Coping with Panic Attacks as an Adult

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 Coping with panic attacks as an adulteveryone 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. coping with panic attacks

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,

Jill G.

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.

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7 Responses to Coping with Panic Attacks as an Adult

  1. Jillian says:

    Thank you for writing this. I have been struggling with anxiety for almost 7 years (I’m 22 now) and recently self-admitted myself because I felt completely lost and my anxiety had taken TOTAL control. I refuse to believe that we, as humans, need medication to cope…there’s got to be a better way. I was on Celexa for almost 2 years, and it helped, but the agoraphobia was somewhat still there ( although I’m at the point now where I’m realizing it really IS all in your head, and I may not actually be agoraphobic, I’ve just been isolating myself for fear of having an attack in public). I was diagnosed with GAD and panic disorder with agoraphobia and prescribed .5mg Klonopin in the am, 1mg Klonopin in the pm and Effexor upon release. While in the meds line in the ward, the med guy handed me my pills and I realized there was a new one (the effexor). No matter how I worded the question, he would only tell me what it would DO, not what it was, which was a red flag for me. THEN the woman inbound behind me whispers, “Don’t take the blue and gray one.” But I did that time and have not since. I don’t trust it and everything in me is telling me not to take it. I want to wean off of the Klonopin I JUST started as I hate prescription drugs. I feel foggy already and I’ve only been on them for almost two weeks now, but I figure if I want off, I should do it sooner (while it’s not fully in my system) rather than later. I am just curious as to how to go about telling my therapist and psychiatrist (whom I have yet to see) that I want to be med-free ASAP. I was also wondering what I can do in the meantime to learn how to cope without meds, and what resources I should try.

    Thanks again for writing this. Please contact me if you feel so inclined.

    • JillG says:

      Hi Jillian,

      Taking or not taking medication for anxiety is a very personal decision for each person. When I told my doctor last year that I wanted to completely wean off Klonopin and Prozac, his first question to me was why? For me, the dosage was too high and I was sleeping all the time. Plus I was still getting break through panic attacks. Together we came up with a withdrawal schedule and I followed it for over 6 months. The withdrawal was agonizing and ultimately I decided to stay on small dose of Klonopin and totally discontinue the Prozac. My doctor was supportive of my decision.

      As far as how do you tell your doctors you want to be med free? Be forthright and honest, and tell them exactly what you told me here. Be open to listening to what they have to say. Some doctors are very good at supporting what their patients want while others are not. It does seem to me that if you were recently in the hospital because the anxiety had total control, it may be a bit too early for you to handle the anxiety completely on your own right now. Maybe you and your docs can come up with a plan to be slightly medicated with the goal of being weaned off in a few months or so. Tell them you feel foggy, etc- maybe they can adjust the medications so you feel ok in the interim. Anyhow, that’s just my opinion, feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

      As far as resources here are free anxiety tips and help for you. In order to conquer panic, you have to learn to face it and not be too freaked out over it. It takes determination and practice but you can do it.

      Best of luck to you,
      Jill

  2. Nicole says:

    Jill , I got my first panic attack at age 21 , I am 25 now. I go t a therapist who saved my life. She really helped me see that you can control your thoughts and you can choose how to react to a panic attack.i still get anxiety here and there I just had a bad panic attack at work on Friday , it was the first bad one In a really long time. It left me with uneasy feelings and a bit of nervous energy. Reading your posts throughout my journey has helped me so much. I have been reading your blog for almost a year and never commented. I would like to let you know that sharing your experiences has really helped me and tn it has made me realize that this is just a minor setback for me and has made me stronger and more committed to treading through this and continuing on the road to my recovery. Thank you so much! Nicole

    • JillG says:

      Hi Nicole,

      I’m so very happy that you find the blog helpful. I know that there are wonderful therapists out there, and I am glad you have one- but anxiety can flare up long after the therapy is over and it’s important to know this doesn’t mean you’re doomed.

      It sounds like your head is truly in the right place and you have the right perspective about anxiety and that a setback is just that and nothing more.

      Big Hugs to you honey,
      Jill

  3. Nicole says:

    Hi Jill , thanks for responding ! I meant to say that I still go to therapy.. Not as often but she is there when I need her , I totally agree with you about anxiety coming back at any time , I think that’s the scariest part ! Every panic attack I have is just as scary as the first. It’s a horrible thing. Positive thinking is key .. I am a RN as well and being in that atmosphere sometimes flares up my anxiety. I’m happy you can relate!

    • JillG says:

      It’s always great to hear from other nurses. And yes- each panic attack does feel like the very first one, which is why we must learn to let the stupid thing rear its ugly head and just wait it out. It always goes away- as long as we don’t feed into it, freak out, or resist. Sending you good vibes to stay in the positive! :)

  4. April says:

    I was put on Klonopin almost 4 months ago. I have had a hard time weaning off. I finally got down to .25 mg every other day. And, I have been in and out of the hospital more times in the past 4 months than I have in the past 4 years of my life…which included 3 pregnancies! I have been so scared to make the finally leap to being completely off. But, my doctor didn’t give me another choice. My PCP gave me the Klonopin, and after my last refill said she would not give me anymore. I won’t be seeing a Psych. for another week and at the time that this was filled, almost 2 months ago, I was waiting for the clinic to schedule the appointment. So, I took it into my own hands and did my own research. Not only did it make me feel more confident in weaning off, but I learned I had to very quickly wean off. I was on .5 mg twice a day. I went down by .25 mg. And, once I felt stable, I would cut it down again. I am now on the last .25 mg. I have not had a pill in 45 hours at this point and I am thinking that I am going to try to go completely off, and just save the remaining 4 full pills for emergencies. Obviously, I know this may not happen and that at the 48-50 hour mark, I may begin to have major withdrawals, since it will be completely out of my system. But, I found this blog, and let me tell you, it really helped me out tremendously. I was actually having a mild panic attack, and just seeing you reiterate that it is a panic attack, it will go away, really helped me out. I have a blog, too. I am sharing my experience because I really want people to have more usable knowledge about this medication and dealing with anxiety/panic attacks. Perhaps, 4 months ago when this all came to light, had I been better prepared to deal with that initial anxiety attack, I could have prevented myself needing the medication to begin with. Although, at the time, it did save my life. I have come so far from that point. And, knowing that other people have gone through this same journey, or are still going through it, and not feeling so alone, it makes such a huge difference!

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