Monday, March 3, 2014
How to Help a Loved One Going Through a Panic Attack...
We all have panic attacks at one time or another. We may sleep through our alarm and wake up 5 minutes after we were supposed to be somewhere, or we lost our debit card somewhere between the store and home. At these times our heart may speed up and our palms may get sweaty.
There may be times, though, that you or a loved one has a severe panic attack. These are over things much greater than being late or your debit card. These are over things that someone has made so big in their mind (usually thanks to anxiety and/or depression) that there is an absence of all things good. There are many symptoms, some of which may be: heavy (or shallow) breathing, sobbing, shaking, feelings of absolute helplessness, tight muscles, feeling 'outside of yourself,' etc. In my experience, it has felt like I am in a deep, dark hole and I don't think I am ever coming out. It feels like I am doomed and there is nothing I can do about it. It feels like the complete absence of hope and the only thing I can do is cry. If you or a loved one has experienced this, you know that we all experience them a little differently, but I think we can all agree they are not easy to go through.
When a loved one is feeling the stress and fatigue of anxiety, you may have no idea who to do. What can you say to make it better? How can you get them out of that dark place? The truth is, the only thing you really need to do is be there. I found an example of this in the book, "The Princess Bride." This particular part was left out of the movie, but if you have seen the movie, you will understand when it happens (how convenient!).
Buttercup and Westley are traveling through the dreaded Fire Swamp which has three things that are major issues: the snow sand, the R.O.U.S.'s, and the fire spurts. In this scene Buttercup gets trapped in the snow sand which drags her under before she can even scream. Westley, being awesome, quickly ties a vine to a tree and heroically dives in after her. After a few minutes of an awful and blind search, he finally finds her (a little bit earlier he thought he had found her, but turns out, it was a skeleton. Gross.). They miraculously get out of the sand and Buttercup eventually "comes to." It is then that her panic hits. She is (understandably) unable to control her emotions, the book states:
"'No need-' [Westley] was going to say 'No need for worry,' but her panic struck too quickly. It was a normal enough reaction, and he did not try to block it but, rather, held her firmly and let the hysteria run its course. She shuddered for a time as if she fully intended to fly apart. But that was the worst. From there, it was but a few minutes to quiet sobbing. Then she was Buttercup again."
I haven't been rescued from snow sand, or trekked through a fire swamp, but I have felt similar things as to what Buttercup goes through in this section. I love what Westley does, he just holds her. He holds her while she shakes and cries. He holds her even when it seems like she is going to "fly apart." He holds her while she calms down, and eventually, she is "Buttercup again." I loved how the author wrote this. When I have been in a panic attack, I am not Chelsea. After a panic attack, there have been times I have opened my eyes and thought, "I'm back."
Jordan is the most patient man in the world. He has had to, at times, simply hold me, sit by me, comfort me, etc. until I am myself again. Having him there makes all the difference in the world. He doesn't need to say anything, he just needs to be there until I come out of the deep, dark hole.
If you have a loved one who goes through panic attacks. Just be there for them. If it is a child or spouse, hold them while they cry. If it is a friend, hold them or sit next to them while they come out of their struggle. Pat their back, and tell them everything is going to be okay. Just let them know you are there. That will make all the difference in the world.
So, what can you do to help your loved one going through a panic attack? Just be there. See them through it. When they come back to being themselves, they will be more than grateful to yo
PS, Have you or a loved one had a serious panic attack? What got you (or them) through? I would love to hear about it in the comments or a message! <3