There are so many times that people with anxiety hear:
‘there’s nothing to be scared of‘
‘can’t you just keep doing it and eventually you won’t feel scared anymore?‘
And of course the ones saying these things are completely right: there is nothing to be scared of, and the more times I face my fears, the less I will fear them.
But unless you have an anxiety disorder yourself you have absolutely no idea how difficult it can be, and how little your rational thinking comes into play when panic strikes.
A panic attack is not the feeling of being nervous.
It’s not butterflies in your stomach and feeling a little bit sick – much like the average person before making a speech or going on a first date.
It’s so much more terrifying and crippling than that.
For me, this is how it is.
At first I feel like the world is spinning, like you know those nights where you’ve had way too much to drink and you can’t focus; your head hits the pillow but everything keeps going round and round, making you feel unbelievably sick.
And then my heart starts beating like it’s trying to escape my chest. Over and over again, each beat harder and faster than the one before. And somehow my heart ends up in my head, beating its way through my skull as well.
It keeps going and going and going and everything is still spinning and spinning and spinning.
My mouth then goes dry to the point in which I can’t swallow. This is where I always lose it and feel an excruciating need to escape. My natural reflexes stop functioning and it feels as though I can’t breathe.
Feeling as though you can’t breathe isn’t one of those feelings you get used to. I know it’s a trick. I know I can breathe. But when you feel as though you can’t, it’s so difficult to ignore it and think rationally.
I know it can’t hurt me. I honestly do know that. But no matter how many times you have a panic attack, they all feel just as bad as the last, and they never become less scary.
The level of fear overcomes me so much that I feel like I’m floating. You know like in one of those films where someone dies and floats across the room to heaven – or wherever else they’re going.
My legs have just about as much feeling as a person with paralysis in that moment; I’m moving – or running – but I have no idea how. I can’t feel it.
All I can feel is the strongest urge I’ve ever felt, pulling me away from wherever I am. Wanting me to leave and not feel like I’m dying anymore.