There is a question that people always ask me when I tell them I suffer from severe anxiety and panic attacks. “So, how does it feel?” I tell you one thing. It is the most difficult thing to explain, and if you have never suffered from anxiety, it’s very difficult that you will understand. Also, it’s challenging because for every person is different. However, I want to try something.
Imagine that you are driving, or watching a movie, or simply lying in bed sleeping. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, you feel a hot flash, and then you start feeling dizzy. You feel you are going to faint, and because this happens suddenly your first thought is that most likely you are having a heart attack or going through something fatal. That simple initial thought starts a chain reaction in your brain releasing a bunch of other inexplicable random thoughts that create a huge mess in your brain. Then those thoughts get tangled. In a matter of seconds you get all of these messages that you have created, all at the same time, all colliding with each other, and you are desperately trying to find a resolution, but instead, because they are tangled in your head you have no clarity. You get trapped in your own head, and is like sinking into a messy hole, all while having physical symptoms that assure you that you are in fact ill.
Not easy to understand right? Good news is you don’t have to. I recently found a sentence online that inspired me to write this post: “I don’t want you to save me. I want you to stand by my side as I save myself.” Thank you for this sentence, whoever you are that wrote it. Usually our friends and family want to find an answer for us, they want to rescue us from this. They try to understand what we are going through. And when they can’t, they get frustrated.
Let’s avoid that frustration, yours and mine. The only thing you can do is to be by my side. Let me get detangled on my own, but don’t leave me alone though. Also, don’t try to tell me how to solve the problem from your perspective. I know you mean no harm, but it becomes frustrating when people around tell you how YOU should solve this issue when they have no clue of what anxiety really is. Trust me. We, the ones who suffer from this thing, have tried several options and we are in constant search of things to help us deal with this situation, in part because we desperately want to avoid the judgment from people that won’t understand it.
So if you are around me or any other person having a panic or anxiety attack, remember in that moment our head is a mess of thoughts. Maybe you can just hold my hand, tell me a joke, sing me a song, or simply be my support, and I am not exactly talking only in emotional terms but if I feel dizzy, I will appreciate you helping me not to fall on my ass.
Just a simple act of presence can take us from the tangled thoughts and help us refocus our attention in a singularity, thus we can recover faster. Thank you for understanding that you don’t have to understand me, if that makes sense…