I was standing in a crowd with approximately 1,000 other people for the Impractical Jokers Block Party at Comic Con in San Diego when I felt it happening.
Panic set in.
I started to sweat and felt like a turtle, trying to resort back to the safety and familiarity of his shell.
My sister and I were waiting for the Jokers to begin their signing when we split up to cover both sides of the stage.
“Excuse me!” I pushed. “Please, I need to get to my sister.”
It was almost like being thrown in the deep end of the pool without floaties when you don’t know how to swim.
Except at this moment, I couldn’t breathe.
When I had found her on the other side of the crowd, I realized that we were barricaded in the crowd.
“Please,” I pushed some more. “I need to get out.”
“I’m going to have a panic attack,” I told my sister.
“Medic!” I remember her screaming, “We need a medic!”
“She’s only faking” someone screamed to my sister.
That’s the last thing I remember before my mind went blank.
When I came to, I was sitting in a folding chair in the shade, watching the paramedics wheel in a stretcher.
I’ve had a panic attack one other time, where I was able to become familiar with the symptoms and get help immediately. Fortunately, my sister was aware of my history and was able to assist in explaining to security and paramedics my needs at the time, which was ice to get my mind focused on something other than the perceived threat, and cold water to re-hydrate after a long day in the sun.
When it happens to you, it could leave you stirring, scared about what happened, or scared that it may happen again. For me, I have a few go-to ways to practice self-care to chill out after an attack, and hopefully prevent another one:
-Remove yourself from the perceived threat: If you’re in a large crowd or space where you feel uncomfortable, remove yourself from that environment as soon as you can. Take a few minutes to focus on your breath, get some water, and if you have access, get some ice. The ice trick is something I learned during my first panic attack, as holding the cold bag of ice gives you something else to focus on, then what’s going on in your mind.
-If you were prescribed medicine by your doctor for your anxiety, make sure you have been taking it as prescribed.
-In the following days, it may help to cut back on caffeine and alcohol, and things you know to make your anxiety act up. It helps to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and caffeine-free tea.
-Practice self-care: I believe having a self-care ‘tool kit’ is super helpful for anyone. Take extra time the following week to do things that make you happy. Maybe this is writing in your journal, taking a bubble bath, treating yourself to a movie, coloring, etc.
-Talk to your doctor and explained what happened, and what you think may have caused the panic attack. Especially if you are taking medicine under your doctor’s care, it is important that he or she knows any side effects you experience.
-Ask for help! For someone who doesn’t experience anxiety, it can be difficult to understand exactly what is going through your mind, or how to best assist you. Confide in a friend or family member about what is happening, and tell them “this is what I need…” “This is what you can do to help me…”
Most importantly, if you are struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, talk with your doctor to develop a management plan.