When anxiety attacks

When I awoke yesterday morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I just wanted to go back to sleep. While this may be normal for some people, it was definitely usual for me.

I have trained myself to get out of bed when my alarm clock rings. Yesterday was definitely unusual for me. Throughout the day, I felt really lousy. I could not focus on the work I needed to do. I was so very easily distracted and just could not concentrate.

Now again while that may be normal for some people, it was definitely not normal for me. I gave up at about

I gave up at about 2pm and decided to visit a friend. I stayed at his house for about 4 hours, listening to his life story before I realised that I was staring into space. Nothing was going in, and I think I missed some paragraphs of his story. Again that was not normal.

I decided to leave and head home.

While I was on the bus, it struck. The background sounds, the voices from the crowd, the jarring sounds of the bus’ gearbox transmission, the hum of the engine, they started to get to me. I stuck fingers into my ears, trying in vain to block out the noise, but I couldn’t filter it out. I started to hyperventilate and forced myself to focus on my breathing.

I have been practising meditating, so that helped.

The bus driver was going so slowly that I felt like shouting at him to drive more quickly. I’m not sure if he was really driving that slowly or was it my perspective of it. I needed to make it to the train station. I needed to get out of the bus. I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, counting from 1 to 100 breaths.

When I reached the train station I ran to the platform and boarded the train. I was only 4 stops away from my destination. But at the first stop, the train was delayed. I started to bang my head against the door and must have drawn some stares. I didn’t really care.

I closed my eyes again, focusing on my breathing. I made it up to 50 before I bailed out. I could not stand the crowd. I had to get out of the train.

I went to Passenger Control and demanded to know why the train wasn’t moving. It had felt like an hour and the train was still not moving.

“Nothing’s wrong with the train,” the station officer told me. “Just wait.”

I took the next train. The journey was slow. I nearly screamed when the train stopped for two minutes on the track. I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. At 75, I reached my destination.

I didn’t go straight home. I walked a circuitous route around the blocks in the neighbourhood, trying to expend the pent-up energy. I managed to work up a sweat by the time I reached home. Almost immediately, I collapsed in bed and didn’t move from there till morning. I was physically exhausted.

Anxiety attacks tend to last about half an hour or so. Thirty minutes of being in a fight-or-flight state with adrenaline pumping through your body. Afterwards, it’s only natural to be completely exhausted. I haven’t had one for a long time.

The last time I was hit with regular anxiety attacks was my first year of depression back in 2010. I could not stand crowded public areas or places with kids screaming. Even the sound of a mobile phone ringing in public is enough to trigger an anxiety attack. Sometimes I would just sit down on the pavement, close my eyes and cover my ears, screaming into my arms. It was terrible not knowing what caused it or how to resolve it.

Now I know.

It passes. The attacks pass. They always do. I just have to wait it out.

This post was written to give you an idea of what an anxiety attack feels like.

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