With panic attacks, the worst for me was during my childhood and up until my early 20’s. Today, coping with panic attacks is certainly not as mysterious or terrifying as it was when I was younger and had no knowledge of my condition.
Coping with Panic Attacks as An Adult
This is a retelling of a panic attack I had recently, at age 44: I am in my weekly Al-Anon meeting.
Tonight I am the topic leader, so I must read the suggested opening at the beginning of the meeting, chair the meeting topic, and then read the suggested closing at the end of the meeting.
There are 12 people at the meeting, including me. We sit around a table in a church room that the group rents. I know and am fond of practically everyone at the meeting. There are 2 new comers, who I don’t know, but certainly seem nice.
Today, I felt a little off. I’ve been weaning off my Klonopin with the help of my family doctor. At this point, I am on half my usual dose. The withdrawal has been rough, mostly because I haven’t had a sound night’s sleep in over 2 weeks.
At this stage in my panic disorder, I am prepared for this. I am careful not to drink any caffeinated beverages throughout the day (I gave up coffee when I started my medication withdrawal). Today I took my dog for 2 walks outside, and I started my morning out with a 10 minute guided meditation.
By mid morning, I feel perfectly fine. I am looking forward to my Al-Anon meeting this evening. As the evening approaches however, I start to feel lethargic from my lack of sleep.
I make a decision to attend the meeting anyways. After all, this is one of my true safe places. I am among friends who know that I have anxiety, and I know that should I have a panic attack, ultimately I will be fine.
So, back to the meeting. I am fine for most of it. I share with my friends and listen to their shares as well.
Then I start to notice the tiniest feeling of uneasiness. I begin to think, oh no, what if I have an anxiety attack? I still have to read the closing at the end of the meeting. Damn.
I try to deny the feeling, but now my sense of perception is distorted. I don’t tell any of my friends that I am anxious.
Finally, it’s time for me to close the meeting by reading the one page document. I have literally read this hundreds of times over the years and I know it by heart. In short, it’s not a big deal.
But that doesn’t matter now. With one long paragraph to go, I have a panic attack—a full body adrenaline explosion.
My vision is blurred, my heart is racing out of control, and once again, I hear my voice coming from the back of my head. It sounds like I’m talking through a cardboard tube. I feel a lump in my throat, and my breathing is hard, as if I am running fast.
The absolutely amazing thing is—I am able to continue reading, and I close the meeting without missing a beat.
As the panic attack peaks, I get the overwhelming feeling that I will fall out of my chair helplessly and I need to scream. It is no less agonizing than past attacks, but this time, I know it will pass. And it does.
By the time I’ve finished reading the last paragraph, my hands are sweaty and shaking and my face is flushed and hot.
No one noticed a thing.
This knowledge—that it will always pass and no one notices me (therefore I never embarrass myself in public)—has been one of the greatest truths I have come to know and experience again and again.
No matter what I feel, whether I will scream hysterically, projectile vomit, fall out of my chair, or run go completely insane, none of this has ever happened. Not once.
This knowledge is the reason I am healing. The reason I am coping with my panic attacks and still leading a full and happy life.
I wish the same for you. The whole purpose of this blog is to provide you with free anxiety tips and resources that have helped me, so that you can stop suffering too.
I wish you peace,
ps.- It’s been a few years since that Al-Anon meeting and I have made great strides in overcoming my anxiety with Panic Away. If you’re ready to reclaim your life from fear and panic, check out this wonderful program today.