When Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety Attack art by Howie Noel

With anxiety, the smallest problems can grow into insurmountable obstacles. A wave of overwhelming panic builds and overtakes its victim. To create Float, my upcoming graphic memoir, I must confront my anxiety head on. I’ll be sharing helpful tips that I’ve learned to fight back, but in this passage I wanted to tell you a bit about my anxiety attacks.

Some attacks I suffer are silent. You wouldn’t know I was having one. I’m quiet and still but inside my mind is a 12 round fight. Recently, I have acquired a new coping skill where I clench my hand over my mouth during the anxiety attack. This attack has been happening to me on airplanes, movie theaters and concerts. It’s making fun nights out on the town few and far between.

Another form of attack I experience is a monster. It’s like an angry summer storm that gains power and anger as it continues. Then it peters out and I’m left among the damage. I’ll pace and talk to myself and rant. I’ll focus my anger on others and then on myself. I’ll then collapse with regret and embarrassment. Embarrassment is one of my stronger skills. I’ve been honing it since I was a child and I’m quite good at it.

A third common type of attack for me is what I refer to as a complete shutdown. I collapse and curl into a ball. I can’t move from the floor. I first experienced this after college following an argument with a roommate. As with all of the attacks, I’m left drained and weak.

I have been able to stop myself during attacks. Not as often as I’d like, but I’m doing better. What great story doesn’t star a hero who struggles and faces challenges? You’re all the heroes of your stories. We’re not perfect creatures. And the idea of perfection is another Glass Ceiling hovering above us.

Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and self-hypnosis are all wonderful weapons and tools I use in my ongoing fight against anxiety. And I’ve been finding great comfort in reading your Breakthrough Moments. To see such heart and honesty in the submissions is inspiring. Thank you for joining me in this fight.

Together, we will Float.