Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.
Panic attacks are awful. Usually I can feel them coming and I get scared even before they hit. My chest hurts, my vision changes, my body feels like it’s screaming all over, and my mind completely gives up rational thought and all of my fears and insecurities and worst-case scenarios wash over me again and again.
More than almost anything, I hate panic attacks.
You know what’s really dumb, though? If I’m not careful, I can have a panic attack about having a panic attack. Yes, really. I worry a lot about having a panic attack when I’m driving or out in public somewhere like a store or mall or gas station.
I used to be a confident, average driver. I’ve got a little truck mostly for winter driving and a motorcycle for the summer. I used to really enjoy driving, but one morning, I had a severe panic attack while driving and ever since, I feel anxious even being a passenger in a car.
I’m very limited as to when and where I can drive right now. I’ve been improving things a bit at a time, but I’m a long way from being the reliable and comfortable driver I used to be. I worry that I’ll have a panic attack while driving and lose control of the vehicle and hurt someone or stop up traffic. I’ve been on 4000km trips with my motorcycle but last summer I couldn’t even sit on it, nevermind starting it up and riding it.
The thing is, a lot of the time when a panic attack hits, I’m the only one who knows about it. I’ve had several panic attacks in the local grocery store – including once while I was at the checkout – and aside from my own discomfort and misery, I don’t think anyone else really knew what was going on. I may have been breathing a little funny and sweating for no reason but it’s not like I was jumping up and down or running around screaming.
Sometimes doing a round or two of grounding helps. Sometimes being fixated on an object like the ones I have in my stress box helps. Sometimes nothing works and I just have to ride it out, reminding myself that they don’t last forever.
The good thing is, thanks to Dr C, Dr W, and J, I’m not having nearly as many as I used to.