What an anxiety attack looks and feels like to me.

Two steps forward, one giant leap backwards, well, that’s what my recent anxiety attack felt like to me. I hadn’t experienced an attack in about a year and then….BAM…I had one…on Easter Sunday. An anxiety attack is intense, awful and, for me, scary. My symptoms were a sense of losing control, emotionally distressing, I was crying, feeling panicky, I had chest pain and shortness of breath.

The day started out perfectly normal but on reflection, I can now understand why the attack happened. I had decided to host 20 people for Easter Sunday lunch at our place. A part of me thinks that the decision to host the lunch at our place was my way of saying I have recovered enough to do this – I got this. Well I did…..in part. I felt very excited about having our family over for lunch. I also knew it wouldn’t be too hard as family members were bringing dishes such as salads, dessert and other bits and pieces to help ease the load. I decided to prepare a lasagne, a roast chicken and lamb and some other side dishes. I thought this was all simple enough.

What I didn’t factor in was perfectionism. It is one of my personality traits and came to play in me having an anxiety attack. I find my perfectionism crippling because I am constantly setting high standards for myself and feel frustrated when I can’t meet those standards. I also find focussing on minute details time consuming and impede me from doing the task at hand. Perfectionism goes hand in hand with my Generalised Anxiety Disorder and most likely triggered my anxiety attack.

So, the perfectionist in me kept thinking that the food had to be perfect and ready on time, drinking glasses and cutlery had to spotless, house had to be clean. I was also thinking about how were we going to seat everyone? The weather was not looking too promising on the Sunday, yet when I decided to host; Melbourne was going through a patch of really good weather. We didn’t have a backup plan for seating and time was running out. I had also forgotten to buy other bits and pieces for when guests arrived. Not to mention my son had been wrapped around my leg seeking attention, and, may have been teething as he was clingier than usual.

So there I was, in the kitchen stirring the sauce for the lasagne, my son clinging to my leg, thoughts going over and over in my head about all the things that had to be perfect, and, I could feel the pressure building up. I started to panic…. I could feel a sharp pain in my chest and had trouble breathing. I became emotional and my husband came in from outside to see what was wrong. I told him that I thought I was starting to have an anxiety attack and then I lost control and could not breathe. He pulled out a chair and told me to put my head between my knees and to take breaths. The concentration on breathing really did help and I was able to overcome my anxiety attack quite quickly. I did notice that it was short lived as opposed to the attacks that I suffered when I had post-natal depression.

My husband was amazing and made me feel safe and supported so that I was able to compose myself quite quickly. On reflection, I pleased to say that lunch was a success and everyone, including myself had a great time. What I learnt from that experience is that I need to stop sweating the small stuff because it is the small things that take away from the bigger picture, such as how happy it makes me being in the company of the people I love, not whether the glasses or cutlery are spotless.

On a final note, I recently came across a pretty easy tip to remember, should I feel that a panic attack might be coming on. The tip was to look around you, find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. Apparently, it is called grounding and can help you when you feel like you are losing control of your surroundings. I am yet to try the method but am interested to hear if it is something you have heard of or, even tried?

Grounding technique taken from: http://www.7cups.com/forum/AnxietySupportCommunity_53/AnxietySupportResources_412/Antianxietypanicattacktechniques_25678/

Love and smiles!

Josie : )

 

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Author: Josie Smyth

I decided to write this blog after having a lived experience of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression and currently living through Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I am still on the journey of recovery and now I am smiling! : )

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