Breaking Down My Breakdowns: I Created a Hall of Fame for My Panic Attacks

I’ve been having a lot of panic attacks lately. Usually, I can keep them spaced apart by reassessing what I’m doing in my life: am I working out? Getting enough sleep? Eating things other than Chipotle?

In fact, for the longest time I just called these bursts “feeling anxious” as opposed to an attack. I didn’t think it was justified to constantly say I was having panic attacks. I mean, how droll. How fanciful. Nay, these were simply little fits of anxiety where I would start crying and circular thought patterns and may hyperventilate. Let’s not get carried away and call that a panic attack

I think I was hesitant to do so because I had truly experienced some mega panic attacks. To me, panic attacks remind me a lot of the migraines I used to suffer from in high school. Before I really knew what was happening, I would have the 12 hour migraine. My head would be splitting and I’d sit in the dark with a bucket, ready to throw-up again. When I finally learned what was happening, I was able to get the 12 hours down to eight, and the eight to four. I knew my warning signs and was able to cut them off for the most part. I was still down for the count–it wasn’t pleasant–but I wasn’t sitting in the dark with a bucket.

In a similar pattern, my first few panic attacks where outrageous. They lasted for hours and the next day I would wake up feeling so relieved it was over. It was a hangover but instead of feeling drained and crappy, I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude and euphoria. It’d be so lovely that I’d look back on the previous day and figured I’d just overreacted.

But then another panic attack would hit. Same thing–last for hours, feel awful, eventually sleep, wake up feeling amazing. It finally clicked that this was more than just a moment of overwhelm, though that took me years to learn. Nowadays, I still get panic attacks but I know so much more how to shorten them down. I know my warning signs. I’m not sitting in the dark with a bucket.

Since it’s Mental Health Month, I wanted to shed light on panic attacks and how crazy they can get when they are untamed. A lot of the attacks I share in this episode where truly horrible to experience. But I look back now at the situation surrounding the attacks, how unimportant the events actually were, and…I can actually laugh about it now.

I use this practice to help heal my wounds and to take away the power they have over me. There’s a moment in the Harry Potter series where this creature called a boggart is wrecking havoc in a warddrobe. Boggarts turn into the thing you fear most, which is supposed to stun you and stop you from attacking it. The way to conquer the boggart? You cast the spell ridiculous and it turns into a hilarious object instead. When you laugh and enjoy the boggart, it starts to weaken.

That’s how I approach a lot of my mental health. My panic attacks do not dictate my life, but when they happen on astronomical levels, it’s helpful to look around and see what was going on. In the episode, you’ll hear that I thought at one point at 2:00 a.m. I could calm down if I watched Titanic. Yes, the movie where everyone dies and true love is separated for decades. That was supposed to calm me down. Or the forgotten Christmas party I ended up going to mid-panic attack. I would never do that now. There’s so much humor in that pain, and being able to shake my head and sigh about it now makes me feel so much better. I feel for Young Elaine but am glad she gave me a wonderful story I get to share.

Enjoy this induction ceremony of my panic attacks to the Hall of Fame!

What’s gettin’ me through right now:

  1. The Fitness Marshall: I’ve talked about this a LOT but I seriously have so much fun dancing to these videos. I’m also getting fit? During quarantine? And it’s not burpees??

2. How I Met Your Mother: This was my show. The way that people love Friends or The Office–that’s how I feel about How I Met Your Mother. It was probably one of the last shows that I binged watched the first few seasons and then caught up with live television for two more years. I watched the series finale in my dorm room. I’m not one to rewatch things, so about five years has gone by and I happened to see it was on Hulu. And I realized I didn’t remember a lot of the episodes. So now, I’m rewatching one of my all-time favorite shows and it’s like I’m getting to watch it all over again.

3. Halsey’s album Manic: I’ve always liked Halsey but at first, I only had heard “You should be sad” which is not my fav song, so for some reason I dismissed the whole album. But this may be one of my favorite albums of all time. Yes, I’m saying it’s up there with my love for Lana Del Ray’s discography. Current jams: clementine, killing boys, 929.

Published by Angus Eye Tea Podcast

A weekly podcast about living with anxiety and depression.

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