Have you, or someone close to you, ever experienced anxiety or panic? Would you recognize it, the symptoms? I admit it, I would not have. So what better place to begin a new journey in education about ourselves than with the symptoms.
Anxiety or panic can come out of nowhere. It can hit like a ton of bricks falling on you. And, it can be short lived or maybe not so short.
According to webmd.com, the attacks will contain at least four of the following:
Sudden overwhelming fear, palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, sense of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, a feeling of being detached from the world, fear if dying, numbness or tingling in limbs or entire body, or chills and/or hot flushes.
Before that wonderful gift prepared by a band of lunatics - you know the gift: Covid - the worst thing I had to deal with was COPD. And, I do NOT make light of dealing with COPD. It is not for the light or faint of heart. And, it sucks, big time!
One thing with COPD that we all learn up front, is how to breathe.
What? Huh? Learn to breathe?
Until you experience it, you cannot fully understand it, but yes, we had to learn to breathe.
This you can take to the bank and deposit: when a COPD attack begins, everything you know about breathing goes out the window.
Trust me, when you feel like you are suffocating because you can't get any air in, you become acquainted with anxiety and/or panic.
Momentarily, any way.
At that point, one must force oneself to block out everything and focus on a huge breath out. Well, it won't be huge, but still, forcing what you can out of your lungs.
Then, focus completely on breathing in as if you are doing so through a straw and breathing out the same way.
As soon, as the comfort of that routine begins to take affect and to calm down the anxiety, life begins again, so to speak.
That's every day life for some of us.
But then, the lunacy of Covid 19 starts and we are "advised" to wear masks.
Unless, or until you have breathing issues, you do not realize how serious and harmful that is to us.
Trust me, if you have a hard time breathing in the best of times, just try it with a mask over you nose and mouth.
It does hamper - to a huge degree - one's ability to breath.
When that happens, whether we are aware of it or not, the anxiety level starts going up immediately and can blast off into full panic mode very quickly.
That is NO exaggeration.
It's not that I am stubborn, but the doctor (yes, in the Navy) who diagnosed my COPD, was also the first homeopathic physician I had ever met. She, another friend and I ran almost every day together on base.
She pointed out how I would start coughing when we started our cool down. Then the questions began.
She pointed out that she had noticed I was able to regulate my breathing very quickly and enjoy a great run on some days, but at other times struggled. Some days, I even stopped and walked back.
So she "advised" (that's military speak for "ordered") me to come talk to her and she made an appointment right there with me for the next day.
Once she delivered the wonderful good news that contained the word COPD, she captured my attention with a warning:
"What I am about to say to you will go against what just about every other doctor would tell you, prescribe, and/or advise you to do. But, hear me out..."
First, she stated she could prescribe an inhaler and other meds, but advised against it.
She stated she had found that, while that provided immediate relief, in the long run it would send me in a downward trend quicker.
She taught me how to breathe, gave me tips on backing off and centering on my breathing until it was under control, and assured me that come PRT time, she would have my back if I had an attack on that day, so I would be given a make up day.
She shared many of the same things my Dad (a pharmacist) did about depending on medication versus more natural and less harmful avenues.
It has been an adventure. One that has sped up the last 3-4 years due to circumstances beyond my control.
The true nosedive began the day our horrendous governor decreed that medical exemptions were no longer going to be observed.
I no longer go in stores. I order groceries and pick them up. I use drive thru. Or, in the case, for example, with Jersey Mike's, will place an order online, then don a mask long enough to get instore, pick up my lunch and get out.
And, trust me, I am chugging like a train trying to breathe in that short time.
I had a BAD attack with some friends in the open, fresh air at the beach recently. It was BAD.
My dear friend quietly raised the anxiety attack phrase.
So, I did what I do. Pulled up my favorite search engine and began research.
Another factor in my case is PTSD from childhood abuse and some similar issues in the military.
One of the other groups who have valid and horrendous issues with masks are those with PTSD.
In the past, I would have been one of the first to say "Suck it up!" to something like a panic or anxiety attack.
Until I realized I was and had been experiencing them first hand. And, to the point I really thought it was my time to rejoice in Heaven. Which is something I pray for daily.
However, that doesn't mean I don't try everything I have been taught to regain control over the breathing, believe me!
Now that I have come to the realization that because of Covid, the masks and other issues, I suffer panic attacks. They are real. They are vicious. They can be terrifying.
They can be controlled.
And part of dealing with that, I hope, is that in sharing this, someone else out there will find some hope, some help and learn they are not alone!
"Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).
These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time. You may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings. Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood."
The Mayo Clinic shares a list of complications that include depression, substance abuse, digestive problems, headaches, social isolation - hey wait! Right now, that's not a complication; it's one of the causes!!
So, where am I in my journey?
Honestly, struggling but fighting.
So, if you see me or anyone else out looking like they are struggling when walking, climbing stairs, picking up a package and carrying it, just be patient.
Don't try to engage us in conversation if we are visibly struggling to breathe. Just be patient and give us time to get it under control.
Lastly, my personal advice is to recognize the causes to your anxiety and panic, avoid them, and, if necessary and possible, get away from them.
Mostly, don't give up!
At first, I kept a straw close at hand and literally breathed through that until my breathing calmed down. Don't be embarrassed to do the same!
Also don't be afraid to let someone who really doesn't understand know that, you are okay, you just need some time to breathe, and ask them to not expect conversation for a minute or two.
If you really want to help those around you, don't smoke in their vicinity, don't wear heavy scents, don't take them to places where any or all of the above are real.
Thank you for reading. If you know of someone, anyone who does or appears to suffer anxiety/panic attacks, has breathing issues, or anything else, always remember the word "patience" first and go from them.
Now, go forth, breathe some fresh, clean air ad have a wonderful and safe week!