I’m a small-town girl living in the city of Los Angeles. Talk about change! I’m not sure if I would have managed living here in 1998 because I was a hot mess, let me tell you! It all started when I was sleeping over my parent’s house; my very first anxiety attack! I had no idea, when it happened, what an anxiety attack felt like! I was horrified. What was happening to me? Following the anxiety attack I then started to experience panic attacks. Is this really happening to me? It was – and I hated it! I really, at one point, felt as if I was going to go through this for the rest of my life. Guess what? I won the battle and here is how I did it. Here is how you fight a panic/anxiety attack!
As I was slowly drifting off to la la land, out of nowhere my heart was beating out of my chest. Moments later it felt as if my heart was beating out of my eyes, ears, and throat! I immediately screamed and my parents rushed to my side. What started out as a normal day ended up with an ambulance being called and a girl who truly thought she was dying. The ambulance arrived and as soon as they put the oxygen mask over my face, I became calm. I was taken to a local hospital where a series of tests were performed. Guess what? I did not have a stroke or a heart attack and all of the tests came back normal. It was at that moment that I realized what an anxiety attack was. The doctor gave me an explanation and I went home on my merry way. Because I was given an anti-anxiety medication at the hospital, I felt 100% cured.
But this overwhelming feeling of safety didn’t last very long.
Introducing anxiety attack number two!
I was making chicken on the grill and all of a sudden I felt as if my throat was closing. I could not swallow for the life of me, and it truly felt like I was dying! My best friend immediately took me to the emergency room, again, and after an injection of another anti-anxiety medication the tightness around my throat completely dissipated. Diagnosis? Anxiety! I started to become frustrated because I knew that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me, but at times of these anxiety attacks I believed everything wrong with me.
Hello PANIC attack number ONE, I don’t like you!
I was driving down a mountain thinking about the unpleasant experience of my previous anxiety attacks. This was one of those drives where all I had were my thoughts and the radio. Instead of listening to The Cure, I was obsessing over a cure for my ridiculous anxiety attacks. Well the thoughts went to tears – the tears went to fears and I had a full-blown panic attack. Did I mention I was driving down a mountain?
I immediately pulled over to the nearest rest stop and called one of my friends from a pay phone. Back in 1998 cell phones were not a staple in everybody’s life. I called the friend that had an anxiety disorder because I figured she would be able to keep the best advice. You see, because of my emergency room visits I knew there was nothing wrong with me – I just had to talk myself out of the panic attack. My friend was consistently telling me, “there is nothing wrong, you are fine, there is nothing wrong.” This was the first time I actually walked away from an attack without having to go to the hospital. But make no mistake, the situation did not get better.
Without taking you through every anxiety/panic attack I had throughout 1998 and 1999, my situation became so overwhelming that I was actually afraid to drive my car. I did not go to a shrink because I really had nothing catastrophic going on in my life that would cause these attacks. My physician’s assistant was the angel who helped me through this awful time. The only thing that was catastrophic were the panic/anxiety attacks that had become a staple in my life.
There is no real science into fighting panic or anxiety attack. After hearing Dr. after Dr. tell me there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, I obsessively told myself that every time little Mr. panic attack knocked on my door. The best advice I can offer you if you suffer from either one of these conditions is:
- Rule out that you are in good health and there is no underlying condition. Have every test known to man conducted, including blood work, a check on your heart, oxygen levels, etc. I know that may sound frivolous, but if you have health insurance –take advantage of it! Once you are reassured that your heart, lungs, and complete blood counts are all normal – the rest is up to you.
- Every time you experience a panic or anxiety attack remember the very words your doctor expressed to you, “you are fine, this was a panic/anxiety attack.” At the moment where you feel doomed, fight it. Fight like a champ keep telling yourself “this is insane, I am fine!”
- Support! The people who love you will be there for you 24/7. You have to explain to them what is going on so that they can have an understanding of what to expect should you call them at three o’clock in the morning or 10 o’clock at night. For me, I told my parents and my closest friends to help talk me out of these attacks. Because I did not want my parents to worry about me, I usually reached out to that one friend who had experienced the same problems. If nobody close to you has panic or anxiety attacks, educate them so they know how to help.
- Most importantly tell yourself everything is going to be okay. An anxiety/panic attack usually exacerbates if we do not calm ourselves immediately. One thing leads to another, the situation gets worse, and before your know it you’re heading to the emergency room. Knock it out of the park by taking deep and slow breaths while telling yourself, “I am totally fine. This is temporary. This is going to be over in one or 2 minutes!”