Earlier today, Lauren on Lucky Otters Haven wrote a post called: Panic attacks, dissociation, and my son’s anxiety issues. A brilliant writer, Lauren explains panic attacks in such a vivid way that if you’ve never had one, after reading her post, you will have a very good idea of what they are like.
After growing up with all kinds of trauma and abuse, I began having severe panic attacks in my adolescence. These attacks continued, with increasing frequency and intensity, during my teens and early twenties. Most of my panic attacks were just as horrific as Lauren describes.
Here is something weird I accidentally discovered that helped me stop having the worst kind of panic attacks. I told a therapist about this years ago, and he said it actually made sense that doing this would stop my panics. He explained the reason why, but I didn’t really understand his explanation, and I have long since forgotten what he said.
Every time I had a major panic attack, with the exception of the last one, I would try with all of my might to make the panic stop. Especially when it happened in public, because the embarrassment of strangers looking at me like I was looney tunes, made the horror even worse. But it did not matter how hard I struggled to stop being panicked, the panic attacks were completely beyond my control.
One day I was in a busy mall in the city of Houston, surrounded by people, when THE WORLD IS ENDING RIGHT NOW AND I AM ABOUT TO DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH sensation flooded all through me. But this time, instead of trying to stop my panicked feelings, knowing that it was futile to try, I got MAD. The reason for my anger is because I was sick and tired of going through panic attack HELL every other day or so, at random times and in random places. The panic attacks were ruining my life!
In my anger, I did something perverse. I decided that, instead of futiley trying to STOP my fear, I was going to do the exact opposite and try, on purpose, to INCREASE my fear — to the maximum! I know how crazy this sounds. I was just so fed up at that point, I guess my mind was done with trying to be “rational!”
So, I did it. What I mean is, I TRIED to do it. Instead of trying to calm my racing heart and my hyperventilating breaths, I tried to make my breathing go faster and my heart pound harder than ever before. Instead of trying to calm the unbearable, overwhelming panic sensations, I tried to make my fear worse! By golly, I was so freaking ANGRY, that I was going for the World Record of Panic Attacks!
Can you guess what happened? My panic attack stopped — almost immediately. And, I have never had a full-blown panic attack, since that day! Moments of anxiety, yes. Episodes of feeling a mild depersonalization or dissociation. But never again, in approximately four decades of living through life’s ups and downs, have I had another full-fledged panic. Yet, prior to my weird “reverse psychology” attempt to make my panic worse, I was having these hellish attacks several times a week. Sometimes several in a day!
I wish I could remember what the therapist told me years ago about why this worked for me. Something about there being power in not fighting the fear, in going with the fear, which ultimately gave me control over my fear — maybe? I don’t know for sure, I just know that for me, this worked!
I hope this will work for Lauren ‘s son, and for anyone else who may read this and decide to try it. But please bear in mind that I am not a therapist or any kind of a medical professional. If you are having panic attacks, seeing a licensed therapist and asking their advice before trying this, would be a good idea. I am not responsible if you try this on your own and you give yourself a heart attack or your head blows up! 😀
One last thing: I am now a Christian, meaning that I believe in and follow Christ Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. However, I was agnostic, almost an atheist, back in the days when I was having panic attacks so bad, that they put me in hospital emergency rooms on several occasions. My point is: perhaps if I had been a Christian then, praying to God and quoting bible verses about not living in fear, may have helped me? I don’t know. But for where I was at the time, because I did not believe, when I tried praying or reciting something like Psalm 23, it had zero effect on my panic.
Thank you for reading, and God bless.