Monday, January 26, 2015

A Thing That Happened

I had a panic attack today. It was the first major one that I've had at school (I think), but I had a somewhat easier time dealing with it than previous moderate to major attacks. I believe it was another triggered panic attack as opposed to one that happened out of the blue, because this morning there were just a lot of things going wrong. The anxiety started in first period, when I realized that I had forgotten my water bottle. Then I pulled out my computer and realized that it was only on 17% battery. This was all on top of a few other little things happened lately, that all accumulated into a panic attack as I was walking from first to second period. By this time, I knew that I would probably have one of those panic attacks that runs its course until it burns out, so I asked the teacher if I could go to a quiet place to deal with it privately. I tried the library, but there was no one there, so I went to my art teacher's room. Luckily, she had a prep period so the room was calm and quiet. The panic attack happened (I don't know how to describe it because I've never seen myself have one from a third person point of view, all I can remember is that I cried a lot and it was hard to breathe) but I was able to control my breathing successfully to where I was no longer panicking after just a few minutes.

The Tuesday counselor and I had sat down together a week or so ago and looked through the DSM-5 to figure out what I have exactly, and settled on the conclusion that I definitely no longer have depression (yay!) and between generalized anxiety or panic attacks it was probably the latter. With panic attacks, it's different because I only get very anxious when I'm stressed and potentially anticipating a panic attack, rather than feeling anxious all the time, as with an anxiety disorder. For me, the symptoms are typically difficulty breathing (I literally have to completely stop doing whatever I'm doing and just focus on breathing in order to get it back in control), dizziness, nausea, and increased heart rate (I measured it once and it was up at 120 BPM).

Another contributing factor (possibly) to my panic attacks is my hypersensitivity. Like most other mental health things, it's not official because my parents refuse to take me to see a psychiatrist and get a diagnostic, but I meet most if not all of the symptoms. I feel things differently, more intensely, not only in hearing and smells, etc. but also with processing feelings. Little things can bring me to the highest of highs and lowest of lows, all within minutes of each other. Sometimes it is amazing to live life so vividly, but other times that same stimulation makes me so overwhelmed that it can trigger a panic attack. With these triggered panic attacks, I might think about everything all at once, or I just stop thinking. My brain enters fight-or-flight mode and all I can focus on is getting somewhere safe and once I'm there to consciously control my breathing.

I hate to skip class like today but I will use all the resources and help I can get for the time being because I need to prevent it from developing into a full blown panic disorder, where I'm always afraid of the next attack (as a result of feeling like I have no way of dealing with it) or where I develop agoraphobia or avoidance issues in an attempt to not have panic attacks. I'm working on managing it, and I know what steps to take even when I don't have my coping mechanisms like candles and glitter jars. I think I'm doing pretty well and on the right path so far.

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