Physical symptoms ALWAYS set off my panic attacks and this one was no different – I was already tired, feeling like I couldn’t focus – it was just one of those days. As I sat in the meeting room my head began to spin, I felt weak and dizzy, and then the tell tail signs started appearing – body starting to overheat, feeling of anxiety rushing in, bowels changing, etc. Eventually I realised that I needed to get moving, let the energy move, so I walked back to my office and just let the situation take itself where it needed to go.
This account isn’t really going to be about what went wrong in this situation, rather, the positive things that came out of this experience.
When I was in my office I felt the panic come on, and I define panic in this way – if you feel like the only option you have is to run away, to get out of the situation, THAT is panic. Anxiety merely gives you the idea that you may not have any other option, but panic is definitely anchored in YOU HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE BUT TO FLEE.
So for a moment I entertained the idea of picking up my bags and running out the door, however there were a number of things stopping me. 1) my manager was in charge of the meeting I had come from, so I couldn’t quickly let them know I was leaving, and b) it’s not fair to the organisation for me to just up and leave – it also makes me look bad, not giving a reason for going.
What was I to do? This is where the first positive comes into play – I spoke to my HR representative. I actually reached out to someone, and I literally said to her “I have trouble with anxiety, and I’m having an attack right now, could you help?” and, of course, she was more than happy to sit me down and let me do my thing in order to feel good. She then left the room to speak to my manager so that I didn’t have to (which sometimes brings up more of the panic.)
The second positive is that I was able, eventually, to let the panic pass. I began to focus on my body, making peace with where I was at that moment, and just accepting myself. This is what is happening to me right now. It won’t last forever, although it may sometimes feel like it, and I just have to relax into it. I know that sounds weird, right? Relax INTO a panic attack… but it worked.
Eventually the HR person came back to inform me they had spoken to my manager and I was free to go, if that’s what I wanted to do. I told her that’s what I would like to do – I knew in that moment that if I had stayed at work the anxiety would have just returned – although I am not “sick” I do feel as though I’m not in a state to go a whole 8 hours. I think that’s an important judgement to make – I have no interest in pushing myself.
And here is where the two last positives come into play.
First, I didn’t give myself crap for having (yet another) panic attack. I guess this melds into the acceptance I allowed in the panicked state. If you accept that it’s just a piece of who you are, and just what you are going through at that moment, I think that allows room for growth – to know that while this is what is happening, I can always choose something different.
I did feel a little bad when I thought about “letting people down” e.g. my team, my manager, and also, in a monetary sense, my partner, but I didn’t feel like putting myself down.
The last positive out of all this was my ability to drive home – which is a big one for me. I’ve always had an experience of the result of a panic attack was someone else having to come to my rescue. It feels great to be able to recognise that I came to MY OWN rescue. I AM strong. I AM capable.
So, that’s my spin to positive on an otherwise possible negative experience.