Anxiety/Panic Attacks

Do you know what it feels like to have an anxiety/panic attack? I do. Let me paint you a mental picture of what it felt like for me.

First, your breathing gets more rapid. As that's happening, not only are you still going over in your head whatever the trigger for this attack was, but you're also getting concerned about your rapid breathing and increased heart rate. You almost question whether you are putting on the rapid breathing for attention. It's not until your fingers start tingling that you think something is seriously wrong.

I'll never forget the very first attack I ever had. My partner at the time and I were laying in bed together and we had just had a bit of a heated argument/discussion about something (I can't even remember what, but I'd almost guarantee that it was made worse due to the condition I was unknowingly suffering at the time and my innate ability to read into a situation too much) and I started feeling all of these symptoms. I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me, and I was absolutely terrified. She was scared to the point of almost calling an ambulance for me. I don't recall how long this went on for - it was probably only a few minutes, but it felt like at least an hour for me. It was incredibly traumatic. I was left feeling exhausted, shivering cold, and barely able to string a sentence together for around ten minutes afterwards.

These attacks have only happened to me four times, but the scariest and most intense one occurred shortly after my relationship ended. I was at home alone with my sleeping children. I believe I had recently stopped taking the anxiety medication I was prescribed, but I was most likely still under the influence of it at the time the attack happened.

I attempted to call my now ex-partner to try and reconcile and plead my case. Again. I had tried countless times and was, truthfully, acting like a bit of a crazy person and not giving her the space she requested - I kind of had an issue with boundaries at the time (once again, hello anxiety). My phone call was ignored, and rightfully so, but what occurred next was the longest and most intense attack I have ever had. It clocked in at around fourty-five minutes.

All I could think about at the time was my poor children. My kids were fast asleep in bed and had no idea what their Father was going through, and while I know it's insane now, when I was in that moment I was terrified at the thought that they were going to wake up without a Father. I tried getting up out of bed and my legs wouldn't work. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I was sweating and shivering all at the same time. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the biology behind an anxiety attack, but for me, I think it was caused by an uncontrollable outburst of emotion. An outburst of emotion that was being suppressed by the medication I was taking. It's entirely possible I'm incorrect in thinking that, but I've got a habit of talking out of my ass very very rarely (see: frequently) so while it's possible that's what I'm doing now, I truly feel like that's not the case. I believe these attacks happened because a lot of my natural emotions were being unknowingly suppressed as a result of the medication I was prescribed.

The feeling once the attack has ceased is, for lack of a better word or phrase, unadulterated exhaustion. You feel depleted of all energy, and it's quite difficult trying to even form a coherent thought. Anxiety attacks are an incredibly traumatic experience, and I have so much respect for the people who can drag themselves out of one and get a foothold on their reality that feels like it's slowly fading away into nothingness. A large abyss that is tunneling it's way towards you that you are unable to stop. If you do that, you are the strongest type of person and do not let anyone ever tell you or make you think otherwise.

Since I have been completely off the medication I have not had a single panic attack, and barely any anxious thoughts that would make me think that I was on the verge of having one. I had never had an anxiety/panic attack before I started taking medication for GAD, and I have not had one since. I have been through quite a lot of things in my life previously that would have triggered an anxiety attack; things ranging from the deaths of close family members to watching my one year old son have a mild seizure in my arms, but there was nothing. Zilch. No signs of any form of an attack whatsoever.

Is it possible that these sympoms triggered naturally later on in life and were completely unrelated to the medication I was taking? Sure, I guess so. Anything is possible. Instead, I would like to familiarise you with a phrase I learnt from TVs own Dr. Gregory House - Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor states that the simplest solution to a complex issue is generally the correct one. The medication I was taking was causing my anxiety attacks.

To everyone out there who suffers from these attacks on a regular basis, I unfortunately don't have any solid advice for you. I can only talk from my own personal experience, and while incredibly traumatic and difficult for me, is barely a blip on the struggles that you may be facing on a daily basis. I am in no way equipped, educated, or confident enough in this matter to give any solutions to these experiences you are facing and quite frankly, I am not going to cheapen anyone's struggles by pretending like I have the answers.

Instead, I will tell you to stay strong. Be proud of the way you pull yourself out of situations like that, even if you don't feel like you deserve it. Especially if you feel like you don't deserve it. Trust me when I say that you do. You are strong. You are brave. You, my friend, are an inspiration to people like me.

- KD