panic attacks: what they feel like

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses panic attacks.

What I’m about to say is hard for me to talk about for three reasons:

  1. It’s hard to put everything into words.
  2. It feels vulnerable.
  3. It’s scary for me to think about my own thoughts afterwards.

Realize that the thoughts and experiences can be different for everyone. Also, not every panic attack is the same and not every panic attack is this bad. Click below if you want to read a detailed explanation of what panic attacks feel like for me. Continue reading “panic attacks: what they feel like”

a day i will never forget

Okay, it’s time for me to be honest, like really honest. I have been struggling. I’ve mentioned that a little before. I’m a college student on a medium size campus. So it’s good for walking and running. But running can have its drawbacks, especially on a mostly empty stomach – it wasn’t that I didn’t have food available; I just chose not to eat it. I do this thing where some days I switch into stress eating (so overeating) sometimes and barely eating anything other times; other days I am fine and eat normally.

A while ago, I did just that. I ran. On an almost empty stomach. So my stomach is churning and I haven’t eaten and I’m sprinting. Bad choice. But not my worst decision that day. I ran for a while, maybe 10-15 minutes. I took a few breaks in that time period, even telling someone where I was… but I didn’t tell her how bad things were. She was going through some stuff, but I have a pretty large support group. There are several people I couldn’t asked for help. But I didn’t. Another bad decision. Anyways, after running, I walked around for a little bit and then sat on this retaining wall that’s like 3 feet high. I sat and stood up, paced and sat down, and repeated this once or twice. I spent this time praying, internally screaming at God, thinking, crying, pleading for God to do something or give me strength or send someone to help me. I was too afraid to ask for help. After at least 15 minutes of this, I decided I was going to walk to a place less than a quarter mile away. Once I got to that designated location, I would choose my fate. I would choose to keep fighting, plan a date to um end everything, or end it all that night. I told God that if He didn’t come through, I was giving up my fight either that night or on a later date.

A friend was walking and saw me and invited me to her dorm and I’m still alive, obviously. I found out later that she wasn’t even planning on coming back at that time but she somehow did. Neither of us really understand what happened. But what I do know is that less than a minute after crying out to God, a friend found me. I don’t know for sure what I would’ve done that night, but I probably would’ve picked a date or that very night.

God came through. God heard my cry. As bad as that night was, I think that night was the night I decided I wanted to get better. But I was scared that God wasn’t big enough to give me the strength to keep fighting. And so I cried out to God. And He heard me. He heard me because He is there. He is always there. And He is big enough to give me the strength to fight.

That night, I wanted to give up the pain and the brokenness. But I also would be giving up the joy and love and shelter and peace and everything beautiful I had found in God. I wanted to give up the good things that had happened, are happening, and will happen. So I will keep fighting, because I made a promise that I would continue my fight if He came through that day. I will keep fighting for those I would leave behind, for the beautiful memories yet to come, and for the God who created me with a beautiful purpose that I might understand better some day.

step 1

Step 1 is one of the hardest steps for those with anxiety. Step 1 is one someone realizes they have a problem and asks for help. And for those who walk alongside the lost, this is when you find out that your friend or sister or brother or parent or child or whoever is struggling with anxiety, or really any mental illness for that matter. Step 1 is hard for them, because it requires a lot of vulnerability, honesty, and trust. If they are talking to you, it means they have a lot of trust in you, and if you stop listening, it might just be the thing that crushes them.

Step 1 is also hard for you, because it goes a lot better if you can relate, or at least understand. As a human, you have probably had at least one panic attack in your life. You might have frozen up during a test and couldn’t think. You might have gotten so nervous during a speech that you felt like the walls were closing in on you. But maybe you can’t remember one. And that is ok. You can still help. You have most likely been afraid of something several times in your life. Now imagine all the fear you have had throughout your life pushed into a 20-30 minute time period. Now imagine that those feelings continue 24/7 to a slightly lesser degree. That’s the basics of a panic attack, but it can be a bit more complex than that. It can involve other symptoms that vary from person to person. Listen so you know what your friend’s anxiety feels like to them.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • Listen and just be there. This is the single most important thing to do, especially when you can’t relate and don’t really understand. Sit there and allow them to cry or talk or scream. Give them a hug or let them squeeze your hands or just sit there. At first, you have to let them lead, until you learn how to best help them. I’ll go into more detail with this in a later post.
  • Be patient. They may have even been unintentionally dishonest with themselves for years. Even if they were aware that they were suppressing things, they probably did not realize how much they were hiding. Even if they were honest with themselves, telling you might be their first step toward healing.
  • Fears that seem irrational to you seem completely logical to them, especially during a panic attack. A panic attack can be based off of seemingly the most ridiculous thing. Don’t laugh or tell them they are crazy. It’s serious to them.

The best way to help anyone with anxiety is to listen and be there. Your actions speak louder than words, so sit, listen, and just be a faithful presence. Jesus knows them and their anxiety better than you ever will, because He created them. He will you the strength to help them and them the strength to continue their fight.

understanding anxiety

Anxiety. 7 letters. The most complicated thing I know. Organic chemistry, calculus, human physiology… no problem. I did well in those classes. Anxiety is a whole new level of learning. Understanding anxiety requires vulnerability.  It is scary and it is hard. It comes through hours of thinking through things, talking through things, dealing with things, etc., etc. etc. And then the illogical starts to make sense. I have this fear because this happened. These thoughts caused that ultra-realistic daydream. Understanding anxiety requires bringing up thoughts and emotions you never wanted to touch, let alone think through with a counselor or trusted friend.

Our culture has the expectation of pretending to be perfect, but healing can only come through honesty – being honest with others (that you know you can trust) and yourself. Honesty means allowing yourself to cry in the middle of a worship service when you feel the need to let it all out. Honesty means confessing sins of hurting yourself or not trusting God completely or going to something else before turning to God or whatever to God. Honesty means being honest to yourself and to others that you are not doing just fine. Honesty is hard. But honesty is the means for understanding anxiety. And understanding anxiety is the means for managing it.

Anxiety is the most complicated thing that I’m trying to understand right now. And that’s ok, because one day it will make a little more sense. And when it does, maybe the struggle will be a little bit easier.