“Panic Attack, Aisle 53”


Having panic attacks in public, and how I am learning to keep my cool.

Before I began taking medication for anxiety and depression, I used to experience “textbook” panic attacks quite often.  What is this experience like, you ask.

Whenever the attacks happened, I always thought I was having a heart attack. These attacks were nothing short of terrifying. My heart would start racing, and I could feel it beating in my chest.  I always became sweaty and felt nauseous. I would have a sudden urge to use the restroom.  Also, I hyperventilated and actually thought I was dying.  

Once I began taking an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication, the panic attacks, such as these, stopped happening.  Instead, what I experience from time to time is more of an anxiety attack.  I still call them panic attacks, but they are much different in nature than what I originally experienced.  

What my panic attacks are like today…

Today, when I have a “panic attack”, my body reacts differently. I no longer believe I am dying during the attack.  Although, one thing is similar, and that is the feeling that I have lost complete control of myself.   

Sometimes it starts with just overwhelming anxiety. Often, it occurs when I am extremely stressed out and have too many things on my plate. Usually, my mind is inundated with way too many thoughts. I usually am unable to think straight and make sense of all the noise in my head. I begin to get scared that I am way too inadequate to take care of what needs to be done.

Once I start to freak out, I hyperventilate and become very nervous. Generally, I start crying and lose all confidence in myself. I feel like I am incapable of doing anything. Sadly, this has happened way too many times at my job. Many times when this happens I end up leaving work because I have not been able to soothe myself during these stressful times.

So, I had a panic attack in the middle of Lowe’s…

I was with my husband and 2 children. I had been sick for about 2 days in a row suffering from migraines with nausea.  So,  felt physically uncomfortable at the time. My husband was having a piece of wood cut. During that time, I waited down in the lumber section browsing through Pinterest on my phone, which is one of my favorite things to do!  

I found a pin about anxiety disorders. I often find pins and just save them without really reading the content. But, this particular pin caught my eye, and I began reading it. It had different quotes in it that people diagnosed with anxiety disorders made to explain how their anxiety made them feel. As I read it, I started to feel very uneasy. My stomach started doing flips as I realized that more than half the quotes I say to myself on a regular basis. Here is a link to that pin I read.   Do any of these quotes resonate with you?  

Sadly, anxiety controls a big portion of my life.

As this realization hit me in the gut, I understood just how much I allow anxiety to control my life. It scared me quite a bit. I started to cry and before you knew it, I was unable to stop.  So, as I am standing there in the middle of the lumber section in aisle 53 at Lowe’s, I started to panic. I was mostly worried that someone would see me in distress and walk up to me to see if I needed help. how embarrassing would that be?  

My next thought was I had to leave the store immediately, because that is always the answer to this type of situation for me. However, my husband was nowhere in sight and I was too embarrassed to go searching for him. I decided to lean against the stall where they keep the lumber and rest my head, but really I was hiding my face from anyone who walked by.

How do I take control of my panic attacks?

But, it gave me the opportunity to think and to simply breathe. The first thing I said to myself was “You are okay. Nothing is wrong. Just breathe. So I began taking deep cleansing breaths in and out to help slow my heart rate down. This actually worked!  I finally started to relax, and as I continued breathing, I also stopped crying. I regained my composure within a few minutes. My anxiety subsided and I was able to step away from the shelves.

I have to say, that just getting this anxiety under control on my own gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment. So many times I have to rely on other people to help me calm down. But, this time I was able to calm and soothe my out of control anxiety by myself!

Wow!  This was a great realization for me!  Using coping skills for panic attacks really do help!

Do you have panic attacks?  I am curious to know what helps you stop them. Do you have your anxiety under control? I would love to hear more about your experiences overcoming anxiety!  Feel free to leave a comment on this post. Thank you!

God bless,