Caring for yourself after an anxiety attack
Put your hand up if you've ever had an anxiety attack. Go on. Wherever you are, pop that hand in the air. Now, turn you hand so your palm is facing you, drop your thumb, little finger and ring finger and stick the remaining two fingers up at the anxiety gods because guess what? You bloody survived what they threw your way. Don't you love it when the good guy wins?
Last week, I had my first anxiety attack in 6 months. My disappointment was on par with finding out that Trump somehow managed to claw his way into office in America. The only room he should be clawing his way into is Room 101. Arsehole.
Anyway, as some of you might be able to appreciate, the longer I go without having an anxiety attack, the greater the benefits are. I become more and more confident as the days pass by which, in turn, makes me happier. Makes sense right? After all, who likes to be blindsided by intense sweating, an uncontrollable heart beat, dizziness and subsequent nausea? It's not a good look. Certainly not a time for a selfie, even with a cute snapchat filter. There is simply no hope.
An anxiety attack is different for every person, but for me, it's the overwhelming feeling that I'm in danger. What terrifies me even more is that what I'm scared of, I cannot run from. At least with a physical threat you can try and quickly spot an escape route. When it's your mind, where can you go? There isn't a panic room for you to hide out in until the threat is gone. So, instead, you have no choice but to stand and face whatever your mind has in store for you. It's about as enjoyable as listening to Katie Hopkins voice her opinions.
It takes a hell of a lot of energy to get through an anxiety attack. As a result, there isn't much left in the ol' tank when it's over. Have you ever been so ill and fragile that you feel you could be pushed over by the slightest gust of wind? That's what I feel like in the aftermath of an anxiety attack. Pretty unsurprisingly, I therefore prioritise rest over the next few days. I mean I'll nap at any given opportunity the majority of the time and still insist we consider making nap time part of the working day, but I’ll make sure I get more than enough zzzs after an anxiety attack. I find it really is essential. That's not to say I lock myself in a room and sleep the days away, but I just dial down my plans a little to mirror my energy levels.
Those of you that know me will not be surprised to find out that I'm an extrovert. That's about as shocking as finding out that Kim and Kanye have given one of their kids yet another stupid name. This character trait means that I get all of my energy from being around people. Consider them the Duracell battery and me the remote control. Their existence is essential for me to function. So, when I need to recharge, you'll find me lighting up their phones with one whatsapp message after the other. (Yes, I am that person who can't just send one message all at once. I can hear the woman from Game of Thrones shouting 'shame' in the distance already.) Being with my pals reminds me that despite what my mind convinces me is true during an anxiety attack, I'm not alone. This in turn helps to rebuild my confidence and give me the reassurance I need to feel better again.
I don’t know about you, but anxiety attacks leave me feeling rather numb. Perhaps understandable when I reveal that I often can't feel my own body when it's happening. It's almost as if I'm prodding someone else's body when trying to feel some sensation, which is fairly scary. So, to help combat this insensibility, I spend my time favouring the things I enjoy doing most that require little effort. I'll be honest, this usually involves a few episodes of Friends or going on the beg to pet someone's dog. If stroking a pup or an episode of Friends can't tease even a little smile or a chuckle out of me, there really is no hope.
When I have an anxiety attack, the future flashes before my eyes. My eyes don't quite roll into the back of my head like Bran Stark, but I can see a future I very much do not want. I am completely blinded by the darkest thoughts. This consequently heightens intense feelings of panic. In a single moment, months of hard work is unraveled and I can’t see a future without being harassed by mental health issues. It's like a war I can't win, no matter how hard I try. As you can appreciate, it’s pretty disheartening. So, especially during the first few days following the anxiety attack, I take each day as it comes. I make a promise to myself that I will try not to look any further than the day I'm currently in. I can't predict the future, so I try not to preoccupy my mind with things I cannot control. Instead, I focus on the here and now as much as I can.
If you'd experienced a physically life threatening situation, for example a car crash, people would expect you to look after yourself, right? So, why should it be any different when it comes to an anxiety attack, just because the damage is primarily psychological? Be kind to yourself, people. You've been through enough.