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How to Stop Your Panic Attack

Updated on December 4, 2017
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Jay is a 16 year old college drop-out hoping to spread awareness of mental health that they themselves struggled with their entire lives.

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My Story

For years, I have suffered from panic attacks. People around me assumed I was either, A, "overreacting", B, "faking it for attention", or C, "crazy". It took the courage of a suicide attempt to finally have the doctors turning their heads to notice I had a serious problem. By the time I was 15, I was placed on different medications in hopes of calming my diagnosed anxiety and depression. I am now 16. I'm writing this because no one around me helped when I froze and hyperventilated.

" I felt like I was going to die "

I was around 15 at the time, in my last year of school before I went off into college (or so I thought) and our classes got shorter and shorter as we completed exam after exam. I had a free couple of hours before I had to go and study before my next exam and a sudden rush of anxiety completely drowned me. I felt like I was going to die. I knew what was about to happen and automatically (because I trusted a few teachers in a little classroom called the "BSU" (Behaviour Support Unit) which was also attached to the "LSU" (Learning Support Unit)) made my way through the nearly empty hallways towards the door at the far end of the hallway, just below the maths hall which was situated above the MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) hall. Before I could open the door, the attendance officer stopped me and greeted me. It took her a moment to realise that I was in the midst of having a panic attack before she told me (because of confidentiality reasons, I'll be giving each person mentioned in this part of the article a fake name) to get Mrs. Marshall (I suck at surnames so please don't judge!) I did exactly that and left before reappearing with the lead teacher of the BSU.

" I want to just ignore this kid and let them have a panic attack "

I explained my situation, told them I was freaking the F out about my next exam and I had to collect my studying supplies out of a classroom that was occupied by at least 12 to 13 kids in the year below me. I hated going into occupied classrooms and the head teacher already knew that this was an issue for me so I was never asked to go and collect things by teachers. Until this day. It will forever haunt me the humiliation I suffered... Mrs Jacobs (attendance officer) and Mrs Marshall both looked at each other along with another teacher who decided to get involved as if to say "God, this kid is stupid and really annoying"- you know, THAT look, the "I want to just ignore this kid and let them have a panic attack" look. My brain began to hurt as bad thoughts began to claw at every part of my skull. It felt like someone had slammed my head into a desk multiple times, triggering a giant migraine- oh, the pain. Mrs Marshall then sighed and told me, she legit told me, she said, "go get your supplies and come back to the BSU". I wanted to drop kick her then and there. I was in the middle of a panic attack and she was telling me to go into a classroom of about 13 kids who were undoubtedly going to laugh and tease me (I thought this at the time because, thanks to my ex girlfriend Ash, most of the kids in school hated me for rumours that weren't in the slightest bit true). I told Mrs Marshall that I couldn't, I really could NOT do that. To which she responded with and irritated shake of the head and a shrug as if to say "fine, fail your exams, not my fault you're an anxious freak" before telling me that she wasn't in the slightest going to help me by collecting my work for me. She then began to go on about how I should "grow up" as my face began to turn red. I was becoming more and more overwhelmed before I told her to stop, with teary eyes and sweat appearing all over my flushed face. "Please, just stop" I was close to sobbing and I looked up at her, she seemed to be slightly smirking at the other two teachers. I never felt so stupid and weak in my entire life. With that, I spun around and dashed into the bathroom, locking myself in a cubicle. I placed my hands on the toilet tank, clutching my knuckles as hard as I could as I shut my eyes.

" 3 teachers were banging on the door "

This wasn't my first panic attack, nor was it going to be my last. I had experiences but this, this was bad. This was the worst panic attack I have ever experienced. My knuckles were white, pushing out of my skin. They looked like they were about to break out from my flesh. I tried to focus on something in my head but it only made things worse. Then it happened. I felt myself lose control as I began to have a panic attack. I was hyperventilating. Tears poured from my eyes. I was a hot sweaty mess. I felt numb. I literally wanted to flush myself down the toilet. To make matters worse, all 3 teachers were banging on the bathroom door, pounding away at it like a drum. I felt so humiliated, so pathetic and intimidated and insulted. They just kept banging, it was making my headache worse. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move, I was leaning over the toilet, ready to collapse- even though the position I was in, I would more than likely hit my head on the tank and knock myself out. The bell rang for everyone to go to next class- just a few minutes away from my free time being up and I had to go study again. I couldn't do anything at this point. I heard someone come into the bathroom and close the door behind them in the next cubicle. Great. More humiliation. I knew they were listening to me breaking down next to them because they were trying their hardest not to pee so fast.

" I was in that bathroom until the end of the school day. "

The banging finally stopped. The students were in their classes and all you could hear was the loud gasping and struggling to breathe noises. I was in that bathroom until the end of the school day. Literally. It took me a while to completely calm down. I wouldn't let anyone touch me nor did I respond to anyone after I finally left the cubicle. They at least let me sit my exam without the company of 150+ other students!

How to stop a panic attack

Panic attacks occur when the person is overwhelmed by immense fear, panic or discomfort. When a panic attack is present, the person is usually seen shaking, hyperventilating (though not always the case), sweating, trembling and simply put, looks like they're about to have a seizure.

In most cases, (going by experiences) you do not want to hug the person having the panic attack as (again, going by my own experiences) this can feel as if they're being trapped and they'll most likely feel like they're causing a scene that they cannot control- thus accelerating the panic attack into a furthermore dangerous situation where the person may or may not collapse from shortness of oxygen.

You may rub their back, but make sure (if you can) to bring the person into a desolate area or a place with fewer people.

( TIP ) You should only call an ambulance if the person has collapsed and is not conscious.

Once you are in a more quieter area, ask the person to focus on something such as your voice, your eyes, something in the distance (like a tree) or ask them to close their eyes and lay down (if it's possible).

To control the hyperventilating, you should ask the person to start inhaling through their nose, and exhaling through their mouth. This causes the air to more slowly escape so your lungs have more time to extract oxygen. Have the person do this until they are more calm and you may (if given permission) hug them and let them know it's alright.

( TIP ) Do not, repeat, DO NOT, tell the person having the panic attack to shut up or stop, this is the worst thing you can do. They simply cannot "shut up" or "stop" having a panic attack- think of telling someone in a wheel chair to stand up (they can't, because it's impossible).

If you can, give the person some water as they're most likely dehydrated. It'll also be best to avoid the situation that caused the person to panic in the first place. If, like me, some of the situations happened in school, you should more than likely speak to the school nurse or a teacher that you trust because they can solve most problems that happen within school.

( TIP ) If you have a small bag (it can even be a crisp/chip bag or a paper bag), you can scrunch up the top part to prevent hair from getting in or out and press it to your mouth, removing some pressure, before inhaling and exhaling through your mouth into the bag. This can also help with hyperventilating as again (just like the nose and mouth inhaling and exhaling technique) it slows the breathing, giving your lungs more time to extract oxygen (DO NOT cover your nose and mouth while doing this, only your mouth should be covered by the bag.)

© 2017 Jay


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