Things I Wish I Knew When I Had My First Panic Attack
I recently had my first panic attack. It all happened one night, when I was just relaxing after a fairly easy day at work. I was sitting down and suddenly my heart started racing, then my left arm went numb, I started sweating, I felt a shocking sensation going down my spine, I couldn’t breathe, and I was convinced I was having a heart attack -I was convinced I was dying-. It was the scariest moment of my life.
I was lucky enough that I live with a nurse, and he was able to explain to me that I wasn’t dying, but that I was having a panic attack. I just needed to wait for it to stop. I cried uncontrollably and the symptoms seemed to last forever, until they were finally done, and I was left feeling like a truck ran over me several times. After that horrible night, I was having a daily panic attack, until I ended up in the hospital and started learning about these types of attacks.
Because of the pandemic, many of us are struggling with mental health issues, and we’ve gone back in our mental health progress. I’ll leave my mental health struggle history for another post, but even though I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life, panic attacks can affect anyone. If you’re feeling high anxiety or you are starting to struggle with panic attacks, know that you’re not alone, this is not permanent, and there are ways to make it easier on yourself as you navigate your path to recovery.
Here are some of the things I wish I knew before I had my first panic attack:
- You are not dying and you are not having a heart attack
This is the hardest thing to understand the first time you have a panic attack. In the moment, every sensation is so new and scary. It is important to remember that panic attacks actually mimic heart attack symptoms, but panic attacks are harmless. They will not kill you. Knowing this will help you stay present while the attack is happening.
- This is not permanent
Something that kept me in the anxiety loop that night was that I kept thinking that this was never going to go away and that I was damaged for life. But know that this is not permanent, it might come back several times until you figure out your triggers and navigate the path to recovery, but it will eventually pass.
- Don’t fight it, it will only make it worse
Fighting the panic attack only makes it worse. I kept fighting the attack and the symptoms that night because I was so afraid of being damaged for life. Every time I fought the attack, I felt worse, and my heart beat was faster. I’m not going to tell you to relax, because it obviously doesn’t work that way, but try distracting yourself. One thing that helped me a lot at the beginning of my anxiety and panic journey was to talk to someone either on the phone or in person, that usually helped me stay present and the physical symptoms would go down tremendously.
- Look for help and things will get better
It took me way too long to look for help after my first panic attack. I waited and kept having at least one panic attack a day, until the day that I felt so desperate I had to check myself in the hospital because I was scared of myself. I thought things were never going to get better and that there was no hope for me, but there is hope -for me and everyone going through this-. Start looking for help as soon as you can after this happens to you, it will make a world of a difference. After I started getting professional help, combined with research, and meditation, things got way better. The desperate feeling is gone and even though I still struggle -way less than before-, I know now how to manage the panic attacks.
- You’re not alone
Know that panic attacks are very common, you are not alone. You matter, regardless of your struggles. Don’t give up, the world needs you.