I have been wanting to do a post about this subject matter for a while now and I think that I am ready to share with you my best advice. The past several months I have been having panic attacks and I want to share with you how I am dealing with them to hopefully help any of you if you experience them.
I have a very emphatic nervous system and I let a lot of what others are feeling affect me deeply. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I read a medical article that explained different types of empathy and I think I can identify with a certain kind called Personal Distress. It is where someone literally feel another's emotions. It is like when you are watching a scary movie and you feel the character's fear coursing through you and you are afraid. Through Personal Distress, you feel the other's emotions through a process called "emotional contagion". The article explained that some people are prone to other's emotional states that they become battered about by the feelings, thus the label of "distress". Everyone experiences this type of empathy in their own way but too much of it is not always good, which in my case, causes me to become over-emotional and recently, to have panic attacks.
The first time I had one was back in September. I was alone in my room and I could feel myself tensing up. I started to cry and kept thinking that I felt trapped. I started to pace about my room whilst hyperventilating. I eventually sat down because I was so dizzy. I couldn't stop crying. That's when my friend Gabby knocked at my door. I croaked that she should come in and when she did, she saw me freaking out. She coaxed me into calming down and I could feel myself immediately questioning why that just happened. Yes I am an overemotional person and yes I am very stressed out, but why did that overwhelming feeling come over me? I was so confused and upset at myself.
After having a couple more, I began to see it as a weakness. My anxiety was piling up and I wouldn't go about releasing my stress in a positive way. Instead, I let myself get emotional and freak out, telling myself there was nothing else I could do. I addressed my panic attacks with my friends pretty lightly at first, not wanting to make it a big deal because I was embarrassed. But the things in my life were becoming even more stressful: I was losing my friendship with someone I considered to be my sister because we were both put in a very tense environment to work together on something we both despised, I was becoming disheartened and jaded by a lot of what I used to love, I was questioning my entire life choice to go into what I thought I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I was feeling used by others and felt my friendships with some people were being abused, I was not taking care of my body or my health in any positive way, I was not sleeping, I was falling behind in my classes, I was feeling so lonely, I was feeling terrified of the fact that one of my best friends was not coming back to my school next semester, I was feeling homesick, and many other things that I cannot even begin to describe.
The catalyst for wanting to do this post was this past weekend. We had our Holiday Ball on Saturday and I had a panic attack that night at a party in my friend's suite before we went to the dance. I was just standing in a circle with my group of friends and I felt so alone and disconnected. I could feel myself becoming anxious and I needed to get out. I walked into the bathroom and my two best friends followed me in. They asked me what was wrong and I burst into tears. I kept apologizing over and over saying I didn't want to ruin the night and I was sorry I was crying. I just felt so overwhelmed and dizzy standing there watching all of them being so happy. My friends were very calm with me and they helped me realize everything was okay. I started to breathe again, telling myself that I needed to be positive and not focus on all of my worries. We left the party and went to the dance, where I ended up having one of the most amazing nights with some of the people I love most in this entire world.
I watched this video about 6 months ago. When I started having panic attacks this semester, I went and watched it again. Zoe from Zoella is an incredible role model and I think her videos on Youtube are so inspiring. I know that my panic attacks are much different from hers but I still think that this video is golden. I think that if you have panic attacks and anxiety, you should watch this video because she explains it so much better than me.