I remember my first panic attack in more detail than I remember losing my virginity or the first time I drove a car by myself. (I guess vivid terror of suddenly not being able to breathe really ingrains itself into your psyche.) It was 1998 and I was watching the “Psycho” remake with my family’s French exchange student. During the infamous shower scene, my throat and lungs tightened inside me like a figure eight knot. I got up and paced around the movie theater, unable to control my body and wondering if I was having a heart attack. I’ve had panic attacks periodically since then, probably due to a combination of biology and circumstance. I’ve made an effort to lessen the conditions that they occur in and for the most part, I live a pretty calm life. My anxiety only spikes in extreme circumstances, such as the rare times I’ve gotten temporarily stuck in a subway underground (I’m claustrophobic).
After a couple of years without anxiety attacks in my everyday life, I’ve started having them again. The stress is related to old stuff resurfacing in my life and the anxiety is pretty much the same, too: my chest tightens, my heart beats too fast, I can’t breathe, and I feel like I’m having a heart attack. (Or, you know, what I assume a heart attack feels like.) I’m 30 now. Panic attacks are still shitty and frustrating, but all the experience I’ve had coaxing myself through them over the years actually does makes them less intense and quicker to get over.
These are my thoughts on what panic attacks are like, how to deal with them, and what I hope other people could understand if they’re trying to help:
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Sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed at the thought of how much I want to accomplish in a given day or week, or how much growing stands between me and whatever distant, self-actualized ideal I hope to someday be. On days when I wake up cranky, thinking about stuff like this creates a snowball effect and suddenly I’m frustrated and calling myself a failure because I’m not living up to some nonexistent hypothetical that nobody else even sees but me — and then I miss out on enjoying all the great stuff that’s happening right in front of me. What I forget a lot is that every second is an opportunity to make a choice that aligns with becoming a calmer, kinder person, or at least could make me feel like more of a “together” person (I’m convinced people who 100 percent have it together don’t actually exist, but that’s another story).
I think one of the biggest reasons we get stuck in personal ruts or find ourselves feeling trapped in routines we absolutely hate is because the prospect of changing our lives sounds gigantic and intimidating. In actuality, epic changes don’t happen overnight. Whether you want to rebuild a relationship, rescue your finances, change the way you treat your body, or just improve your attitude, it will happen slowly as lots of tiny choices start to stack on top of one another. I find that to be a huge relief, because none of us can move a mountain in a day or do things perfectly all day long, but it’s so much easier to make a tiny positive choice in the right direction. Here are a few itsy bitsy changes that don’t always come easily but can make life a bit sweeter. Keep reading »
You probably want to sit down for what I’m about to tell you because it’s going to blow the lid off everything you thought you knew about relationships. A new study done at the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology discovered that fear of being single leads both men and women to settle for relationships that don’t fulfill them. Obviously, I am being sarcastic about this being mind-blowing news. Raise your hand if you’ve continued dating someone you weren’t amped about because you watched The Mamas And The Papas “Behind The Music” and couldn’t bear the thought of choking on a sandwich and having no one there to do the Heimlich Maneuver. Raise your hand if you’ve been exclusive with the fist person you met online because you were new to a city and you were afraid they were the only person you’d meet. Raise your hand if you’ve continued to date someone, knowing they were awful, just because you needed a plus one to your best friend’s wedding? OK. All of us? Good. Then this study is for you! Keep reading »
Most of the “scientific studies” in the Daily Mail make me chuckle (new survey from a contact lens manufacturer says that 90% of people feel self-conscious about wearing glasses!) but this one — about low self-esteem, existential angst and stuffed animals — is worth serious consideration. Keep reading »
The more Robert Pattinson speaks, the more I am convinced that he is The Boyfriend for me. This confounds my better judgement, because there are few things in the zeitgeist of the past ~5 years that I’ve enjoyed less than “Twilight,” but Robert Pattinson, the real Robert Pattinson, is a strange and wonderful being. He hates people and loves dogs! He would improve upon the “Twilight” sex scenes by adding a walrus! He also hates “Twilight”, maybe even more than we do!
In a new interview with Australia’s Sunday Style, the 27-year-old actor got really real, opening up about his anxiety and the insecurities that have defended him against the egotistical pitfalls of fame. “Up until [the moment I get out of the car to the event] I’m a nut case,” he told the publication. “Body dysmorphia, overall tremendous anxiety. I suppose it’s because of these tremendous insecurities that I never found a way to become egotistical. I don’t have a six-pack and I hate going to the gym. I’ve been like that my whole life. I never want to take my shirt off. I’d prefer to get drunk.” You and me both, Rob. He also confessed to being “quite sensitive” in relationships and thinking of himself as the best “gift giver.”
In all seriousness, though, what does it say about me that my ideal man is anxiety-ridden, insecure, very sensitive, and likes to drink? Probably nothing good. [Huffington Post]
Photographer John William Keedy was interested in trying to visualize the dark edges of anxiety. In his series, It’s Hardly Noticeable, Keedy generates powerful visual metaphors that encapsulate just how oppressive and maddening anxiety can feel. The title alone refers to what people with anxiety can fixate on, feel or worry about, that may elude people who don’t share their disorder. Keedy should know: He’s been dealing with anxiety issues for the better part of a decade. His images draw upon the desire for perfection, the need for order and the underlying obsessive need to control and manage one’s surroundings.
Keedy hopes that viewers will identify with his imagery, and feel comforted that they’re not alone. “Is it possible for a society to have a commonly held idea of what is normal, when few individuals in that society actually meet the criteria for normalcy?” Keedy wonders. “These images question the legitimacy of applying the term normal in a societal context by prompting a reconsideration of what, if anything, is normal, or at least what is perceived and labeled as such.” More images after the jump. [John William Keedy] Keep reading »
Do you have anxiety? You’re in good company. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there’s around 40 million people dealing with anxiety disorders in the U.S. alone. That’s a lot of friggin’ people — and I happen to be one of them.
Anxiety is something I live with and manage every day of my life. Most of the time, because I’ve figured out how to manage it in a way that makes sense for me, living on the anxiety spectrum makes me a sensitive, thoughtful and occasionally high-strung person. Sometimes it can really suck, but it’s my reality, so c’est la vie or something. I first developed anxiety when I was graduating from college, which I imagine is fairly typical. You’re birthing yourself into the Real And Terrifying World and there’s so much to think about. My anxiety manifested as insomnia, but, like, a particular kind of insomnia. Every time I would be on the verge of falling asleep, I’d have anxiety about falling asleep, which would wake me up. Awful. That went on for three months before I finally said fuck it and went to student health, where I was diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder. Whoops! Keep reading »
Greetings from zombie-land.
That’s where I’m currently residing as I go through antidepressant withdrawal. It’s a horribly dizzying place, filled with bouts of insomnia, nausea and an episode of neverending flu. It’s not a place I recommend visiting, and yet, I’ve found myself here because I decided to get off of Paxil, the anti-anxiety drug I’ve been on–off and on–for the last 10 years. And let me tell you, withdrawal is a bitch. Keep reading »
According to prominent horror critics, the things that scare us as a culture usually have a lot to do with whatever we repress and suppress. Horror is about the thin boundary between the outside and the inside being broken — both literally, as in the piercing of skin, and metaphorically, as in the destruction of innocence or psychological disillusionment.
Horror is also a very individual thing, and what scares some of us has no impact on others. For me, it’s tight, small, cramped spaces — there’s probably some psychoanalytic Freudian reason for that, but I’m afraid to look too deep. But for others, it’s aliens, or disease outbreak, or serial killers, or kittens (I don’t judge). What scares us does in some ways define us.
After the jump, seven anxiety-producing movies that terrify and scare the bejesus out of The Frisky staff. And share the movie that makes your heartbeat race in the comments!
I am not a beach person. The way seagulls swoop over your head like rats with wings terrifies me. I hate that feeling of sand caked in every crevice.
But when my friend Thomas invited my husband and I to a nude federal beach in New Jersey, rumored to be filled with spectacularly hung men and tanned, pierced women, I decided it was something worth trying.
“I think we should go,” I told my husband.
Maybe it was because I needed a change. Spring had been of those staying-in-bed-smoking-cigarettes instead of going out seasons. I found myself fighting a constant drowsiness and listening to Jewel. Some days it took an effort to look both ways before crossing the street. Keep reading »