If you’re uncertain whether you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ve probably never had one because these things are scary as fuck. However, this does not mean you can’t prepare yourself (along with readers who have dealt with these) for the signs that you might begin to have one because ideally you would like to keep your status as a non-panic-attack-haver for your whole live long days (and nights).
Let me first state my terms. There are kind of two areas of panic attacks. The first is spontaneous attacks which can occur in moments of grief, stress or illness. These happen to about 35% of the population during their lives, and only occasionally. The second kind can be a panic disorder, which is an area of anxiety disorder. These can be recurring, unexpected and threatening to the individual (they fear when the next one comes). This is me, and what I am talking about in this post. However, the same methods can be used to negotiate with spontaneous panic attacks, and they pretty much happen in the same ways - this is that neither usually happen in direct reaction to something, they often occur in safe and apparently calm environments.
Keep in mind that this is different for everyone but this is just my experience and that of a few people that I have spoken to.
Ok, so you’ll think it’s a gradual thing to begin with. Your palms might get sweaty and/or you might get super uncomfortable, i.e. can’t sit still, hypersensitive to your body, etc. More vitally, the thoughts that had triggered your anxiety will speed up and become more and more irrational. (If you’re triggered easily, which I am with these, just breathe with me because everything is fine.)
This is a medical list of the symptoms of a panic attack, found here. (That page also has a short list of self help options but please keep reading).
Heightened vigilance for danger and physical symptoms
Anxious and irrational thinking
A strong feeling of dread, danger or foreboding
Fear of going mad, losing control or dying
Feeling lightheaded and dizzy
Tingling and chills, particularly in the arms and hands
Trembling or shaking, sweating
Accelerated heart rate
A feeling of constriction in the chest
Breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath
Nausea or abdominal distress
Feelings of unreality and detachment from the environment.
The actual panic attack just leaves behind every rationality that you had ever encompassed, basically, it simulates confrontational fear however you have nothing tangible to react to - so it’s an internalized freakout without the options of ‘fight or flight’. It doesn’t really matter what it’s about. It can be the literal definition of another person’s trivial matter like you have a stain on your shirt before meeting people. To them, they can change their shirt. But to you, if you’ve been working on other stuff that freaks you out around the situation, the stain could be the ‘last straw’ if you get me.
So panic attacks can be really dangerous. At best, they can just be mental chaos, other times there can be tears, hyperventilation, and they can lead to self injury or suicidal thoughts. Any situation where you or a person you love is having a panic attack is not a laughing matter and can’t be treated lightly.
I can’t stress this enough. My mum has walked in on me as I was starting to panic multiple times, thinking that trivializing my concerns would make me realise ‘Oh yeah this is dumb I should stop now”. I love her, and I know she has my best interests at heart, but telling that to a person in panic is like saying, ‘you’ve really failed here at dealing with life’.
However let me get back to you, and how to stop the panic.
Learn your triggers. For me, it’s often clothes. To try an avoid hysteria I plan my outfits way in advance, and give myself several options. If you’re trying a fear food, take your time. If you’re doing it with someone, do it with someone you can be honest with and who can understand you. If you don’t do it today, you aren’t failing, don’t give yourself a time limit. Whatever your triggers are, learn them, and try and work out ways that you can deal with them.
Sometimes you don’t have triggers and they can come really randomly. This sucks, but if they are reoccurring then you can still figure out ways of coping with them when they arrive. Before when I said you lose all rationality - that’s not completely true - you can still recall your clearer thoughts at these times, but you have to teach yourself how to do this. It involves a certain level of self awareness and connectivity with your anxiety symptoms.
Breathe. Dealing with confrontation is very physical. If you are working yourself into a panic, step back and focus on a breathing pattern. This means listening as well. Listen to your breaths, and let them smooth down your thoughts. Panicked thoughts are loud, and often hard to ignore. Breathing deeply will distract you physically and it will also send oxygen to your noggin, which will initiate calm.
Music. Play it loud. REALLY LOUD. However. Don’t play songs that make you cry, or angry. Or anything from the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack that makes you feel like a hostile misunderstood hacker. Obviously it’s personal, but I go for something a little up beat that I know the words to and it’s obviously ‘happy’ music. I use B.B King or Sam Cooke. Focus on the lyrics, and each word. Think about the melody and the rhythm, tap it out on your leg.
WATER. Always good.
Music is good, but also tv. TV will distract you visually and aurally. Comedy is good. Don’t choose characters that make you cry. I use Friends, Community, Freaks and Geeks, The Office, Parks and Recreation, or youtubers like Crabstickz.
Get a cold wash cloth and wipe away your sweat. Or put it on your face and breath through it, scream through it, whatever you want.
Repeat above until you forget about whatever it was you were panicking about.
Or go for a walk. Often, but not always I figure public spaces will stop me from breaking down, but I try to avoid big crowds. Just a quiet sidewalk etc.
Step nine is once you are certain that you are not going to go into panic. Think about how you can cope better with it next time, think about your reaction and if it was something you could prevent or something you could eliminate the stress of.
If you’re panic leads you to violent action against yourself, you need to tell someone you’re panicking. If not during, then straight after. You need to seek help - which I will cover in another post. I will also talk about admitting things to people you know that you would usually not care to divulge. If you are prone to self harm during panic attacks, then create obstacles to the objects you use in your non panicked state in preparation for this. This also includes if you self-injure (hitting, scratching - I will also talk about this in another post) then you need to take the above steps as soon as possible, this could involve increasing your mental acuteness when you self-injure (combat numbness) or dress to cover yourself tightly in pre-panic. However, these things are superficial without professional help and you need to contact a source that can and will assist you in better coping methods.
Now to helping a person through a panic attack. It is very simple.
Be there, present. You don’t have to be physically close to them (hugging, holding, etc), but have calm and generous body language. If they want to hold on to you, just let them. Repetitive motions like stroking their hair or circles on their backs can induce calm.
Don’t ask them what’s wrong, don’t ask them what happened, don’t ask them how you can help. Because they probably wont be able to answer any of that. Don’t give them advice. Don’t tell them it’s nothing. It’s a lot to them, right in that moment. Just make them comfortable.
Tell them that they have time. Tell them that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to. Tell them that you can stay here as long as you like. Tell them you love them (only if you do, don’t lie). Tell them that they’re safe.
If you’re the sufferer, it’s scary, yes, terrifying. But you can rise above them, you are better than the things that make you scared. You are doing the best you can, and you haven’t failed when they get to you at a moment of weakness. This is the most important thing to remember. You have points of weakness, you are allowed to curl up on a ball on your bed and wrack yourself with sobs, you can sometimes let your demons in without your will. This doesn’t make you all weak. The ability to move on from them makes you stronger.
Good luck, and please come talk to me if you want to chat more about it - I’ll add you on skype, facebook, whatever I’ll always reply.
Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t posted for a while, but I’ve been very busy. A few updates on what I’ve been up to -
Yesterday I went to my first fandom gathering. Sort of irrelevant who or what it was about but it was a massive step in trying to dig myself out of social anxiety. It wasn’t a complete success, and I’m okay with that. My friend actually just held my hand to walk me up to the group after she had spent ten minutes convincing me to go on a bench. No I didn’t say a lot, but I got hugged, talked to and included in some games everybody played and found myself smiling the whole time. I only stayed for about an hour when we both split off from the group, but it was enough to make me feel like I had done a little for myself.
The other thing is I’m currently preparing for my visual arts major work to be on exhibit in a public gallery. It got chosen after my finals as one of the top works in the area which is a massive honour. I think I’m only eighty percent freaking out that I have to have my work in front of people I don’t know around works that are probably going to be better than mine. The other twenty percent is having the opening night and my family and close friends coming to see it. It’s kind of a huge mix of fears that are running around in my head but I feel like as I get closer to the date it’s less of an abstract lava of anxiety and more of a manageable worrying. So yeah I’m scared about that, and though everyone is convincing me to be excited it is hard, however I’m getting there.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned in the past week or two is a few things about being happy in comparison to sadness.
The first comes from a John Green quote “The existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate”. He’s talking about the common ‘encouragement’ “without pain, how could we know joy?” and showing that it’s completely false. Happy people aren’t happy because they’ve known sadness, and their happiness isn’t defined by a lack of sadness - it is defined by an abundance of joys.
Happy people aren’t simple people. The common misconception is that sad people are more interesting to the romance of the human mind. That they are brooding or mysterious or attractive because of their sad perceptions of the world (see: manic pixie dream girl/eg. Cassie from Skins). Which is false, sadness isn’t a commodity. It isn’t cool. Being sad makes you feel like shit because the processes of it are shit. Happy people don’t all of a sudden lose the quiet reflection on the universe around them, being happy doesn’t block out the existential questioning, the sense of self identity. Being happy is being able to do all of these things without the overwhelming heartbreak that it’s your own fault or that things wont turn out alright or that It Is All For Nothing.
Note: This is from my personal experience with an eating disorder, I recognise everyone is different. These are just guidelines, it is very important if you are supporting a friend, girlfriend or boyfriend you sit with them and discuss ways in which to help support them through recovery. Hannah xxx
Eating Disorders are very frustrating, especially when you are on the other side; observing someone purposefully starving themselves to death but not realising the consequences of their actions. When you say the words, “Why don’t you just eat?” there is no lightbulb that flickers on inside that person’s brain, they do not immediately run to the fridge shouting, “Oh my god you’re right!”. Firstly, never ever say that and secondly, Eating Disorders aren’t logical disorders, no matter how dangerous not eating gets there is no lightbulb that will urge that person to start eating ‘normally’ again, not without help anyway. So that is why it is incredibly difficult to get through to someone with an Eating Disorder, or even support them because your usual approach to food and eating is either going to trigger them or just be very unhelpful.
Here are some things you should and shouldn’t do when supporting someone with an eating disorder:
Never ask them what they ate today. It may sound like you’re being supportive, ready to praise them if it was something different or larger than usual. It does more harm than good. If the ED sufferer wants you to know they made a big step in their recovery by facing a fear food or eating something new they will tell you.
Don’t say things like, “You look healthier/better/curvier etc.” An eating disorder sufferer will find any excuse for you to call them “fat” even if you don’t say those exact words (Don’t say them ever. Just don’t). You mean well but these can be interpreted as negative therefore triggering for someone with an ED. Extended family are prime suspects for using these phrases.
Compliment their personality not their looks. Let’s face it, looks aren’t forever are they? In any relationship it is important to praise talent, personality and skills but for someone with an ED it is doubly important. This is because their eating disorder teaches them to feel worthless and unimportant, it is your job to reassure and counter those bad thoughts. Saying, “you’re so beautiful though” all the time does not tend to help the situation as a person with ED thoughts just simply thinks you are either blind or lying.
Understand that eating is uncomfortable for them. Don’t force regular trips to restaurants and most certainly don’t comment on what they order or watch them eat.
Reassure. Being with someone who has an ED is very testing at times but you must reassure the person you are there for them and you accept their ED is a challenge for you both. Dismissing an eating disorder, playing the dangers down or simply ignoring it doesn’t help anyone and it most certainly does not show a happy healthy relationship.
Let them open up. It can be hard to keep your thoughts to yourself, especially when the person suffering has very distorted thoughts that aren’t truthful at all. You may want to shout at them that their wrong but what is important is that you listen. Let them trust you with their feelings for an ED sufferer the fear of being rejected is huge.
EDs are not simply about food and weight. That is just a symptom of an eating disorder there are many underlying factors why someone may choose to under eat or over eat. Be sure to do your research on Eating Disorders, this is helpful because knowledge is power, it can help create an understanding and provide more support rather than stumbling blindly in the dark for a “cure”.
Speaking of cure, there isn’t one. Not a magical instantaneous one anyway. You cannot force someone to enter recovery, they have to be ready or at least hit some kind of rock bottom. You may feel powerless that the ED has the hold on the person, it’s a very difficult situation. But know that Recovery from an Eating Disorder is possible, it’s damn hard but it is possible.
Take care of yourself. Taking care of number one is vital. If you are in a bad place how is your friend/girlfriend/boyfriend going to feel? That’s why is it important to set up boundaries and know when is the right time to say, “I need some me time”. Make sure you have plenty of support yourself. Eating disorders affect everyone not just the sufferer. Even though in the grips of an ED the sufferer may be irritable, selfish and even mean, recognise that is the ED not the person you know and love. Even so this can make time spent with the person very testing so it important to give yourself a break, hang with other friends and give yourself the care and attention you deserve. Don’t put their happiness first it is not your job.
Spend time together. I know this list has been very much, “don’t do this, don’t do that and for God’s sake don’t ever do that!” and that is not to scare you. Chances are you may have done something that you shouldn’t already or perhaps you’ll forget and do it again but you’re trying and that’s important. These points are guides, the person you are trying to support may like different things. You may even discover something that isn’t on this list that is not okay to do but Eating Disorders require a lot of learning even for the sufferer. They have to recognise what is triggering just as much as you have to be wary of how you approach things. But in the end, enjoy your relationship. Spend time together, go outside, forget the ED for a while and enjoy the person you are with. Go to the cinema, go to a gig, do something creative and something you both enjoy.
Always remember why you’re with them in the first place.
Hannah v2.0 - more awesome the more I get to know her! Come talk to her on our network.
There are always a lot of posts about how to treat introverts and how to tell if something is bothering them. But guys, extroverts can be just as sad and have just as many issues. So here it is, an introverts guide to dealing with extroverts.
I was thinking today about bullying and how it affected me during the school life that I have recently finished. For me, it came up only in high school, not intensely or consistently from a single culprit, but seemed to have changed hands sporadically from years 7 to 9/10. Thinking about this I realised just how little I was prepared for it.
In primary school, and I’m sure this is the same in many education systems - of the limited discussion revolving around bullying, the biggest thing I learnt from school was that bullies usually had their own problems and that it probably wasn’t personal, they just had a lot to deal with and weren’t coping with it very well. This was usually accompanied with the phrase ‘troubled home life’ or something similar.
Now I’m not saying this isn’t true, people tend to ‘cope’ with personal issues in two ways: by lashing out on others or on themselves. However the advice we were given on how a victim should protect themselves from these coping methods were insubstantial for me: ‘Tell a close friend, teacher, parent/guardian or someone you trust’.
I wasn’t dealing with bullying in primary school, but considering this in high school when I was being bullied was completely out of the question for me. This was basically because when schools said they were ‘tackling bullying’ they pretty much left it at these few pieces of advice and just expected the victims (for want of a better word) to solve their problems themselves, and I was too fragile to approach anyone about anything that was happening to me.
So for starters when I was actually being bullied, I didn’t know it for about a year. In my twelve year old head I just thought it was a regular start to a new school. My initial reaction was embarrassment, and from then on I constantly was assessing how much of a moron every word out of my mouth could possibly sound. Still, I’m incredibly secretive about things that don’t even matter, pretty socially anxious and am a total introvert. It’s only recently and as I have been making this blog that I’ve started to deal with these aspects of myself. It’s also only recently that I’ve realised that I actually have these problems and even more recently that I have had depression for a number of years. I’m not a blaming sort of person, but I think a lot of this could have been avoided with a better introduction into the nature of bullying and perhaps people in general.
What I think I needed to know was this. As easy as it sounds when they categorise bullying into confrontational or cyber bullying, it is absolutely not that easy. At a girl’s school, confrontation was unchartered territory. What some girls did to me was so freaking passive that as I said before, I didn’t even know it was bullying. Of course I also witnessed the typical aversion techniques where I would sit down with people and they would instantly start moving away from me - often running to the other side of the school, but even that was passive as they departed in groups until I was the last one left. There was an incident at camp where I was somehow positioned to slip into waist deep mud and they even helped me out of it and cleaned me up but then I saw them showing pictures to boys who were on the site.
The word freak also cropped up a lot, mostly in art. I’m sure there are millions of other teenagers out there who have received the oddly placed complisult (part compliment part insult) when quietly working in their art diary by other students. I’m sure it differs in language, but the one that frequented my school life was ‘freak’. Now, I wouldn’t spend as much time I do working on it if I didn’t know I was a passable artist, but I know for certain that I am no stroke of genius or some child prodigy. I often found the word freak a little poorly placed on me. But it happened, pretty much every lesson. I’d feel their eyes on me from the other side of the room and then they’d sneak up behind me and be like ‘Woaaah that’s so good oh my god. You’re such a freak oh my god.’ and they’d smile and I always felt monumentally embarrassed even though they apparently meant it as a compliment. From seeing my other art friends handle it, I knew the easiest way to get them to go away was just thanking them and moving on. But then my cheeks would go bright red and suddenly the thing on my paper looked awful to me. Because then I’d know (and this isn’t just me being paranoid) they’d go back to their desks and talk about me, less kindly calling me a freak or whatever.
I’m writing this stuff out because a) It’s really nice to get off my chest and b) Because I want to show that despite all of those teachers telling you that ‘it isn’t personal’ or ‘they have problems just as big’ is totally irrelevant because you carry all this stuff with you all the time and for a long time - much longer than they do. Bullying happens, all of this stuff talking about preventing it and exposing it is no help to people who cop the flack of it. To you being bullied, of COURSE it is personal! And people telling you to ‘grin and bear it’ is just plain not helpful because ‘bearing it’ silently has frequently resulted in coping methods such as self harm and/or suicide. The ways in which you can get bullied are never your straight out ‘oh yup I saw that in an after school special one time’ - they hurt because they are obscure and hit you where you’re vulnerable. In my case it was in my art and academics. With other people it is a specific way they look or their family or a habit they have. The thing is, nobody is a cut-copy so therefore no bullying is a cut-copy. Bullies gain satisfaction from their torment as they invent new ways to get at your weak spots. So it’s VERY personal, and usually only dealt with silently in your head, because you’re freaking embarrassed! Or sad, or deeply deeply affected by it!
And that’s okay! You have a right to be affected by this. You did not ask for this. This is their fault, not yours. You should not be guilted with phrases like ‘dobbing’ or ‘telling on’ your tormentor/s, because you are entitled to stop them. Whatever they are dealing with, whatever incites them to use you as a coping method, YOU remain priority, and YOU must be protected. You need to tell someone, yes. But this is a process that you are entitled to. If you are being hurt, you not only deserve but are given the right by that person hurting you to protect yourself from them. Within that process, they will be confronted and also possibly given the opportunity to reconsider their coping methods. Or you can leave them out of the equation, the great thing about telling someone is that in that act, YOU regain control. After bullying being something that ‘happens’ TO you, directing its removal reunites your own sway in the situation - everything that happens from then on is on your terms.
So telling young kids ‘Oh go tell on that silly bully’ is not useless, but not comprehensive. If my high school had just taken a genuine interest in their student’s mental health then I may have a lot less friends who suffer from depression or other personal conflicts. However if your school or your situation still doesn’t provide this for you, and you don’t feel like you are ready to trust any one with this information, please come talk to me or our network. Anonymously or privately, I promise we will meet your situation/conversation without judgement and really only with experience, love and concern for your interests. We will all gladly talk you through safe coping methods and coming out of this with your individuality and wholesome soul in-tact.
Don’t get me wrong, I love tumblr. However sometimes I just get tired of how invisible it is. I get anonymity is great, but its often difficult to help or talk to people when you don’t know what time zone they’re in and whether you’re talking to an unattended dashboard.
So I had an idea that I could open up a private Facebook group, where everyone is equal and can contribute as much or as little as you like, posting what you’re struggling with and getting advice in return or the little things you deal with in your recovery/day-to-day-life. It could also help if you’re in a desperate situation where you need someone to talk you through self preservation or down periods without judgement and of course, only love.
It would be a strictly no-hate, all welcome, complete confidentiality policy - what we say in the group stays there and we attempt to keep profile stalking to a minimum :)
If you want in, then message me your profile url and I’ll pop you on the list!
Hey guys, I know a lot of you are in America (and really it just feels like this is a tragedy for all of us) so I’d just like to send my love to any of you who were affected by the shooting or know of someone who has been. I’m still completely in shock with how awful this is and I am forever grateful that I and those I love are safe, well and cared for.