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Dealing with Anxiety and Panic Attacks

This one is tough to write but it is a part of my life. It doesn’t make sense talking about all those happy moments, trips whatever in my life and ignore the negative things - believe me, there are a lot of those in my life.


Yesterday I was convinced that spending a month or so in Algarve would solve my problems and make me feel better and calmer. Well, the first day was awesome. Now we are on the second night and things aren’t going that well.

There’s one thing I hope no one in this world gets to feel: like no one gets them. Don’t get me wrong, the most important people in my life get me.. but not completely and that’s normal considering that they’ve never been through this. So they can talk and try to help but they’ll never get you a 100% and that's fine. However, I think that everyone that goes through anxiety or any mental illness would benefit from having someone by their side that has felt the same thing and knows exactly how to help because they've been there.


I have a lot of support, but not this. It's normal because one big trigger of my panic attacks is emetophobia (the fear of vomiting) and vomiting is such a normal thing in life that I don't personally know anyone that is afraid.

I don’t want to go into detail about what “started” my anxiety, but I’ve been dealing with it for a long time. Now it's getting worse. Funny though, it started getting worse at a stage of my life where I was happier.


As a kid, I was really scared of dogs. It’s not that I don’t like them, I’m just scared. So that made me, until today, be on edge while I'm outside. This is something very limiting, but once I'm home the thought goes away. And even if I see one that isn’t running like crazy, I'm able to remain calm.


With vomit phobia that’s not it... there’s one big difference. I’m afraid of dogs and I have a phobia of vomiting. I feel that, with therapy, I’ll be definitely able to overcome my fear of dogs. About vomit not so much. So as you can imagine, altogether with my past problems, this doesn’t make it any easier.


I have a lot of traumas in my life that I have to get over - that’s not an easy process - but the damage they’re causing in my daily life makes it necessary to happen.

I’m not ashamed of talking about this because I think that mental illness should be more normalised in our society.

Our brain is the body’s engine, we need it to work properly otherwise we’ll be panicking or depressing and not doing out normal lives. Mainly because your brain gets tired. This is so tiring that I end up sleeping more, not being able to concentrate and when this happens there's your alert for being like "ok we gotta solve this".


After experiencing 5 months of recurrent panic attacks I can tell you that it isn’t healthy at all. I don’t sleep properly. I’m writing this at 4am. And what was the trigger? Physical symptoms of vomit. In these 5 months did I throw up? No. So is this the true cause? Probably not because I can’t even tell why I’m scared. Is it draining? Fuck yes.

After 5 months am I able to racionalize and tell myself I won’t throw up? I try, but it doesn’t work.

So for those who are on the outside with good intentions telling you to try harder don’t have a clue about how difficult it is to racionalize when your body is showing physical symptoms. And the best part is that it's all in your head and you can’t control it properly. That’s why mental illness should be more included in medical care.. whatsoever.


But it isn’t and it takes a lot of pain to go through old traumas to fix your panic disorder. It is draining to have 3 panic attacks per week and thinking about whether or not I’ll vomit more than 10 times per day.

But the worse is having no clue how to calm down during a panic attack and being scared of having one. I never know when they’ll show up and make me feel like shit - I just know they will - making me feel anxious all the time.


The thing about panic attacks' physical symptoms is that they seem so real - and they are, just caused by your head. Stuff like headache, shaking, shivers, crying, upset stomach, nausea, dry mouth,.... they can make you go crazy and feel like you actually have something other than a panic attack. And that's what makes it difficult to stop them. There's only one thing that seems to work with me: inhale 4 seconds, stop 5 seconds, exhale 7. Do this until you feel any better.


It sucks to be in a good stage of your life and your head gets to sabotage it. I know that with quarantine is easy to go crazy and it only gets worse. I wrote this today because I think that, if anyone who's reading this is going through something similar, could feel supported and like they're not alone and they're not the only one feeling like this. That's one thing that calms me down during panic attacks that include physical symptoms - knowing that there are people in the same situation that went through the same and were capable of stopping the panic attack.


There's one advise I have to leave here. Never NEVER try to be strong and avoid feeling what you should feel. Sometimes being strong and faking a smile we'll be worse long term. If you want to cry and scream do it, it's way healthier than faking a smile and ignoring the elephant in the room. Solve everything with yourself as soon as you can, it will avoid stuff like I'm dealing with.


Your mental health is important and put it and yourself above anything else, otherwise, when you want to treat it, it will take ages.


And please, take care of yourself, there's nothing more important than that, mainly facing this big challenge 2020 gave us.


You can talk to me about your experiences on the comments or through IG @lenadosantos, I'll be always open to listen and help.

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