Written By Clara Ward
Trigger Warning: panic attacks
I am a person with anxiety; almost no one around me experiences the same thing. I can tell you, it’s hard. There is a lot of misinformation and many misconceptions out there about anxiety, a lot of which confused me; I want to help others going through a similar experience not make the same mistakes I have.
The first time I had a panic attack, it was almost traumatizing. I was sitting in a movie theater with my parents and all of a sudden I had this overwhelming sense that something was wrong. My brain jumped to the only logical conclusion and decided that I must have an ice cube from my soda lodged in my throat. How did I get to this conclusion? I have no clue. Long story short, I ended up in the bathroom at the movie theater, my mom trying to calm me down (thanks mom). Unfortunately, nothing we did really worked and we left the theater early. On the drive home the feeling went away.
A couple days later I was eating at a restaurant with my grandma and had the exact same experience, ice and everything. I went home in a rush and spent three days not eating due to anxiety surrounding choking. During those three days I didn’t eat a single thing and barely drank any water, I even went to the doctor to see if there was anything stuck in my throat. Even after they told me there was nothing there I couldn’t bring myself to eat. The first time I ate again was at my friend’s house at a sleepover. I remember texting my mom in excitement that I had finally eaten!
Eventually I ended up in my first therapy appointment and it really helped. The therapist talked me through everything and explained things I had desperately tried searching for on google (that was a mistake). Therapy has really helped me and reaching out for professional help was a good decision. Therapy tends to get a bad reputation; that can be really harmful to people for whom therapy would be helpful.
There are a lot of misconceptions about anxiety out there like “it’s just stress” or “ignoring the anxiety will make it go away.” Those things are just not true. Anxiety is different from stress; stress is caused by an external trigger whereas anxiety can come out of nowhere. No, ignoring the anxiety will not help it go away. Ignoring anxiety will only cause it to bottle up but it will come out later. Ignoring anxiety doesn’t get rid of it, only postpones it.
There are a lot of ways to help yourself with anxiety too if you’re not able to get help from a therapist. One thing that has helped me manage anxiety attacks is (and I’m not kidding) attempting to say the alphabet backwards. Another option that has helped is taking a warm bath or shower. If you have people you can reach out to, talking to them about calming things can help a lot too.
Anxiety can be hard to deal with but there are ways to cope. Everyone’s experience is unique but I guarantee that you’ll find what works for you (and what doesn’t) and that when you do it’ll make things a lot better.