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First-hand Experience: Panic Attacks

TRUHAP

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Breathe. It will pass. You will be okay.

I had my first panic attack when I accidentally took more of the medicine prescribed, causing a minor overdose. The attack didn't come right away. I knew from experience it was not an anxiety attack. An anxiety attack is more like a gradual build-up of worrying and stressing whereas a panic attack is out of the blue and it feels like you are dying, for sure.

The first thing I thought was, I am having a heart attack but then my rational mind reminded me, statistically it is rare, if not impossible for someone my age to have one. I didn't know what to do. I was trembling all over, sweating, I felt like I couldn't breathe and the worst was my heartpounding in my chest. And yeah I was sitting amongst a lot of people feeling like I was dying physically but I couldn't tell anyone and no one could see it. I was anemic when I was younger and during that time I would feel breathless and my heart would hurt. When I experienced the panic attack that's what I thought it was, an anemic thing. Maybe I was anemic again. But then the blood test didn't agree. It was when I stopped taking the medication altogether that the attacks stopped. I remember being scared in anticipation of when I would start feeling like that again.

I had only experienced the attacks twice in a span of one week. It was horrible and I was ready to do anything to avoid it. Mentally, I wanted to be okay but my body felt like a mess. The attacks didn't last for a long time barely 10-20 minutes. Even though it was a terrible experience it has made me grateful. Someone in my family has a panic disorder. She is under treatment but even though she is on medication and rarely ever gets an attack now, she is still in constant fear of having one.

For her it started during her perimenopause (around menopause). This disorder is twice more common in woman than in man; especially during PMS, pregnancy, and menopause; many researchers believe that changes in hormone levels are typically the underlying cause.

A panic attack feels a lot like an anxiety attack as they share a few symptoms but the major difference between these two is how anxiety disrupts your sleep, the worrying is there at the back of your mind even if you aren't aware of it. Whereas when it comes to panic attacks, you don't know, you don't understand what is wrong and why it this is happening.

It was much easier for my family member to get treatment as she was already seeing a doctor for her menopause. It started with hormonal therapy along with a couple of other things. She still takes medicine but her life has gotten a lot better now. She rarely gets an attack. She gets counseling from time to time.

One thing we all need to learn is, no matter what disorder or medical condition or loss or failure or even just a negative experience about something, we need to remember and learn how to react. We need to perceive things in a better manner; We need to go about handling things rather than thinking up more problems; We need to keep an open mind. We cannot go into therapy or counselling with the idea that, "I am broken." "I am never gonna be fixed." "There's no cure." I understand that sometimes false hope is painful. But when you start something on the foundation of a pessimistic note... *You might still get better* but it will take a much longer time. So ask yourself, how bad do you want your life back? You will get better when you are ready, when your body is ready. Don't push yourself. Be patient. And just try - do not be your own enemy. Life is hard as it is.

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