Blog: My Anxiety Attack: How it felt.


I don’t see perfect as a concept that can ever be a reality. In life we can achieve happiness in many areas, but sometimes there are other areas that we feel more negative about. Right now, that would probably accurately describe where I am at.

Anxiety is an awful feeling.  When it becomes overwhelming, possibly leading to an anxiety attack (also known as a panic attack) it can leave us in a pretty terrible state.  Its not just the actual attack that can be awful, the recovery from this can be pretty brutal.  I’ve written about how this feels previous.

Anxiety comes in different forms, and effects people in different ways.  It sometimes feels like society has generalised views about anxiety.  It doesn’t just come on and switch off immediately, its not just about feeling nervous.

From my perspective one thing that is less talked about is the invisible triggers (this is not a technical term; this is my own words). This is where anxiety happens, and you do not know the cause or trigger of the event.

I’m going to tell you a brief story:

** This is an account discussing anxiety. Warning: this could be triggering for some. **

It was a Monday.  I had gone to bed the previous night around 11pm, feeling relaxed and calm.  A fairly typical Sunday evening for me with a focus on relaxation before attempting sleep.

That Monday morning, I woke early, around 90 minutes before my alarm. My chest felt incredibly tight, as if it was constricting my insides.  This constricted feeling made normal breathing very difficult.  A mind-numbing headache and a light shaking feeling also was present in my limbs. And just to cap it off, a terrible cough had set in. You might think I’ve woken up with a respiratory illness, but that’s not the answer.

This was an anxiety attack.

I’d been woken up by the sudden onset of an anxiety attack.  I had encountered these a few times before.  The first time you have one, you might feel like you’re having a heart attack.  The first one I had I was in the presence of my Mum (a retired nurse) so I got lucky in a sense.  During an anxiety attack I focus on the immediate situation, breaking out of that moment.  I was alone, so it was down to me to handle it in that instance.

To break out of the attack, I focused heavily on breathing control techniques, whilst channelling my thoughts as much as possible to focus on something positive.  This was purely to break the attack and regain control.  It can take a fair amount of time to break free.

Sadly, that’s not usually where it ends.  An end of an anxiety attack is really the beginning of the recovery.  Since I’ve written about this before, I’ll let you read up on that separately.

It usually takes a couple of days to recover from this, if I am lucky. Part of my usual process is to look at the cause and trigger.  From the story I just told you, I was unable to identify the trigger, it was allusive.  This is what for me, forms part of generalised anxiety.  The triggers can often be just that: general and not set.  This is one of those times.  The trigger most likely is lost to something in my sleep that night.

I’m sharing this story to raise awareness.  If someone tells you they are experiencing anxiety, please take it seriously.

The story I told you was a more severe example, this continued for a full week, with a second anxiety attack on the Thursday afternoon. Its not pretty, it has physical manifestations and its certainly not “just in my head,” as one person chose to dismiss me with.

I encourage open discussion of mental ill health, particularly breaking misconceptions about what it feels like.

Self care is not selfish, and when this happens, I must also look after myself first.

This does not make me weak. In a sense it gives me a power to talk about something many will not. It also doesn’t define me.

Look after yourselves.

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