• This Is How My Body Feels During a Panic Attack

    My heart is racing, I can hear it pounding in my ears. Thump-thump… thump-thump…thump-thump…thumpthumpthump… my palms are sweaty, my throat is dry, my chest feels tight, I feel dizzy, and I feel like everything is closing in on me. This is what my panic attack feels like. The physical symptoms are intense.

    Anywhere from minutes to hours, I may have a racing heart, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, sweating, stomach in knots, shaking/trembling, throat tightness, muscle weakness, and maybe even sensitivity to light and sound. I am really feeling these things, they are actually happening.

    Don’t make me feel guilty. Be patient, because it’s super helpful for YOU to stay calm. The best thing you can do for my anxiety is to simply accept it. Sometimes you just have to be ok. My anxiety has been around long before you. All I can do is keep working with my therapist to treat it, and I will try to communicate with you as clearly as I can.

    I’m not overreacting and I’m certainly not crazy.

    Don’t assume that every reaction I have is anxiety-related. 

    This is my life. Everyday. Some days it might seem like everything is perfect. But that doesn’t mean my mind isn’t overflowing with fear and worries. I can have a good, no great day and still be anxious. I can have a bad day, and not be anxious. Don’t ever assume that I am completely in control of the creature in my head called my anxiety. But I’m trying.

    It’s not about you. This is not about you. This is not about how I am making you feel bad. This is not about you being the hero. This is not about what you just did. This is about me. Sometimes, my anxiety ruins my day and there is nothing you or I can do about it.

    I know you don’t understand and I know actually that you can’t understand [but want to]. 

    anxiety attack

    Photo: Instagram via @JerseyCitySweets

     

    Ok HG readers, it’s time to get real. This letter above is written to a fictitious partner about panic attacks. If this speaks to you, or if you feel anxious, or are having symptoms often and nothing seems to help, talk with your doctor about other ways to manage it.

    6 million adults in the U.S. suffer from panic attacks, and if you’re one of them, you know the drill: heart racing, palms sweaty, throat tightness, chest tightness, dizziness, dread, and doom. And you are in good company: Princess Di, David Bowie, Oprah Winfrey, Sigmund Freud, Scarlet Johansson, Johnny Depp, and Adele, and many other celebrities have been open about experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. What can make matters even worse is not having a support system who understands what you’re going through, and quite frankly, it’s not their fault. It’s hard for people to understand anxiety and panic attacks who have never experienced it — especially because sometimes, you don’t even know why the attack is happening yourself. Luckily, we’ve got a professional, Dr. Meika of Carepoint Health, to help us better explain panic attacks and learn how to manage them when they happen.

    While you may or may not understand exactly what’s happening {either is perfectly okay}, your loved ones who have never experienced anxiety definitely don’t know what’s going on. Here are some things you can tell them, to help them understand:

    What to know about panic and anxiety attacks {and share with your loved ones}:

    • They feel real, and the physical symptoms are all-consuming.
    • It can be treated, but not “cured.”
    • If I open up to you about what I am feeling, then you mean a lot to me.
    • I’m not “crazy”. And please don’t tell me I’m overreacting.
    • Sometimes just let me cry.
    • Sometimes a back rub makes everything better. And sometimes, don’t touch me.
    • It’s not about you.
    • Be patient, because it’s super important for YOU to stay calm.
    • Don’t make me feel guilty and don’t try to fix me. Sometimes we just have to ride it out.
    • Don’t assume that every reaction I have is anxiety-related.
    • Know that sometimes these things may seem simple but may help me feel better — deep breathing, visualization techniques, meditation, lavender aromatherapy, quiet dark room, yoga, acupuncture, sleep, regular exercise, journaling, list making, and routine.

    It’s important to talk with your doctor about other ways to manage it. Most importantly, know that you’re not alone and that your symptoms will pass.

    Have a question for Dr. Meika that you want answered [anonymously]? Email us! Hello@hobokengirl.com.

    READ: What You Should Know About Breast Health

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    Written by:

    Meika {or rather Dr. Meika} is an emergency medicine physician turned administrator. She is currently the chief medical officer at CarePoint Health in Hoboken and she loves her job and the patients. When she's not at CarePoint, she dedicates her time and career to help against rape and human trafficking. Though originally from Boston, Meika lives in Hoboken with her husband and their dog Brooklyn. You may see her around town walking the dog, jogging or cycling through the streets, or just walking to work. If she hadn’t become a doctor she would have become a photojournalist with a camera and a backpack traveling to barely seen areas of the world {like Sean Penn in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty}.


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