Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

What it's like to have a panic attack.

Panic attacks. You'll never forget the first one that you experience, kind of like losing your virginity.

Except losing your virginity is "fun". Panic attacks are far from fun.

I very vividly remember my first. I thought I was going to die. No shit. I thought I was having a heart attack or an asthma attack. My chest was so tight. I felt like someone had placed my lungs in to a vice. I could not breath.

My palms were sweaty. I felt like the room had all of a sudden turned into a wood oven. I was so hot. I could feel a bead of sweat run down my back.

My vision went blurry. I couldn't focus.

I was wondering what on earth was happening to me.

I was scared.

I started hyperventilating. Oh my god, what is happening to me. Am I dying? 

I almost passed out.

I had to remove myself from my tutorial and lay down.

Once it had passed I was exhausted. I remember calling a good friend of mine to ask if she could pick me up from uni. I slept for 3 hours at her house after.

Whatever it was, I never wanted to experience it again.

I later realised that I wasn't dying. It wasn't a heart attack nor an asthma attack. It was a panic attack.

CHECKLIST FOR PANIC ATTACKS from the Beyond Blue website.

Anxiety national poster
Taken from the Beyond Blue website.
Panic Disorder
Within a 10 MINUTE PERIOD have you felt FOUR OR MORE of the following:
increased heart rate
short of breath
nauseous or pain in the stomach
dizzy, lightheaded or faint
numb or tingly
derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings)
hot or cold flushes
scared of going crazy
scared of dying?

If you answered 'YES' to ALL of these questions, have you also:
felt scared, for ONE MONTH OR MORE, of experiencing these feelings again?

If you answered 'YES' it is important to see a doctor.

 My experiences with panic attacks 


My first one happened when I was about to give a tutorial presentation. I have never been great at public speaking. I was so nervous that I didn't sleep the night before. I had even contemplated popping down to the uni bar for a pint to calm my nerves. I had to give a presentation on a topic that I didn't know myself. The room was small and there was no air flow. I was so nervous that I started to panic. My brain starting going in overdrive. OMG I'm not prepared for this, what happens if they ask a question, I don't know what I'm talking about. Negative self talk was remunerating in my brain. 

My second panic attack happened only a couple of months ago at work. It was so embarrassing. I was helping to launch this wam bam thank you Mame new database that we'd been working on. The meeting was in a small room up on level 11. There was no air flow. I wasn't nervous. Nor anxious. I just think that it was the lack of air flow in a confined space that did it to me. When I first walked in to the room I started to feel flushed. As the meeting progressed my vision started going blurry. I ended up having to leave the meeting and lay down outside on a bench. My colleagues made sure that I was okay. This time around it wasn't as scary because I knew what was happening to me. I knew it was another panic attack.

I just had to take deep breaths, have a drink of water, and remind myself that it will pass. It's okay. It's another panic attack. YOU'RE NOT DYING!

I can not recommend this book enough if you suffer from panic attacks. It helped me to understand what was going on and how to deal with it.
People suffer panic attacks for all different reasons. They might be stressed, they might hate spiders, they, like me, might hate confined spaces with no air flow. They might have a heart attack and start panicking because they don't know what's happening to them.

It's more common then you think. It's scarier then you think when it happens, especially the first time.

beyondblue: the national depression initiative

 To learn about other people's stories about anxiety and panic attacks, click here.

 I find Beyond Blue the best website for information about Mental Health. Even if you haven't suffered a panic attack yourself, someone close to you may have. To learn more about panic attacks, to know who is at risk, what to do if you suffer from them and how to help others I recommend checking it out.

Have you suffered from a panic attack? Do you know someone who has? What did it feel like for you? What did you do to calm yourself down?

I'd love to hear your experiences. Every one deals with things differently. Everyone experiences different side affects. Help me to create awareness about panic attacks.

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx


Audrey said...

I love Bev Aisbett's books, Kirsty. They are simple and quick to read, but so profound. When I worked with victims of crime I often recommended her books on depression, panic attacks and anxiety and had such positive feedback from those who read them. Sometimes people just need quick reminders of what to do and be reassured that they can manage panic attacks even if they can't prevent them from happening. Well done Kirsty for sharing your personal experiences of panic attacks and for providing helpful information to other sufferers. I love the checklist too.

Kirsty Arnold said...

Thanks Audrey. I agree. They are easy to understand. No technical smechnical language. I think it's just reassuring to know that other people must experience the same thing if they write books about it so that you're not alone. And you're not alien for feeling that way.

I will have to look in to her other books!

Thanks for the feedback. I'm really enjoying blogging! Hopefully people can get something from it! xo

Anonymous said...

I just read your article on Blogger: Unspoken Conversations - Post a Comment and want to thank you for it.