So what is a panic attack? I tell clients, it's when you're in a situation that you can't escape from. Your body wants to run, but you just can't, you're stuck. It's the fight, flight, freeze response. Your body is going into survival mode, wanting to get you out of a dangerous situation. Your heart rate increases, your breathing changes, your hearing becomes more acute.
This is what I had. How did it start? At my neighbours funeral.
I've been to a few funerals since my son died and I'm ok with it. It's not nice going to funerals, but it's part of life! It wasn't the funeral that gave me a panic attack. That was fine. It was an older lady's funeral, a few of us neighbours went. I went with my husband. We got to the church, the cars pulled up, we walked inside to take our seat. I took a remembrance book on the way in, the order of service. A beautiful photo of the lady on the front; inside the order of service; at the end the song. Oh no, the song! The final song! This was the bit that got me. The song. My son's song. My son's funeral song. I've heard it played since his funeral, not through choice. I've congratulated myself in my mind when it's come on the radio or TV and I haven't cried. It's like a challenge. Like a scale of being ok. 'If I can listen to the song, then I'm ok!'
But I wasn't ok on this Occasion. I just wanted to get out of the church. I said to my husband that I couldn't stay til the end. I'd stay and then go before the song came on. Throughout the service, I could feel my body getting ready to get out. It started with my feet moving, my legs felt like they were twitching and I couldn't keep them still, even though I was standing in one place. It was like I was warming up for a race!
As it got closer to the end, all I could think about was getting out. I was planning my exit in my head. I could feel adrenalin running through my body. I couldn't keep still!
Then it was the introduction to the song. The time when everyone sits still and thinks about the person. As soon as I heard it being introduced, I grabbed my bag and walked very fast to the back of the church, to the doors. It was like my mind and body had gone into auto-pilot. My breathing started to change and I got like a fuzzy sound in my ears. I could actually feel my heart pumping in my chest. All I wanted to do was run and not stop. At the same time I caught the first few bars of the song. I was back there. Back at my sons funeral. A place and time I never wanted to be, or ever go through again. My whole body started shaking and my breathing became uncontrollable. It was pretty scary. Luckily enough I knew the science behind it. The crazy thing was, I was talking to a client that morning about panic attacks and it's just a rush of energy and hormones that helps to get us out of a dangerous situation. A rush! I was having one hell of a rush! I shakily took the car keys out of my bag, handed them to my husband and told him to drive me home.
In the car I tried to control my breathing, to slow it down. Taking the deeper breaths, like I tell my clients. Trying to calm myself. The further away from the church I got, the calmer I felt. We got home.
I had a can of diet coke and a bar of chocolate. I paced the garden for a bit to get rid of the last bit of energy, then I started to calm down.
We waited a while then I was ok and wanted to go to the wake. It was nice. We had a few drinks and a chat.
It was strange being transported back 21 years. I felt confused in my mind though, because I thought I needed to cry, but I didn't. It was escape I needed, and that's what my body got me ready for. I did the flight part. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't got out of the church. I don't even like to think about that.
So that was my panic attack. It wasn't dangerous. It actually got me out of my 'dangerous' situation. My panic attack was just a bit scary because I was out of control. Although, having the knowledge of what was happening to me probably made it less frightening. Some people may feel that they are having some kind of heart attack, or health problem. But what I went through, my panic attack, was normal.
If you've ever suffered a panic attack, or you do suffer from them I hope this blog helps you to understand that it's the body's natural response to danger.
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