Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Panic attacks and anxiety (Mental Health Awareness)
Welcome to my new feature in which I talk a bit about the books I'm reading, mental health issues, my own experiences and the way in which all three of these things are connected.
Today I'd like to talk to you a little about anxiety and panic attacks. I haven't actually read very many YA books that deal with this subject and if you know of any that do cover anxiety or panic attacks, I would for sure love to hear it. Leave me a comment! The only book that springs to mind as I sat down to write this post is The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, in which the main character, Ruby Oliver has the occasional panic attack and begins seeing a therapist in order to work through how she's feeling. It's an excellent book and series, one that I highly recommend.
Anxiety and panic attacks are both issues that I haven't considered very much until recently. It's only through joining a local support group on Facebook to do with depression that I began to be more aware of my own anxious feelings about a great number of things (the support group is for people dealing with depression, anxiety and panic attacks). I mostly just thought of these things I was anxious about as fears and had never labelled them as anxieties, though of course they are.
And it turns out that I'm anxious about a great number of things. I can't deal very well with driving places that I've never been before or driving on the motorway. Talking on the phone or making small talk with people I don't know well gives me anxiety. Walking into a room or small shop in which I believe someone might look up at me as I enter makes my heart race and my hands go clammy. I could write about my anxieties all day but just thinking about the many different settings and circumstances that make me feel anxious is making my stomach clench up. So I'll stop there.
In terms of panic attacks, there was just one period of time in which I had panic attacks on a fairly regular basis. I had a very difficult transition between the ages of 16 and 17 from high school into taking classes at a local community college. It was a move that I wasn't ready for emotionally and I ended up having quite severe panic attacks just before I entered my classes. My heart beat would race, I'd get quite clammy hands, it felt difficult to breathe, my arms and legs would feel weak and my immediate reponse was always to flee somewhere that I felt comfortable because these large college classes were very intimidating and overwhelming to me. The only place on campus that I felt at all relaxed and comfortable was the library and I spent hours every day there. So much time in fact, that I failed all of my classes and eventually dropped out.
Today, I still don't do very much to combat these feelings of anxiety. My response to these feelings is mostly that of avoidance. Instead of confronting my anxieties, instead of speaking about them, I've mostly just gone out of my way in order to avoid situations in which I might start feeling anxious. I wear headphones during the school run and that is so anti-social that most people don't approach me. I don't talk on the phone wherever possible. If I'm going somewhere new, I either have someone else come along with me (N, usually) or don't go at all. Small shops in general I avoid like the plague. But because I've been made more aware of these things lately, I've always tried to do my best to take small steps towards confronting these anxieties. I've been looking into mindfulness cognitive-behaviour therapy and perhaps some self-help guides. I don't want to live like this forever and I certainly don't want either of my children to pick up on my anxiety-riddled behaviour. We'll see how things go over time.
To find out more about anxiety and panic attacks, click here.