Imagine you’re swimming in a beautiful blue ocean. The water is warm and clear, it’s calm and you’re feeling perfectly relaxed. Then, out of nowhere, on the horizon you see a giant wave forming. It’s coming straight for you, building and building in power and height as it comes towards you. You freeze with fear. You can’t outswim it, there’s nowhere to hide. The wave is coming, it knocks you over and you feel yourself taken under. You can’t reach the surface, can’t catch your breathe, you’re drowning…..That’s a bit like what it can feel like to have a panic attack.
I’ve never been a great swimmer, the sheer vastness of the ocean has always scared me a little (actually a lot). And big waves? Forget it! In the past, when I’ve felt a panic attack coming on, when I’ve felt that wave rising, I would turn around and swim away as fast as I possibly could. That is, I would get up and leave. Or I’d just avoid the ocean (aka- situation) all together. But lately? Well, I’m ever so slowly learning to ‘ride the wave’. I feel it coming, I feel the panic rising and I just let it come, I let the wave wash over me. Because here’s the thing, it will eventually pass, the wave does eventually receeed and go back out into the ocean. I might get momentarily swept up in it, but I will not drown, I will not die (even if it might feel that way sometimes!)
My closest friend once said something to me whilst I was mid panic attack meltdown and it has really stuck with me, she said “just remember, you know what this is. You know it’s a panic attack and you know it’s going to pass.” Sounds simple but mid panic attack you can loose all sight of rational thinking. So the other week when I was home alone with our son (hubby was away for work) and I woke in the middle of the night mid panic attack, heart thumping hard and fast, I just lay there and repeated what my friend had said to me in my head over and over again. I let the wave come and wash over me. It’s a really uncomfortable feeling, to just let yourself succumb. It was scary but I did it and I’ve done it again since and I feel like the more I do it, the better I will get at it. Because pratice makes perfect right?
Have you ever experienced a panic attack? How would you describe the feeling? What techniques do you have for getting through them?