This is what an anxiety attack feels like for me. It's fresh in my mind because I had two this morning.
An anxiety attack can be debilitating and frustrating. It's frustrating because when I am in the grips of one it feels so illogical and irrational. Intellectually I tell myself to just take a deep breath and close my eyes. It's all fine. But then there's the illness - the part that is often loudest and that screams at me. Fight or flight takes hold and I can only focus on breaking free of the moment. Doing whatever it takes.
So what exactly sent me tumbling over the precipice of anxiety today? Was it public speaking? Nope - I love that sort of thing. It was noise and groups of people surrounding me.
The first small anxiety attack was brought on by a fire drill at work. It wasn't the drill itself, it was the amount of people, the small area, and the noise. I felt uncomfortable and my breathing became labored and shallow. Once I got outside in the fresh air I was OK.
Then there was the department meeting. Fifty people in a meeting room, broken into three groups and a people talking all at once. I began to feel uncomfortable again, not having been fully recovered from the earlier attack. By the end of the meeting I was eager to leave the room - my discomfort was rising but I was still OK. Then came the dreaded elevator ride.
There is always one or two people who will squeeze into the elevator just before the doors close. It's my worst nightmare. Too many people in too small of a space. Then add multiple loud conversations and I am a goner. All bets are off and the anxiety grabs me by my throat.
When I am in this moment of pain I may appear angry or upset. I am short with you if you speak to me. I might appear dismissive. I am simply not capable of social niceties. I can't act how you expect me to or how you want me to. I just can't and I don't have the luxury of time to explain to you in the moment why it's not about you. I'm in survival mode. I want to flee this space, this moment in time.
How can you help me? Allow me physical space and some time to catch my breath - literally. I need to be alone and quiet. I will be OK - this I know. And please don't think it's about you because it simply is not. So please, please don't be angry or annoyed or hurt. This isn't about you or even about me, really. It's about mental illness.
Tonight, as I write this, I am listening to calming, peaceful music. I spent the afternoon working from home, alone and in the recuperative stillness of quiet. I am tired - exhausted from the spinning merry go round. But I am also fine. Tomorrow is a new day and I will be fine then, too. Even if I am not - if depression or anxiety visit again, it will be OK. I will be OK. Because I don't, won't quit.
P.S. If you would like to learn more about anxiety disorders please visit the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada website