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    Showing panic and fear

    It was Tuesday night this week. Approximately midnight when I awoke. My heart was beating like it was about to burst out of my chest. As fast as the speed of light and more concerning, the palpitations were erratic and all over the place. I was sure this was it, I was going to die. For what ever the reason, I was in the middle of a really large panic attack.

    This is the kind of thing you have to deal with if you are an anxiety sufferer. I mean I was asleep for goodness sake. Not, in any particularly stressful situation. And to my recollection, I was not dreaming about anything particularly worthy of a panic attack either. But there it was in its full glory. I awoke my wife so she could help me through it, because facing this fearful situation on my own was not possible. Again, I reiterate, I was convinced I was about to die.

    I was having a heart attack for sure. That is how my mind set was at that moment. And even though I have been through this exact same scenario many times before, still, I was unable to separate the physical from the mental. Let me try and give you an understanding of how it feels. So, you are fast asleep. You wake up and you notice that your heart beat is all over the place. But, you have been through this before, so you try to remain calm. But the heart beat is a vital function in the living of life. You know this, but the more you think, the worse it gets and the more control you start to lose.

    Don't be afraid to ask for help during a panic attack
    Don’t be afraid to ask for help

    At first you try and ignore it. As in the past you have had palpitations that lasted just a minute or two, were less erratic and passed. But, no, today this is not the case. All of a sudden fear overcomes you, and the panic starts to kick in. I sat up in bed, my breathing getting shallower and shallower by the second. My heart beat has gone completely crazy. There is no pain, but it just feels so not right. Even though through your experiences you know this is a panic attack, by this stage it has ventured out of your control. Your mind is looping, you are no longer thinking rationally and you are convinced that this time it’s the real thing.

    My wife took me down stairs to try and calm down. At this point, I was on the verge of throwing up. My chest was pounding, I was having trouble breathing and my stomach was up side down. I was so scared I literally felt like crying. We sit down on the couch and she helps to guide me through some breathing exercises. I close my eyes and try concentrate, but it is difficult.

    I have a specific exercise to help bring me down from a panic attack like this. Breathe in over four seconds, hold for seven seconds and release over eight seconds. Repeat over and over. After five minutes of this, I am noticing that it is really hot and we should return to the air conditioned bedroom. This is a good sign. I am beginning to regain control. My heart is still not beating as it should, but it is slowly recovering. Upstairs, I continue to breathe with my eyes shut with my hand firmly clasping that of my wife. Her support is critical. I could not imagine doing this on my own again. It had happened in the past, and it is so much harder to recover on your own.

    Support from a loved one
    My wife is an angel. She was there to tell me to breathe, and hold my hand through this ordeal.

    After another ten minutes like this, I feel it’s safe to return to bed. My heart has slowed, still the odd palpitation, but the panic attack has subsided. I have regained control of my thoughts once more. Shortly after I manage to go back to sleep. The next morning is always strange. I feel absolutely exhausted, drained, both mentally and physically. And quite subdued. The panic attack has fully gone, but there is always some fall out. In fact it will take you a few days to recover from the trauma of the situation. But, here I am, two days later, living to tell the tale.

    I really hesitated to share this experience for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s very personal and difficult for me to admit that one with such a tough exterior can be so vulnerable. Incorrectly, there is still a small part of me that feels ashamed, like it is a weakness. This could not be further from the truth. We are all human after all. Secondly, this kind of panic attack is hard to explain. I mean, I was not facing a life or death situation at the time.

    In fact, I was in the middle of a two week holiday. Had spent the previous seven days by the pool, in a farmhouse, relaxing. I was feeling good. Difficult to explain I know. But it just goes to show how powerful the subconscious mind can be. The most likely scenario is that there was a trigger caused by something very deep inside. Something most likely implanted many many years ago. Long forgotten, but lying deep, ready to detonate at any moment, when you least expect it.

    I doubt I will ever be “cured” from this. Thankfully though, they do not seem to happen too often these days. Maybe a couple of times a year. Still, that is a couple of times too many for such a horrible experience. For those of you who are new to the whole panic attack thing, let me offer some advice. Breathing is the key to getting it under control. The breathing exercise I explained above are very helpful.

    If you haven’t started meditation yet, you need to do so. This is a very key component for keeping “the demons” at bay. Recently I have been put onto a guy by the name of Dr. Joe Dispenza. Very smart guy who deals in all areas of the mental body. I find his meditation tools very helpful. This one for example is the one I am using at the moment. Once in the morning, once at night. Can really be helpful.

    Meditation and Yoga can help
    Meditation and yoga are friends to the mentally unhealthy!

    And of course, seek help. If you haven’t seen a therapist yet, please do so immediately. You do not need to tackle this all on your own. There are resources out there that can help you. The Richmond foundation for example are a not profit organisation that are there to help people with mental health issues. All you need to do is break out of your shell, pluck up the courage and call. It could be the best move you ever make.

    Finally, inform those around you of what is going on. Even they can help you. Your wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother, neighbor, whom ever. A panic attack is a very lonely and traumatic experience. Having someone you trust to help you through will help you immensely. Even though it is a natural way of thinking, there is no shame in asking for help. Having a panic attack is no reason to feel shame. It’s hard to admit it, believe me I know. But sometimes we need to overcome ourselves before we can really begin to make positive changes.

    Thank you for listening. In my own small way, I am really hoping my stories can bring someone, somewhere the courage and help they need to overcome their own problems. And, like I always say, to realise they are not alone. I don’t normally ask this, but if you like this article please share it. It could really help someone you may know who is suffering in silence. Or, help educate someone who knows someone who suffers panic attacks, but does not really understand.

    Just scroll to the top of the article where you can share to your favourite social media platform.

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    1. Claire Borg

      oh how I can relate to this – you explained it perfectly. it happens to me once in a while during sleep too. really difficult to understand and it does feel like I am on the verge of the last few minutes of my life. horrible. you are right, the mind has control over all other organs and it is truly a challenge when you suffer from anxiety. I am a hypochondriac so I go through bouts of anxiety most of my life. the way I explain my condition is like having a conveyor belt with a luggage on it, sometimes u see it and sometimes u dont, but it is always there. thanks oz, keep strong and by sharing you are making others aware of similar situations.

      1. davidoziborg

        Thanks for sharing and the support. And I truly hope as time goes on, all of us may find life slightly easier at times. xxxooo

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