat would double or triple, and all I wanted was to hide and cry for the rest of my life. Yet I couldn’t put a word on what was happening to me. I simply didn’t know. 

The word « anxiety » itself became so easily used today that we tend to not take it seriously, when it could ruin everyday lives, for simple things such as activities, socializing, going out, and going to work. 

And I have a great example from the other day. 

It was a normal day for me. Supposedly. I work in retail, and it is no surprise that I sometimes get overwhelmed by the routine of it. Getting a lot of customers, demands, complaints, etc. Something that can seem so casual for anyone, could be « hell » for someone dealing with anxiety. 

I woke up feeling anxious already about the day ahead, but it unfortunately happened quite a lot recently, so I thought I could « deal with it ». But there’s no such thing as « dealing with it » when you have anxiety. Easier said than done. 

So just before heading to work, I had a major panic attack at home where I was alone, I started crying, my heart was beating way too fast, and I was staring at my phone, thinking « call sick. Call sick. CALL SICK. You cannot do it. You don’t want to do it. » The minutes were passing by and I had to go, which I forced myself to. 

***

40 long minutes on my way to work during which I was crying, breathing heavily, and repeatedly saying to myself « I cannot cope, I am done with it ». 

Yet I had no other choice than… To cope with it. I believe our mental health is so important that if you feel like this is unhealthy for you to go, then don’t go. But obviously I unfortunately cannot miss work every time a panic attack hits me. And to be truly honest, missing work would have made me feel so bad about myself that in this case, it wouldn’t help at all. Which leaves me with the solution of trying my best to be my own best friend.


It sounds weird, I know. But in this case, no one else can understand what you are going through, and usually during a panic attack, it is so hard to open up (in fact, most of the time, we don’t want to open up right in the moment). So, the only person capable of helping you, is you. 

Instead of reminding yourself how much you cannot do it, start thinking you actually can do it. Tell yourself it is okay not to be okay. Repeat in your head how strong you are, and the day will pass. Say out loud that no matter what happens, everything is still the same around you. The Earth is still spinning. And the Universe is still really big. 

I am not stating that the problem or reason for the panic attack is minor, not at all. But, it is easier to face something when you make it appear smaller than it seems to be. So yes, your anxiety is valid, your feelings are valid. But instead of seeing it as a mountain, see it as a step. And once you get help, explain how you escalated that mountain that was in your head, by simply putting one foot on top of this step. 

See the difference ? Big mountain, but bigger feet.

PS : Anxiety hit me really hard again yesterday at work when my heart started to race as if I just ran a whole marathon, and it made me feel so guilty that I couldn’t stop crying for at least 40 minutes. But I believe the tears had to leave. I had to let them go. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to have ups and downs. It doesn’t mean you are a failure, and it doesn’t mean you won’t ever get back on your feet. I talked about what happened yesterday in more details on my instagram post here

Remember : If I can do it, you can do it too. 


Let me know in the comment section if you have any tips to deal with Anxiety ! 


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