I had a Panic Attack and this is what I learned

reading time: 3 min

Before I begin this blog post, I just want to quickly clarify that this isn't supposed to be a dramatic "look at me, I've got my first panic attack, I'm so special" blog post. I did have my very first panic attack last night though, and now that it's over (I'm frickin glad it is!) I'm sort of fascinated with the phenomenon. So I guess here's my experience with a panic attack and what I've learned from it. Hence the title.

All in all, I learned three things last night:

1) I don't want to die.

2) I had no clue what a panic attack was.

3) I need to look after myself.

While these may not sound like the most mind-blowing epiphanies, they definitely helped me get a different view on my current life. And if you have ever experienced a panic attack, maybe they will be of help to you too.

First off, having a panic attack is not fun. It really isn't. While having it, I didn't even realize it until my boyfriend said "I think you're having a panic attack". When I googled panic attacks this morning, I realized that pretty much each single symptom fits my feeling last night:

- very rapid heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- tightness in the chest / chest pain
- sweating
- shaking / shivering
- feelings of extreme fear ("I'm having a heart attack", "I am going to die", "I'm going crazy")
- uncrontrollable crying
- feelings of unreality, called depersonalisation (feeling like a detached observer of oneself) and derealisation (perceiving the environment as strange and unreal)
- being afraid of leaving home because something could happen

This is EXACTLY what happened to me last night. I'm not sure what triggered it, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the rather complicated and painful removal of my wisdom teeth last week, as well as the meds I had to take (I'm not used to taking this much medication). 

I've always had high anxiety levels, and even considered myself as the type for "anxiety disorder" although I have to add that I never got checked by a doctor or anything. I didn't think of it as a medical condition, but rather as a sort of natural disposition due to my anxious and very "emotional" personality. Last night made me realize that I had absolutely no idea what "anxiety" and "panic attack" really mean. It's way, way more than fear, and I didn't know it came with such scary physical symptoms. It's honestly one of the scariest feelings I've ever had in my life. (But it's also weirdly reassuring to know that it's "just" a panic attack and I'm not actually going to die – not at this minute, anyway.)

To be exact, I think I had two panic attacks last night. The first one lasted about 5 minutes and was mainly a feeling of having a heart attack, accompanied by shaking and crying, while the second one – about half an hour later – lasted at least 10 minutes and was mainly a feeling of derealization and depersonalization, as well as severe shivering (even my teeth were chattering). Luckily, my boyfriend and my room mate were with me at that time, and they managed to calm me down by holding me, talking to me (telling me that everything's alright and I'm not going to die), and encouraging me to dance and shake everything off. This actually worked quite well. 

The last thing I "learned" last night, and actually the most important, is that I need to look after myself! What I mean by that is – I don't need to wait for others to take care of me, I need to do that myself. I should add that I used to wish for something very stupid when I was younger: I wished to have an illness or to faint so that people could see that I wasn't as strong and resilient as they thought. Looking back now, it was pretty dumb of me to wish for something like that, but I can see why I did it. When ever I felt overwhelmed or overlooked I would wish that my body would show that so that people would realize that it was too much for me to handle. Which brings me to my last lesson: Not waiting for others to looking after me, but standing up for myself and taking care of myself.


So that's what's going on right now. I guess that's one more step on my journey towards self love. 

Have you ever had a panic attack? Did you realize it was one?
Did it help you in any way, or was it just horrible?

Showing your weakness doesn't mean you're not strong. It's actually a sign of strength.

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