Reverse Psychology on Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can often feel like you're losing control, or perhaps going to lose it and go crazy. Some experience derealization---a sense of a surreal world---as if you're in your own home, but it's a different place somehow. Many people are experiencing this derealization these days ever since the pandemic has come to a low simmer. I'm sure you know many people who don't go out as much---or at all. And once we step outside, it feels different---surreal---weird---foggy, right? It's not the same world, we think to ourselves. It doesn't feel like the same place. That's how people who suffer with agoraphobia feel. Long periods inside their home, or long periods avoiding places can make some feel as though they're in a different world altogether. I sometimes chuckle, because a lot of these 'spiritualists' on TikTok claim that the world ended in 2012 and that we are living in a different universe, which is why we feel so disconnected. A lot of conspiracy theories, including the intriguing Mandela Effect. (You can go down that rabbit hole if you'd like.)
Anxiety can be so debilitating. From palpitations, to a racing heart, tight chest or a sense of impending doom. But all of these "symptoms" are not real. I mean---they feel real, but they're not responding to a real situation. For instance, your heart should race when a bear is chasing you or when you are threatened with real danger. For some people like myself, I found myself waking up in the morning with a racing heart and then, that alone would make my anxiety worse, thinking, "Am I having a heart attack?" My one thought of a possible heart attack would then raise my heart rate. Then, what comes next is the heart rate monitoring. If I saw that my heart was racing more than 100 beats per minute, then my initial fear would raise it to 115....and then to 130....and so on. It starts with a thought. Once your adrenaline and stress hormones are activated from the 'fight or flight' response, you have to accept what you are going to experience for the next hour or maybe even hours of adrenaline.
Let me say this first: always get checked out with a physical exam by your primary physician and a full work up on your heart: EKG, echocardiogram and a stress test. After you have done that, know that your heart is strong and healthy. Also know that it is doing its job. Sometimes I would get scared if I felt a palpitation after I ate dinner. But I learned that our hearts pump harder to digest our food, sometimes having the heart skip a beat. And this is totally normal. Whenever you feel that, just say, "So what---my heart is doing its job." This also happens after I exercise sometimes. My heart rate was high, and when you stop exercising, your heart rate is lowering, sometimes making it feel like it skipped a beat. Totally normal. They're called PVCs and they're harmless. Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) are extra heartbeats that begin in one of the heart's two lower pumping chambers (ventricles). These extra beats disrupt the regular heart rhythm, sometimes causing a sensation of a fluttering or a skipped beat in the chest.
Put Your Panic to the Challenge
Have you ever heard of the phrase, "Whatever you resist, persists?" It's true. When you try to stop a panic attack, what ends up happening? You panic more. But what if you say to 'your' panic attack, "Hi, glad to see you again! I invite you to make my heart pump faster!" Invite it in to stay longer. Don't be afraid of it. When one sensation arises, welcome it. Chest tightness? Bring it on more! Breathlessness? Palpitations? Just say, "I'm excited about this anxious feeling!"
Did you know that our bodies can cause unpleasant sensations like anxiety over something good? If you're experiencing anxiety out of nowhere, try and think about your environment, what has transpired that day or who you are around. You might be surprised that your nervousness is a good "excited" response, rather than a bad one. Remember, it starts with a thought. If you deem it bad, you will most likely exhilarate it into a panic attack that is seemingly bad. Recognize the difference, or----just keep in mind that it's all good because it's our bodies way of protecting us. When you feel your heart pumping---just think how amazing your body works, protecting you and giving you the ability to either fight or flight. I'm just learning this recently, and so far it's been working. I also know that the first couple of months after you learn how to psyche out your panic, there are setbacks. But setbacks are good! It's all part of the process.
Yes, it's a new word, "hangxiety." This can happen even if you're a moderate drinker. This is why I quit drinking last year. I was confused, because I only drank two glasses of wine at night and on the weekends, maybe three or four. I noticed at first I would wake up after three hours and find myself up the rest of the night. I never slept when I drank on a daily basis. Then it worsened, even though I didn't drink more. I would wake up after three hours with a racing heart and palpitations. On a few occasions, my heart rate would rise up to 200 beats per minute! The emergency room knew me on a first name basis, that's how bad it was. It wasn't until a few years later until I realized it was the alcohol doing this. I tried the 90 days sober approach, and realized I never had these problems. Did the "Sober October" and all of the "Dry January" trends to finally come to the conclusion that alcohol was worsening my anxiety. So in February of 2021, while my heart was racing through my chest, I promised myself I would never drink again! I wanted my life to be better. I needed to do better. I needed to cope with my internal struggles without a crutch. And the healing began... but not without a few setbacks here and there. My cardiologist explained to me that when people drink, our blood vessels dilate, making the heart pump harder and faster. Some people are sensitive enough to notice it---especially those who suffer with anxiety. The glass of wine that made me feel good for a couple of hours, turned into the glass of wine that tortured me for 24 hours after it wore off.
If you suffer with anxiety, you most likely experience depression on some level (or more.) My number one go-to is God. He has been the only one to comfort me when I was crying a million tears onto my dog's fur. Yes, and my Lola helped too. But God sent that little angel into my life. If it weren't for God, I would've probably been pushing up daisies by now. My heart was so so heavy, thinking about the losses, my dad, my mom, our childhood home and even grieving my old former life. And each time I venture over to those thoughts, I try to remind myself how far I've come and that I can't live in the past if I want to be okay in my present. But that's hard to do, especially with certain reminders like anniversaries, birthdays, a certain song or anything that reminds you of a loved one. Grief isn't temporary---but it shouldn't be a permanent place of residence.
In Psalm 34:18 it says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
I was convinced that I was die from "broken heart syndrome," which is actually a real medical term. Broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition that's often brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. The condition can also be triggered by a serious physical illness or surgery. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they're having a heart attack. The muscles of the heart become weak. Have you ever heard the term "heart strings" before? They're actually the bindings/strings to which stabilize your heart. "Stop playing with my heart strings." It's a real thing. So is a broken heart. The chordae tendineae are a group of tough, tendinous strands in the heart. They are commonly referred to as the “heart strings” since they resemble small pieces of string. Functionally, the chordae tendineae play a vital role in holding the atrioventricular valves in place while the heart is pumping blood.
In John 16:22 it reminds us of this promise: "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."
Pslam 147:3 says, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
There are more comforting promises in the Bible that has helped me through my darkest days. Faith has saved so many people in their own grief and depression. Studies show that people with faith who were grieving recovered twice as much as opposed to those who didn't have faith. Think about that.
Thanks for reading. Whatever led you to read my blog today, just know that nothing is a coincidence. We all share a commonality with fear, anxiety, sadness and raw emotions in general. It's been stigmatized for many years. Never be ashamed for how you feel or how you deal with your emotions. If necessary, get support and find your mental wellness tribe. This could be group therapy, recovery group or even church. Even though you are never alone, because God will never leave you, but he left us with some awesome people to connect with.