If you struggle with panic attacks, like me, you’ve come to terms with the fact that at the worst moment possible you could have an attack. It could be small, and just involve hyperventilating and extreme panic. Or it could be a major one where you pass out and cry for hours. You never really know what could come. Some people have developed different ways to hide those pesky mini-panic attacks that come at the worst moment.
1. You feel it coming. Your heart starts beating faster, your thoughts begin to race, you feel out of control. But, you’re at lunch with a family member. What do you do? Breathe. Tell a joke. A small one, that doesn’t require much thought or breath, but one you’ve memorized for this exact moment. “What tea do hockey players drink? Penaltea!” And, because it is a pun, and naturally, we people who over rationalize everything, we love puns. You can laugh. Laughing is a good way to calm down some, or at least, hide the hyperventilating that is over-taking you.
2. You’ve just laughed. They haven’t noticed you freaking out. Good. What to do next? Fidget. When I get mini-panic attacks, I have to fidget. It helps my mind slow a bit. If you’re at lunch, grab your drink. Swirl your straw. Repeatedly, if you must. No one would think otherwise.
3. Your fidgeting helped, but it’s still not working. You are still freaking out. What else could help? Grab that cell phone! Seriously. Keeping your mind focused on something helps. Download an anxiety app. It gives you questions and can track your moods. Which, let’s face it, our therapists love.
4. You are still freaking out. You’ve done everything you can do at the table with others. Time for a bathroom break. Power walk to that bathroom and pick the stall farthest away from the door. Close it, lock it, and begin your meltdown. I’ve suffered many attacks in a public restroom, and not one single person noticed. Whether a full-blown panic attack or a mini-one, that tiny little room will keep your secrets.
5. Its finally starting to slow down. Your pulse. Your thoughts. Your shaking. Now what to do? Breathe. Fold your hands in front of you, and breathe again. Breathe some more, and then, stand up, walk out of that room, and go back to the table. If anyone asks why you were in there so long, mention you had a phone call. Never feel guilty for an extended break. Never feel guilty for taking care of you. You are important.
Hear that? You are important. Those of us who suffer with panic, anxiety, or depression have to find and take that extra time to take care of ourselves. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.