I find it difficult to talk about my mental illness without crying and struggling for air between jagged sobs. This is because there is no simple solution and it’s very easy to feel trapped and isolated.

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For the past 10 years I have struggled to; just take it easy, calm down, cheer the fuck up, not worry, just be grounded, find my centre, or whatever the hell else people who haven’t experienced mental illness think is the magic bullet.

Rather than spilling all the sordid details in one gargantuan post I think I’ll tackle one or two of my symptoms at a time.

So, here’s how panic attacks feel to me. Often, I awaken too early with a sense of impending doom. It feels sort of like losing car keys at first. That, “holy shit, what am I going to do?” feeling.

Then building tension coiled deep in my belly grows like wildfire in Fort McMurray. I stuggle to identify the source of my panic but usually there’s no obvious trigger…this ambiguity leads to more anxiety until all hell breaks loose; not just in my head but my entire body.

As my breathing rockets towards hyper-ventilation, I feel compelled to pace. Perhaps trying to outrun these unnecessary bodily sensations. Often I won’t be able to stop crying, I feel like a caged animal headed for the slaughterhouse.

There’s no reasoning with me, I am a slave to fighting or flighting (yes flighting – it’s my blog, I do what I want!). Often the grand finale is working myself into such a state I end up vomiting repeatedly. Pure glamour, no?

What helps? Sometimes time and patience, or a call to the Calgary Distress Center, or medication, or playing some mental games (like naming all the Canadian capital cities), or painting, or listening to music, or recalling I’ve never had an attack not end eventually, or some combination thereof.

Honestly I wouldn’t wish a panic attack on anyone. Ever. Sadly, I know there are many others out there suffering from similar afflictions.

I hope by sharing my experience I might help another person feel less alone with their illness and/or help loved ones understand a little bit more about panic attacks.

K

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