For those of you who have not figured it out yet, I'm pretty fucked up. It's a secret I like to keep from those who are a safe distance away from me. I'm not talking about physically. That's a whole different, big ass, medical file. I'm talking about my panic attacks. I've deiced to write about my panic attacks because I feel like a lot of people have them, and yet they're not aware. Here is my self-diagnosis: I am a physically disabled woman with control issues. Thus, I have been anxious about things going the right way since I was a child. I think this is where my anxiety stems from. It then blossomed into full blown panic attacks when I was 17. Hold on to your britches. This is going to get twisted. I don't think I can't process happiness properly. I want everything to go my way, but when it does my body suddenly freaks out. It's like my subconscious can't believe that things are actually going my way... ironic isn't it?
I've been told that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Those words have been ingrained into my temporal lobe. My first huge panic attack happened after I got accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design. Coming from a small island, I never thought I would be moving to Savannah, Georgia to study my dream, fashion. It was everything I had wanted since I was nine years old. That night my dad had left town. He's always been emotional support for me, so the fact that he wasn't there and that I was training a new caretaker that night made everything a lot more terrifying. My mom had just called to tell me that she was on her way home, and all of a sudden I started having heart palpitations and life became blurry (I know that's not the right terminology but that's what it felt like). Everything in my life felt unreal. It was as though every memory I had ever had was a dream, and I was about to die... or wake up? I freaked the fuck out. I called my mom and started crying hysterically. I've always been very put together, but at that moment I was not. I've always been able to describe my symptoms to a T, but this time I just couldn't. It was real. It felt like the only real thing that had ever happened to me. My mom came home and tried her best to calm me down, but she wasn't very open to the idea of panic attacks, at least not at the time, so it was hard for her. I was laying in bed, and all I wanted to do was jump up and down, but I'm disabled. I can't move. I felt trapped. After about half an hour I realized I wasn't dead yet, so shit couldn't be that bad, and my mom decided to call my dad. My dad told me a very funny story about his friend who also had panic attacks. He said he coped by laying on the floor, no matter where he was. One day his doctor told him to just wait and die because he would quickly realize that there was nothing wrong with him. That's when it all clicked. There is nothing wrong. Even though I did not want to fall asleep because I thought that if I shut my eyes I would die I still knew that that night there was nothing wrong.
The next day I did intense research on panic attacks. Turns out, it is triggered by the flight or fight response. Let the record show that I can neither fight, nor fly, so that's confusing. In addition to this, there is a shit long list of symptoms for panic attacks. I suggest you look them up. Odds are you've had one, and to mix things up they like to interchange their symptoms so you'll never know what's coming next. I've had every symptom at least once. There was a point in my life where I thought it was funny when a new one popped up. It was like "oh wow shortness of breath? That's a new one."
I have three suggestions when it comes to dealing with panic attacks. One is to talk about it out loud with someone. Anyone. I always have someone with me, so that works out. Talk about your symptoms, and try to work out what may be triggering you at that moment. Is this a primary attack or an aftershock? (I like to think of panic attacks like earthquakes. You have your first big one followed by smaller tremors later on.) Two is to distract yourself. I tell people that my lucky color is red because even though this makes no sense every time I feel like I might have a panic attack I look for the color red. By looking for the color desperately while trying to keep it on the DL I sometimes forget about the attack in the first place. With these tips, I've managed to control my panic attacks in very public places with no one knowing. Three leans more into how to overcome them. Push yourself. If you're afraid of talking in front of a class, raise your hand and go first. I did this all through my freshman and sophomore year. Every time I strolled into the classroom, I would have a panic attack. When I thought I got away with it, and on that day I wasn't going to have one, it would start in the middle of the class. So I used to make my assistant raise her hand and I would just come up with a random question and talk in front of people because we all know how terrifying it is to sound stupid in front of strangers. So, I just pushed myself into doing so. Every time I'm alone in the car I have a panic attack, so I would make my dad go get milk at the gas station, he would leave me in the car for like five minutes and I would have a panic attack. I didn't die, so I kind of figured...everything's fine. What I'm trying to say is that if you're scared, you should probably do it. If not, you're just letting your body control you with fear. Since you're not a caveman, really, what do you have to be afraid of?
I am currently still trying to deal with the idea that I deserve to be happy, and that no one should get in the way of that, even me. My body is just going to have to get over it and enjoy life for what it is. I'm trying to follow my own advice, even though I feel like the older I get the more pendeja (feel free to look it up) I get. I'm high-diving into moments that make me happy, even if it makes me feel like I've lost control.