The Anxiety Monster
Let’s take a walk through my head. This is a first-person account of an anxiety attack I had that came on out of nowhere and was not like any I had had before (at the time it had been 15 years since my last one). Try and absorb this so you can gain a little insight into what this feels like.
I’m driving home. La la la la la I love singing in the car. All of a sudden I’m so dizzy. What’s going on? There’s nowhere to pull over. I have to get home. Oh my gosh I’m gonna barf! Drive Sharon, drive…you gotta get home. Fuck I can’t breathe. I’ve never felt this way before….should I go to the hospital? Do I have a brain tumor?? Is it a heart attack?? I’m so scared. What is happening?
I’m pulling up at home. Put the car in park. I can’t get out of the car. I feel like I can’t move. Okay Sharon you gotta get inside……the house is your safe space. I’m opening the car door and slowly walking towards the door. My hands are shaking as I find the house key. My legs are gonna collapse under me. I’m trying to breathe but it’s so hard. My head won’t stop spinning.
Okay there’s my couch which is my safe place. I’m sitting down with my head laid back but this dizziness won’t stop. Close my eyes. Open my eyes. Close my eyes again. My whole body feels shaky. My body feels like it’s not attached to my head. I can’t feel it. How long has this been going on? Should I call an ambulance? No that’s stupid. This has to be anxiety. But what the fuck is with this dizziness? That’s never happened before. Breathe. Breathe. Keep breathing Sharon.
I want you to read that a few times. Indulge me in this. If you have never had an anxiety attack before you will never understand the fear, the paralysis, the agony of losing control of your body and mind. This little bit of written word doesn’t even begin to describe all that was going on with me at that moment. But I hope it will help you gain some insight in to how it feels. Humans need some bit of control over things as it makes us feel safe. When you lose that control it can be debilitating and beyond frightening.
There is a lot I do to manage my anxiety and these attacks come when I forget to use those tools or life is too overwhelming. But I can also be overwhelmed sometimes and not experience them due to the mechanisms in place which keep me grounded. They involve journaling, calming music to go to sleep, essential oils, hot Epsom salt baths, walking, going to the gym, talking to safe friends……there’s so much more but you get my point. The crappy part is I do know they can come on unexpectedly but the more I focus on positive things and remain self-aware of what state I’m in at all times, the less I am controlled by them.
When those moments happen, thankfully few and far between at the present time, I focus on breathing. I feel the air going in and out of my lungs. I breathe in, hold it, let it out, pause and start again. It takes awhile sometimes to get my breath under control, but I don’t stop until I feel that dizziness subside, until I can feel my body again. I will use movement such as holding my arms above my head to expand my lungs. Sometimes I focus on something in the room…..I stare at it and simply notice its features or colour. I logically know they won’t last and that I am safe, so I try to push my brain to keep reminding me of that, even as my emotional brain screams in fear.
I wouldn’t wish these moments of anxiety on anyone. They can be absolutely terrifying in an indescribable way. For those of you who experience them, I feel your pain. All I can share are the tools I found, but every one of us is so unique. Keep trying to find what works for you and know that no matter how scary it gets, it will pass.