As someone who was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder at only 14, I am so glad to see that more people are talking their experiences. As a kid, I never talked about it because it was ‘weird’. I remember my class went on a field trip one day in high school, and another classmate had a panic attack on the bus. Everyone gossiped about it and how ‘ridiculous’ it was. Ever since then, I never said anything about my issues.
Honestly, I was fortunate in the way that my panic attacks were very mild when I was a kid. I never experienced a bad one until I was in my twenties. My disorders were actually discovered because I told my mom when I was 14 that I kept feeling like I couldn’t breathe, and I truly thought there was something wrong with me. After an EKG and wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, it turns out there was nothing wrong with my body physically - but mentally, I had issues. At 14, I’m sure my family care physician did not want to use medications. Instead, I was sent home with a few pages of ‘coping techniques’ printed off of Web MD. I was disappointed. I finally knew why I would randomly feel like I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t get a cure. I still have the packet of coping techniques, and it’s laughable for my anxiety and panic attacks.
As I got older, went to high school, and got new friends, my panic attacks did subside. I was so thankful for that. My anxiety went down considerably as well.
When I had our second child, it all came back. I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. I didn’t want to leave the house. I would stay home all week, only going out when my husband was home to go with me on the weekends. I was suddenly afraid of everything.
Then my mother-in-law passed, and it got much, much worse. It went from being afraid of the world, to waking up in the middle of the night thinking I was dying. I have been fortunate to not experience death frequently in my life. Only two deaths have affected me this way - when I was eleven, my aunt Sharon passed away. That opened up so many questions about death since I was so young. My mother-in-law passing opened all of that back up for me, and it’s still hard.
I have found a few things that help me though.
- I have to sleep with the TV on. My husband hates this, but it’s essential for me to avoid a panic attack while trying to sleep.
- I take St. John’s Wort every morning. This doesn’t totally prevent panic attacks for me, but it helps my anxiety.
- Rationalizing the panic attack. My panic attacks are always me thinking I’m dying. If I rationalize with myself, it helps me power through until the attack ends. I have to breathe slowly, and tell myself “see, you can breathe. It’s okay”.
- Understand what your partner experiences. One of the hardest things for me was trying to explain to my husband what goes on during a panic attack. I had to let him know exactly what I need him to do to comfort me through an attack. He didn’t know, and that’s totally okay! Let your partner know what they can do.
- Stay busy. I noticed when I have a project going on, whether it’s with the house or a client, I don’t have as many attacks. If my mind is occupied, I can keep the attacks at bay for the most part.
These are all the tips I’ve found work for me. Please feel free to drop your tips in the comments! Maybe they’ll help me or someone else!