The Truth Behind an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks are like the murderer waiting to jump out of a closet in a horror movie; you never know when it’ll happen, but you know it’s coming. Each experience is different for everyone, and some aspects may be more noticeable, but it’s crucial to stop the romanticism of them. These attacks ruin your body emotionally and physically, and society tends to dramatize anxiety to seem like a hero will sweep in and save the day.

Unfortunately, that’s not always true, and often people feel embarrassed or don’t want to bother others with this problem.

With this, I want to share my experience, which may be completely different from yours. I hope by sharing this potentially triggering narrative, I can spread awareness to this topic and fade out the heroic façade placed on anxiety attacks. If it’s difficult to read, please skip through to the tips I provided to help cope with these attacks.

Warning: May be triggering

It starts with swarming thoughts in my mind, mostly negative, and it feels like all of the walls in my room are closing in waiting to suffocate me. My heart begins to pound in my chest, and my breathing gets heavier with each inhale and exhale. My body clenches, my hands shake, and I can feel the invisible 80-pound weight thrown onto my chest.

Throughout this time, I violently fight to hold back my tears and begin to take deep breaths. With each shaky breath I take, it becomes harder and harder to hold back my emotions. I erupt into a tsunami of tears, and the fatalistic thoughts that make me believe I will not make it through this attack hit me like a train. My perception of what’s happening begins to fade away, and I’m helpless. The murderer has found me, and my composure is lost.

I lay still on my bed, comforting myself with a blanket and my head shoved into my pillow. I desperately find things around me that can help to stop the miserable thoughts that crowd my head. I turn to music first and, with trembling fingers, get a grasp on my headphones to slip into my ears.

A few minutes or hours later, I begin to feel the weight lift off my shoulders, and life comes back into perspective. Slowly, the long-winded battle comes to an end, and the enemy thoughts leave my mind. I’m left in my desolate room that feels like a chamber, hopeless.

Every part of my body feels drained like I ran a marathon and didn’t stop for breaks. In the next moments, I try to regain my mental stability and sit motionless in a trance. For me, this is an anxiety attack, in its raw and purest form. No gimmicks and no hero to save me.

Tips

The hardest part of this is learning to rebuild my strength during those few moments after the attack is over. Although it feels like the world is crumbling down around you, it’s not, and everything will be alright, I promise.

Over the summer, I sought out some counseling to help these anxiety attacks that prevent me from being social and living a happy life. My therapist explained to me to look at anxiety in a more positive way rather than a terrifying situation. For a college student, some anxiety helps with deadlines and completing tasks promptly, all contributing to strengthening organizational skills. Although I had too much anxiety to a point where it was unhealthy, my therapist suggested that I first start with decreasing the frequency in between each attack. Once I could gain control of one aspect of anxiety as a whole, it’ll be easier to decrease the severity of them all together.

It’s also crucial to establish some positive coping statements that you can use to help you through an anxiety attack. The two that I live by are, “This is just anxiety; I’m not going to let it get to me,” and “I survived last time, and I will survive this time, too.” Before I left for college, my counselor wrote them down on a notecard for me to keep in my wallet so that I could have it at all times. Even if I can’t get myself to think positively, I still remember to reach for the notecard any time I feel an anxiety attack is going to start, and more recently, they have helped prevent them from continuing.

If you suffer with anxiety attacks, I strongly recommend that you seek counseling or therapy because it genuinely is life-changing and going through these issues alone can only make it worse. Talk to your friends, parents or relatives if you ever need help because you’re not in this alone.