This Is Me Having A Panic Attack
This week has been extremely triggering for me. With the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain I’ve had a heightened awareness of my own mental health issues. They served as a haunting reminder that success and wealth cannot save you from what’s going on inside. I’ve decided to write this blog post and share a bit of my own personal story in hopes to make someone out there not feel so alone.
3 years ago I suffered my first panic attack. That day changed my entire existence. I always had anxiety growing up, but up until this point I had not experienced how debilitating anxiety could truly be. I thought of people who claimed they had anxiety as dramatic or hypersensitive. I also came from a family where having mental health issues such as anxiety or depression were viewed as trivial compared to “more serious” mental health conditions so I had the “get over it” mentality ingrained in me.
When experienced my first panic attack I was 22. I was playing video games with friends, like I did every night. All of the sudden I felt this out of body disconnect with reality, my vision tunneled and my heart started to race. Noticing that my heart was racing made it race faster. In that moment I was convinced I was going to have a heart attack and die. My flight response kicked and and I got up and started pacing. It didn’t make sense, which is why I was so convinced this was actually the end.
Of course, it wasn’t the end. Ironically it was just the beginning. After that night, I was afraid. I lived in constant fear that at any point my body could betray me and self-destruct. I began to withdraw into my own head, feeling detached from the world a lot of the time. I started to feel like I was going crazy. This sent me into a spiral of hypochondria. I made appointments with a heart doctor and had them strap a monitor on my chest for a week convinced that I had a heart condition. I made countless trips to my family doctor with new spots I found in my throat, pressure I felt in my head, swollen lymph nodes, you name it, all while consistently getting blood pressure readings that were regularly 150/75 because I was so nervous. I was determined to find out why my body had tried to self destruct, I was convinced that there actually was something wrong. After months of these doctors visits, my doctor told me she found the problem; I had anxiety.
That answer infuriated me. I have always prided myself on mental sharpness. I like to think I can analyze myself out of any situation. I’m extremely self aware and have always been great at self-correcting behavior so to think there was something going on in my brain that I couldn’t control sounded like such a cop out. The thing about anxiety is, everything you feel is real. I really felt pressure in my head, I really felt my heart race, my blood pressure was actually high. The brain is SO powerful and anxiety has direct access to it.
As time went on I began to give up on running to the doctor every time I felt something was wrong. I began to accept that I did in fact have anxiety. I started doing research, talking to other people about my experiences, and learning to cope.
These past 3 years have been a roller coaster. I wish I could end this blog post now and tell you that I’m finally free, but anxiety is still a part of my daily life. I still wake up every day thinking about when my anxiety will hit, how long it will last and what it will try to take from me. My anxiety steals my passion for creating. It numbs me during moments I would normally feel joy. It immobilizes me in everyday social situations. It tells me that everyone else in the world is normal and that I’m some alien on a strange planet who can never feel normal again. The good news is that now I’ve learned how to quiet my anxiety. I’ve developed healthy coping mechanisms to get through moments of panic. I have begun to understand myself more and why I feel the things that I feel. What saved me from being in a constant spiral has been Cameron. He brings me back to earth pretty regularly. It’s so important to have at least one person that you can look crazy in front of. I show him my rawest, most anxious and broken self and he talks me through moments when I feel like there is no escape. I’ve also been meditating in the mornings, taking CBD, going to church and going to therapy. I’ve gotten better at rationalizing with my anxiety and recognizing it for what it is when it hits.
I talk about all this in relation to the recent suicides because there have been moments where I have been so incredibly scared that I thought there was no way out. There have been times when I felt that I would never be free or be myself again. Thankfully I have an incredible support system but not everyone has that so I want anyone out there with overwhelming thoughts and feelings to know that it ALWAYS gets better. There will always be a light at the end of the tunnel, another moment of laughter, a cuddle with your pet, a time when you look up to the sky and feel so present and peaceful. You will feel normal again. The dark moments are real which is why they feel so scary but as real as they are they are equally temporary. Your anxiety will lie to you, but you are not your anxiety. Anxiety is irrational. Anxiety will FEEL crazy because IT is...YOU are not. It’s hard to explain to people, but know you are not alone.
I’m including this photo because it shows me during one of my most recent panic attacks. This is what anxiety can look like from the outside; nothing. It was right after a cardio concert. I felt so out of my body, like suddenly the world was a foreign place to me. I was on my way to do the meet and greet and stopped to take pictures with a few fans beforehand. After the photo one of the girls made a comment about how she could feel my heart racing. I immediately tuned into my heart and realized she was right. This made me go into a full blown panic attack just as I was heading to do a meet and greet with 50 people. These are people who look up to me, came out to support me and paid to have an interaction with me. I took pictures with everyone, putting on a smile when inside it felt like my body was screaming RUN. I’ve gotten good at faking it. It’s easy to mask when you live with it. That’s why it’s so important for people to take the initiative to reach out to those who struggle with mental health. It’s not easy telling someone you’re anxious or sad or scared. You feel like a burden. You feel like you’ll sound crazy. So please if you know someone who is struggling or think someone could be struggling just reach out and let them know you’re there. Let them know they aren’t a burden, or crazy, or weird. Let them know that they will get through it.
What you can do:
- Talk to your friends and family even if they seem okay
- See a counselor, therapist or psychiatrist.
- Open up to people about what you are feeling. The more you talk about it the more you understand it.
- Explore taking CBD
Please know, I am no expert, just here to give guidance and light to all of you.
For anyone in immediate crisis PLEASE call this number. Your life is worth living. You deserve to see the next beautiful chapter, wherever it may be.
Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255