By Angela Collevecchio
Today I want to take you on a trip into the mind of someone having an anxiety attack. If you experience anxiety attacks, this article may help you feel less alone. If you have never experienced one before, this can give you perspective and awareness on how it may feel for a loved one or stranger.
Everyone experiences anxiety and panic attacks differently. Of course, the only way I could share is through my own journey.
Without further ado, I would like to formally welcome you to my mind.
Let’s take it back to 2017. I step foot in my fresh new Atlanta apartment. A new city and a whole new set of terrifying changes.
I’ve arrived two weeks before my roommates. No cable. No Internet. No distractions. Just me and my mind. Wonderful. (Side note: This is long before I learned any therapeutic techniques.)
These changes and decisions would stress out anybody. For me, they were the perfect building blocks for an epic anxiety attack.
It always starts with a tightness in my chest. A tense knot in my throat. The same feeling as trying to hold back a sob – insightfully called being “choked up.”
I was “choked up” all right. A feeling that often follows me around like an unwelcome house guest.
As I unpack boxes, my mind slings a slue of concerning thoughts at me. “You didn’t know there was NO guest parking, Angela. Why didn’t you check that? No street parking, either? Nobody will visit you. Great, alone in a new city and your boyfriend can’t visit. Chained to a 40-minute commute to hang out. That’s not going to work. He will probably break up with you. You didn’t think anything through, you are screwed.”
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
The actual facts that my anxious mind was blinding from me are as follows: My apartment had annoying guest parking, but it was there.
- Street parking was few and far between, but it could work.
- The drive was 15 minutes without traffic.
- My boyfriend was 99% most likely not going to break up with me…definitely not about the commute.
- I had thought things through, and this was the best option.
My anxious mind gave zero f***s about what I had planned. She was in full-blown, risk-analysis, attack mode. I was a goner before she even began her berate.
By now, my boyfriend completed his 40-minute drive over to drop off a few things. I was slinking around with a solemn attitude, just trying to keep all my crazy to myself.
A giant orange warning sticker was slapped on his window as he approached his car to leave. The straw that broke the camels back.
I apologized profusely. He said it was no big deal as he peeled off the giant sticker leaving a sticky residue behind.
I ran for cover like a dog hiding from their caretakers when something was seriously wrong internally. The storm was coming, and I needed to take all precautions to protect my loved ones from the crazy.
My thoughts of doom pick up speed with record pace. Anxious mind overwhelms me with nothing but darkness.
Hurling her words at me, “You have done it now. Seriously you will have no friends here. Lonely, just us two together. Do you know how sad you will be then? All alone because you messed up again. What will we do? Life is always going to feel heavy like this.”
I felt so small. My body responding as I was gasping for air in the fetal position on the floor. Gulping down air with short out-breaths. It is called hyperventilation. My body’s go-to response during intense bouts of fight or flight.
The body tries to store up on as much oxygen as possible to fight whatever life-threatening thing is attacking. Little does it know there is no real threat, just one created in the mind.
The phone rings. It’s my parents. Despite my previous judgment, I answer. Unable to speak through the gasps. I lay on my belly with my tear-soaked face to the side, desperately sucking down air.
My hands begin to tingle, and I can no longer feel my face. I am so scared, and I can hear their fear too.
I lay there for hours. I am exhausted. My mind slows down, now filled with shame and guilt about losing control and putting my parents through my terrifying episode.
Having an anxiety attack feels suffocating for me. Drowning in a sinking sense of darkness. It is a scary thing to see through my eyes, but it is the reality of an anxiety attack for me.
I have learned techniques in the past year have drastically reduced these experiences. Mainly, mindfulness meditation, resourcing, and breathing techniques.
We can all use a reminder to be kinder and more loving to one another. Who knows what your neighbor or loved one is really going through?
Now step out of my mind high on anxiety and back into the world with new-found knowledge and gratitude. Both of which can be used to make the world a better, more unified place.
Angela is a wellness writer and illustrator, science enthusiast, and anxiety warrior who is passionate about sharing the benefits of natural, holistic approaches to health. She founded Chill Chief, an online community that blends art and science to advocate for mental health and inspire lifestyle change within those who suffer from anxiety, after her ongoing journey with mental health. She holds a BS in Human Biology and a double minor in Health and Business. Angela believes that wellness is a continual process of determination, self-exploration, and the art of beginning again. You can find her on Instagram or join her email list to stay in touch.