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my first anxiety attack


I remember my first anxiety attack very clearly. I remember how it felt in my body, I remember the images I saw and it plays like a movie in my head often. It’s strange because there was no distinct event that caused the anxiety attack. There wasn’t a build-up of scenarios or a traumatic event, it just happened.


I was in 7th grade and I was sitting in my English block class. I remember the teacher was lecturing on something. The class was silent aside from her talking. I remember feeling this really strange, uneasy feeling in my body. It kind of felt like I couldn’t stand to be in my body any longer and that I needed to find something to quickly distract myself so that I wouldn’t burst out of my body or have an explosion in my pants. So I remember that in order to distract myself I started drawing stars on my notebook over and over again as quickly as I could. I thought if I could just focus on the stars long enough for this feeling to pass I would be ok. I don't know how I knew this, but I knew that if I paused scribbling the stars, I would not be ok. I could not be interrupted, I could not pause or let myself feel.


I also couldn't move any part of my body aside from the hand that was drawing the stars. As the page got fuller and fuller, I realized that I was starting to run out of room. If I ran out of room on the page, I would have to pause drawing the stars to turn the page. And remember, pausing = exploding. I remember clearly in my mind when I got to the point where I had enough space for 3 more stars on the page. 3… 2…. 1…. I felt that at 1 I was going to burst, poop my pants, or maybe even die.


As soon as I drew that last star, I jumped up out of my seat, sprinted out of the classroom, and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could, right in the middle of the lecture. Right in the middle of the silent classroom. It was humiliating, but not as humiliating as having an explosion in my pants would have been. So I felt thankful that I made it out of there and to the bathroom alive. I was too embarrassed to go back to class after that, so I stayed in that bathroom stall until the bell rang and class was over. I kind of just sat there wincing in pain. My stomach hurt, I was having diarrhea, I was nauseous, and my skin felt like it was crawling off of my body. Little did I know that this feeling, all of this happening at once, was a feeling that I would become very familiar with. I would befriend this feeling and learn to live with it daily and listen to it. This feeling has been named “anxiety”.


Sooner or later that feeling of anxiety became a constant in my life. That uncomfortable feeling of my skin crawling, of uneasiness, pretty much never went away. It was always subtly there. Sometimes it would get much stronger than other times when I would barely notice it. The bathroom stall became my safe space. Huddled over the toilet clenching my stomach became the only way i knew how to calm myself. I had no idea what anxiety was, and I had never been taught how to self-soothe or cope with it. So to survive, I would hide in the bathroom stall, on the toilet, clenching my stomach, and praying.


After years of medication, therapy, meditation, and alternative healing modalities, I still get that feeling. In fact, I'm feeling it right now as I type this. It's been a journey to learn healthier ways to cope with this feeling rather than hiding in a bathroom stall all day. I'm still figuring it out, but here are some of the things that help me, and I hope they can help you too:


  • letting myself feel the feeling fully in my body, rather than fighting it.

  • dancing/shaking

  • focussing on my breath (box breathing)

  • holding an animal and trying to connect with their breathing

  • exposure to extremely hot or extremely cold water

  • going on a walk

  • shocking my system by biting into a lemon, dumping salt in my mouth, or putting ice on the back of my neck

  • crying

  • grounding (connecting my feet to the earth)

  • writing down what I'm feeling


If you're interested in learning more about some of these methods, please reach out to me, I'd love to tell you more! You can also join me on the next Radiate Retreat where I'll guide you through these practices and you can practice them in a safe space, alongside other women on their healing journeys.


with love and more peace than when I first opened my laptop this morning,

Chelsea

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