ONCE UPON A TIME I HAD A PANIC ATTACK

I was leaning on the rock. It was pretty cold. However, it was relieving to feel something cold and strong behind my back. After a couple of minutes, it was still hard to breathe, and my heart seemed to jump off the chest. I was telling myself to breath deeper. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. However, after a couple of minutes and seeing the path that leads further, I just felt how my knees started shaking and bending. I barely heard and saw what’s going around me. I just knew that panic attack was coming up too fast and I wouldn’t be able to control it any longer. I had to run away to the safer place.

That’s what I did.

And I was left alone in the middle of nowhere.

(c) Ashim D’Silva

Panic attacks and similar problems are not an easy topic to talk about. It’s not normal, you know. It’s a thing that you want to keep away from anyone else. It’s vulnerability. A flaw that needs to be fixed, but the process is not easy, simple and quick. I think I had two panic attacks in my life until now. The last one was maybe six years ago. However, I never thought that anxiety caused by phobias might lead to such a terrible mental state when all my mechanisms cannot work properly anymore and I run away.

Despite the fact that I always talk about personal life on my blog and share more than any other normal people would do, this post is not easy. I think it’s the hardest personal post I have ever written. It’s not because I am ashamed of what had happened. Shit happens, you know. Even the robots burn out and broke. We are human beings who are not so precisely created. Our mechanisms might go wrong as well. I accepted the fact that it happened and I am grateful that everything ended up happily. I just got a little bit lost until I found my way back. That’s it. Feeling emotionally drained is another issue, but it’s easy to overcome after spending time in a friendly and calm environment.

The biggest problem with this post is that people who saw my “performance” are most likely to read it. I am pretty sure that my “runaway” was taken as an act of a drama queen. Thus, this post might be discussed by them or by any other people they know and follow this story. That’s what I hate the most. When people talk behind my back. But I cannot change that, and probably I would never know it for sure. However, I am pretty sure that they might misunderstand the idea of this post. However, I am 100% honest with myself. I am not holding a pity party, writing a passive aggressive post to blame them or trying to get compassion or attention in a ridiculous and sick way. I am not going to waste more time for proving something for someone.

Thus, this post is not for you, my dear travel companions. However, if you continue reading, hopefully, you will learn something new. There are way more complicated and serious issues than being drama queen just for the sake of attention.  Hopefully, one day you will understand it. You were the last people I wanted to see me in such condition. Well, you did not see me actually. You left me alone and continued your hike.

This post is for those who found themselves in similar situations. As I have already said, panic attacks are a terrible experience and sometimes it might be hard to get over it. Sometimes you need to hear similar stories to realize that you are not alone. Once you recover and start breathing again, it’s easy to blame or hate yourself for not being normal and acting like a psycho. In reality, it’s hard to find a person who has never dealt with a panic attack or hasn’t seen anyone acting crazy and hysteric. Of course, sometimes these actions are a childish behavior to get desired attention. However, it’s easy to recognize what’s true or what’s act if you look attentively. Thus, this post is for those who want to act properly if someone around them faces the panic attack too. Trust me; it’s a performance that no one intends to perform in public. If you see someone freaking out, the worst thing you can do is to leave them alone.

Unfortunately, panic attacks might happen at the most inappropriate times and places. I am not sure if there’s anything more devastating than feeling weak and out of control when you must be strong. You know, sometimes we end up in situations when we have no other choice just to be strong. I always hide my feelings and do not show my weakness until I feel I can trust the person. I guess it’s my way to complicate my life.

However, I always like to tell others that I am not comfortable doing particular things due to my fear of heights and instability. Sometimes I tell a joke that if I go, they would need to bring me back somehow because I am not sure if I could make it. Well, it’s not a joke. I am so afraid of heights that my knees are bending when I climb from the random tower. It’s such a ridiculous fear that prevents me from doing so many exciting things, but I guess phobias are not easy to overcome. I cannot say that I am not trying. I do, but I know my limits and do not push myself too hard.

Before this trip, I tried to tell those people that if they wanted to go hiking in the scary mountains or climbing rocks, they should tell me. I would not go there, and I prefer spending time doing something else. I don’t mind to have some alone time in the city. However, no one has listened to me then; no one has taken my decisions to stay in the middle of the path or get back during previous “climbing sessions” seriously. She’s just psycho, you know.

If you have the same or another phobia, you should know how these moments feel like. You want to go, but you cannot. You cannot move your legs and make steps. In my case, I could not jump down or climb down a simple hill. Everything seems higher and narrower to the edge than I suppose it actually looks. Once after drinking a glass of beer, I managed to get down a little bit lower with shaking knees. But I was standing two meters away from the edge.

It’s a feeling that you cannot do. The anger of yourself and willingness to overcome this fear faster and quicker. If you still can’t go, it means, you are not done yet. It’s fucking sad to sit alone and look to mountains and only imagine the views that might be there, behind those rocks that I could not climb into.

It’s hard to feel the disappointment of yourself and at the same time tell yourself that one day you will be able to do it.

(c) Markus Spiske

Once I was trapped in the walk through the mountain with unstable monkey’s bridges. I did not look around a lot. I was focused on simply moving and fighting my fear. The heart was beating so hard and fast. Even removal of the wisdom tooth did not seem as scary as that walk.

Walking down the last bridge, I tried my hardest not to start crying. I saw the waterfall between the gaps of boards. Everyone started taking pictures, and I managed to reach the rock and lean to it. I was looking to the front and trying to convince myself that I could make it. Behind my eyes was the narrow path without a banister. Maybe if I would have someone to hold my hand or say something supportive, maybe I could have made it. But there was no helping hand out there. Even though my fear of heights was not a secret.

I texted my friends who were thousands of kilometers away that I am not sure if I would make it. Of course, I received encouraging messages that I could do it, and I should be extremely proud of myself if I would go to the end. No matter how much I appreciate these words, I knew that I reached the maximum. It was more than enough for me. I was not able to control my body and emotions at all. I was terrified. Once I heard that they were starting talking which direction to choose, I finally freaked out.

I just managed to say “see you near the car” until tears started dropping. I went through the unstable bridge as fast as my fear of heights and instability let me. I am not sure if they said something to me or it was my imagination. I hope they said something. But I did not hear anything. I just heard my voice in my head “just go, keep going, don’t stop” until I reached the stable ground.

I am not sure how I reached the rock and how much time I spent there sitting and pouring my eyes out. Then I realized that I am alone. Sitting alone on some unknown rock with a few sips of warm water in more than 30 degrees Celsius. Anxiety stroke because I barely remembered the way back. Undoubtedly, other tourists would have helped me. I even met Lithuanians, and I am sure that I would have gotten the necessary help from strangers again during the same trip. But asking for help and letting someone find me in such condition was a scary thought. I cannot let anyone see me like this. I am stronger than this. I started slowly walking from there.

My friends were freaking out how I was left alone fighting the panic attack in the middle of nowhere. Even though I am not a huge fan of people and do not expect a lot from them, it’s still shocking to me how no one checked on me until they reached the car and did not find me there. I am not sure how did that happen too.

Only now I can clearly realize that I could have got lost. Few times I took wrong paths until I found that the road ended and I came back to the right track. Due to the tears, I barely saw where I went. Damn, I am lucky that I did not fall or twist my leg. While my friends were freaking out that if there are any snakes, murderers, and rapists, I managed to find the starting point. I couldn’t make it to the car. I was tired.

I am not talking about physical tiredness. I was emotionally drained and wanted just to sit for a moment or two in silence. I found a huge tree and sat there hide behind it. I am not sure how long I was sitting here. I heard my phone was buzzing, but I couldn’t move and pick it up. I knew it was them. Probably, they did not find me near the car and wanted to tell that I should stop acting out and come back there because they are waiting for a drama queen. Probably, self-defense mechanism did not let me pick up the phone and listen to something silly.

I had a terrible thought that it would be nice that they had at least one scary thought that something might have happened to me. It’s selfish, I know. However, once I saw them near the car, I realized that it was most likely a naïve thought. The drama queen is back; we can go now. Fortunately, it was the last day of the trip and I no longer cared of acting normal anymore. I just went silent and tried to recover.

(c) Chris Holgersson

Complicated situations with people always give me more arguments why I prefer being alone than keeping poor connections with others. The feeling of loneliness is better than situations like these. Friendships and relationships might be complicated and do not satisfy at some point. However, if you find someone waiting for you to bring you home from the airport or chatting with you even if they are living their own complicated stories, it feels good at the end of the day.

The moral of the story? You have to always rely on yourself. You should never forget that you are capable of more than you think. Even if you feel you cannot make it on your own, you can. Surprisingly, we can survive and recover from intense situations alone.

Lucky are those who get a needed support and encouragement during a panic attack. However, most of the time and especially in our country, it’s a stigma. You’re a psycho and have fun freaking out on your own. Therefore, you have to be always here for yourself. It’s not easy. But what else can you do? You are afraid of heights, so jumping off the cliff is not an option. Besides, there’s always to a chance of survival and being paralyzed for the rest of your life. It’s not an option too. Thus, you have to take your time, pull yourself back together and find the way back.

Panic attacks bring lots of negative feelings. Shame, disappointment and self-esteem issues. It doesn’t matter if someone tries to calm you down or you try to help yourself. You still don’t feel comfortable with yourself. How could you do it? Why are so weak? Why can’t you cope with stress? What could I have done to avoid this situation?

It’s not always possible to avoid every nerve-wracking situation or receive support in order to live them through more easier. Shit happens. Panic attacks happen. People might laugh at you or judge you for dramatic performance. It feels shitty, I know. But at the end of the day, you have to forgive them for insensitivity and immaturity. But most importantly, you have to forgive yourself for burning out. It’s better to look on the bright side. You survived. You are undoubtedly stronger than you have ever been. Hopefully, you will never end up in a situation like this again.

(c) Samuel Scrimshaw

This situation gave me more motivation to fight my fear. I am not going to give up. However, it’s time to choose the right people to face my fears and get over them. The life is too short to let phobias to limit everything. I am pretty sure that one day I would be able to climb rocks or take an extreme hiking tour via mountains. I am certain that someone would hold my hand or at the end of the route would say “I am proud of you.”

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