Something weird happened the other day. I say weird but it’s happened countless times before but this time it was different.
I started to to have a panic attack.
When I panic, I can feel myself trying shut out noise. I can’t hear words so easily; it feels like I’m surrounded by noise and have to struggle to make out what people are saying. So I choose not to struggle and try to close myself off to all the grating sound by retreating into myself. Only, when I do this I can hear my heart beating and my rapid breathing and my really loud brain saying ALERT! ALERT! PANIC STATIONS!!!!!!
At this point, I want to completely close the shutters so I can’t see and can’t be seen. Usually by now I will have found somewhere quiet to be alone. Usually my bedroom – my safe haven. Or a toilet if I’m out of the house. But I hate this because of the smells. It’s another sense I feel bombarded by.
I feel vulnerable. I don’t want to be touched or looked at. I feel like an animal cowering in the corner. I feel doom. fear. dread. self loathing. shame.
If I have a full blown panic attack, it’s at this point that the uncontrollable tears, rocking and hyperventilating starts. YUCK. Just writing about it is horrible. It’s gross and I want to get rid of it. But I feel cloaked in panic.
But on this occasion I couldn’t run and hide. I was in Prezzo for lunch with my sister, husband and daughter. Boo was loving her olive lollipop in all its oily, messy glory. It was busy. Noisy. I went to the bathroom to retreat but there was only one loo that stank and someone was making their presence known so I couldn’t stay there. I had to go and sit back down and breathe really calmly. I had to get to the other side without panicking. And do you know what? I did! I didn’t have a full blown panic attack. I dealt with it and was OK.
Here’s what I did:
1. I tried my usual routine – find a safe place. This didn’t work (woman needed that one loo real bad so back out into the open for me).
2. I worked out what was making me panic. I was feeling claustrophobic because I was hot and uncomfortable. We were cramped and surrounded by the detritus of our meal. I only had a few wet wipes left and Boo hadn’t had a poo yet so I couldn’t use them up wiping the table clean.
3. I changed the things I could. I asked M to take his jumper off the table. I piled up the dirties and used a napkin to clear the crumbs on the table in front of me.
4. I took Boo on a walk around the restaurant to give myself some space.
5. I accepted that there were things I couldn’t change. There was mess on the floor but it wasn’t ours. The whole place was like it. It wasn’t my fault. No one else cared and I didn’t have to care. I wasn’t being judeged because there was mess on the floor created by a busy lunch service.
6. I kept talking. I forced myself to listen and take part in the conversation. It was horrible. I wanted to scream. I wanted to panic. But I forced myself to be (barely) present and take part. And because I did that, soon the bill came, we paid and left.
I was outside. It was BLISS! FREEDOM!
I felt pretty shaken up for the rest of the afternoon. And exhausted. Fighting panic takes a lot of effort and is tiring. But a few days on and I feel proud. I made it through a panic attack without having s full on panic attack.