One of the tell-tale signs that I’m heading for an anxiety attack is an intense feeling of agitation. Everything is heightened and everything is irritating.
Sounds are amplified to an unbearable level. People breathing, chewing, speaking. Children crying, all of them claw at me as the noise swells and swells until I can hear my own heart beating and the blood rushing past my ears. I can’t concentrate as the noises swim around in my head. Voices competing to be heard and are lost in the din. I’m stood in the middle of a motorway surrounded by swarms of traffic, trying to find a safe way to cross but never quite finding a gap.
I can’t walk quickly enough. I’m desperate to escape but unsure where to go or what exactly it is I’m trying to flee from. I want to run but I’ve nowhere to go because wherever I went, this would surely follow.
Everything feels more intense. The heat is too hot, the cold is too cold, my skin feels sore and flush and electric and painful.
My eyes struggle to focus, not really knowing where to look. Everything is unbearably loud and yet, muffled and unintelligible. I can’t pick out the sound I am supposed to be hearing from the ones that are imposing and chaotic.
My brain rattles in my head and I want to lash out or run and hide. Fight or flight is kicking in and it’s only a matter of time before a full blown panic attack invades my entire being, knocks me out of the way and takes over without me being able to do a thing to stop it.
But sometimes I see the signs and the patterns and I can step in and intervene on my own behalf. I’m getting better at this, feeling it coming like a wave and stepping out of it’s path before it knocks me over.
It happened yesterday while I was in town and I managed to stop it. This was a huge victory for me, but more amazingly than this, nobody else seemed to notice. I could have told them and perhaps I should have, but I didn’t and instead of focusing on all the things and feelings that were driving me to distraction, I breathed. I breathed deeply and I sipped water and took a bit of time to be silent and to focus on something other than where I was and I came through it unscathed.
Next time I might not manage it and that’s okay because this time I did and that’s something for me to feel happy about.
Anxiety is a war, not a battle. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. It’s all okay as long as we keep trying. Trying to win back the terrain that is our true self. That is the real victory.
Never give up.