How to get yourself out of it.
It comes on you from nowhere, and suddenly engulfs you with fright and terror. You become at once frozen and yet you want to run out of the enclosed environment as soon as possible. Only that person can relate to it, who has been through it. It’s a very private experience. You desperately want to drink water and you need fresh air at once.
It can happen in a car, in a traffic jam, in a lift or in an overcrowded room. Your first instinct is to run for your life.
I had no idea that it is something that can happen, I thought I knew everything. In fact, one feels that such ‘psychological’ things only happen to weak minded individuals. No, certainly not to someone who is so strong-minded as myself. Well, I was very wrong. The first time it happened was in 2006, that was claustrophobia. But the Panic attack happened to me in 2008.
Ever been sure of dying ‘right now’? That’s what a panic attack is. Suddenly you feel that there is not enough air to breath. Anyone who has been through it usually ‘knows’ it and is sympathetic. My mother hadn’t. So, she responded with “What nonsense, behave yourself!” Being in an overcrowded room or a large area with closed windows brings it on.
My husband, on the other hand was extremely sympathetic. In fact, he knew how to divert me to avoid my condition worsening.
We were going through the Concord in the Flight Museum in Everett, Seattle. We had stood outside in the freezing cold for over half an hour just for the pleasure of going to see the Concorde from inside. But as I stepped inside the aircraft, I felt the sudden urge to run out. I couldn’t do that with the long row of people behind me. I just had to go through that very tight, plastic covered area….. it was gruesome.
Najib immediately pointed out the captions written on seats, showing names of the people who had sat on these: Michael Jackson, Lisa Minnelli and … others. I knew he was trying to divert me, and I let him… he was just trying to make it bearable, till I reached the end of that very tight plane’s isle with just two seats on either side of it. Gosh. Who would pay so much to go on such a narrow plane???? Certainly not someone who got claustrophobia!
But that wasn’t the first time. The first time was in Lahore…. well, enough to say, it is not something one wants to repeat. So, you become an expert at avoiding those situations all together. Had I not conquered my fears, I wouldn’t have been able to visit my daughter in Seattle.
Some things that help you out of it:
- Keep cold water, sweets and favorite goodies in your purse at all times.
- Wear comfortable and loose clothes. Never anything tight, specially your undies.
- When you feel it coming, (you will soon learn to realize it when it begins…) immediately divert yourself. If you can, walk out of that place, like out of a room or corridor. It is best to go out in the open.
- Think nice things. Control your thoughts. Find a toffee with a complicated wrapper and get involved in opening it.
- As the cold water quenches your thirst, you start feeling better. You find that people around you are all fine. Only you are dying….
- Slowly, you get back to ‘normal’ state.
- When you go to the doctor, he will give you a nerve relaxant. He is right. It usually happens in your life, when you are upset about something that is totally out of your control. Specially, when you are missing someone badly. In my case it was marriage of my daughter, and knowing I cannot just meet her any time. But I never saw the connection; Till a lady in the doctor’s meeting room remarked, “You must be missing someone badly!” Well, the doctor gave me some medication which did make me feel better.
- Whatever the reason, it becomes a recurrent factor in your life. It is so terrifying. You feel so helpless. It becomes a handicap.
So, I decided to get myself out of it, and its medications. How?
- To this day, I keep a bottle of water with me wherever I go.
- Regularly do exercises, this improves the oxygen content in body.
- Then I’d purposely put myself in situations where I had those attacks, and make sure I don’t feel the panic attack again.
- Going into lifts, travelling in hot weather, going into crowded rooms. Then using my ‘safety valves’ of sipping cold water, toffees, and staying calm.
- I cannot tell you what a relief it is to know that you are actually out of that horrid feeling. But you don’t believe it – you feel, it will happen again – and it can. But then, you pursue your efforts, and keep at it till it is over and done with.
- Sitting next to the door of the room helps. Same is with a lift, stand near the door. In the car, have the air conditioner on, so you are cool.
- Call the person you are missing more often. Have regular skype calls, send gifts, stay in contact.
- Keep the medication in your purse. Yet, try hard not to take it.
- Previously, I couldn’t go into underground parking or tunnels, or airports, now I enjoy parking my car in the lower basement of Centaurus in Islamabad. There is no feeling of Panic.
I can’t tell you how liberated it feels. It is like a victory. Because, I worked hard at getting myself out of that state, so believe me, you can too.
Stay blessed my dear reader. Life just has these funny ways of taking you for another ride in another direction. One has to get out of the objects that come in the way of your beautiful life.
Note: Photographs provided by Nataliya Najib and author.