There is no air in the room. My body is shaking and my vision is blurry as I gasp for air. I grip onto something – anything – while I try to get my body under control. I’m having a panic attack.
I started having panic attacks during my sophomore year of high school. They were uncommon but slowly became more common. I had learned methods for relaxation in my health classes and used those when I felt a panic attack coming on. Before leaving for college my doctor prescribed me a medication to ease the transition to college because they were becoming more common. My freshman year of college was very stressful, the panic attacks become frequent, I refused to renew the prescription I had been on because of how it made me feel, and the breathing tips I had learned were less effective. That summer, I decided to talk to my doctor seriously about it.
Although I was not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I exhibited many symptoms. My doctor recommended me various medications. I was very hesitant to accept that as an option – the first medication I had been on made me feel disoriented and wrong. I decided to try it. She gave me one medication for insomnia and then prescribed me two medications. One for daily use to prevent panic attacks and anxiety, and one for as needed, or whenever there was one going on. The panic attacks became very infrequent, provoked only when extremely stressed, and at those moments I was able to take the as needed medication. My life returned to normal.
It was very difficult asking for help, but when the panic attacks took over my life, I swallowed my pride. If you have occasional panic attacks, control your breathing by breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 6 and breathing out for a count of 6. This helps your body calm down and allows you to take control of the situation. Depending on what caused the panic attack, remove yourself from the situation to calm down.
If your panic attacks are frequent, then talking to your doctor is the best option. Even if medication is not the answer for you, your doctor would be able to suggest lifestyle changes or relaxation techniques that can help you.
In addition to taking my medication, I have made changes to lifestyle that include exercising more and advanced planning to help remove some of the stressors in my life. While I cannot control some of the things that trigger my panic attacks (needles, planes, or other phobias), I can change my approach to them, such as finding alternate forms of transportation. I refuse to let panic attacks control my life. I accept that they are a part of it, and I have chosen to do my best to prevent and handle them.