Hmmm… that’s weird. I have a tingly sensation in my fingertips… I’ve just been sitting here. I haven’t done anything strenuous. I don’t think that should happen. Okay, suddenly it’s not so easy to breathe. I have to try to breathe. This can’t be normal… Is my heart beating fast? Woah! What is this? Why am I so freezing? Look! There’s no color in my hands… my chest feels heavy. Something’s wrong. I don’t understand this. Am I having a heart attack at age 29? Holy shit I’m having a heart attack at age 29!!! I can’t slow down my heart!! Why is my face tingling now!? Should I say something? Am I going crazy? What’s going on here? Trouble breathing… Can’t see… my hands… they’re stuck… I can’t control my hands… I CAN’T CONTROL MY HANDS! THEY’RE STUCK!
Oh my god… breathe… please breathe… just breathe… can’t catch my breath… it’s overwhelming… TINGLING EVERWHERE TINGLING EVERYWHERE CHEST TIGHT CAN’T BREATHE CAN’T TALK CHEST TIGHT CHEST TIGHT….
… … is this death? I suppose this is what it would be like… I can’t believe I only made it 29 years on this Earth. All I can think about is all the poor decisions I’ve made. I don’t eat healthy enough. I don’t exercise enough. I never take my vitamins consistently. Okay, that’s generous… I never take my vitamins. I’ve done this to myself.
I’ve done this to myself….
The above is a transcription of my inner monologue during a very serious anxiety attack while in transit to the ER. The fear was so palpable and the physical symptoms so unnatural that there was no way anyone could arrive at any other conclusion than imminent death due to cardiac arrest. I actually came to a level of acceptance that I would not survive the attack and began reflecting on my life. Family members quickly assured me that I was not having a heart attack but that was not nearly enough to calm me down. The fear of the unknown is so powerful that your inner monologue effortlessly plants a seed in your brain: “They’re not doctors… what if they’re wrong. What if I’m dying right now and no one believes me?”
Not only is it a scary proposition (which only makes matters worse), it’s incredibly convincing. Since my attack I have spent a good deal of time researching the affliction. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect nearly 40 million American adults ages 18 and older. While there are no clear indications as to what starts an anxiety attack or panic attack, there are methods that have been incredibly useful to those who have a persistent fear that the attacks may strike again at any moment.
For starters, take your vitamins! Deficiencies in B vitamins, particularly B12, may also cause similar symptoms which may confuse an individual into thinking an attack is occurring and may actually trigger the anxiety. The same is true for caffeine. If you love the taste of coffee, it may be time for you to switch to decaf. Otherwise, it would be best to leave coffee and soda behind. There are actually other benefits to doing this as caffeine can help you wake up, but the crash that ensues will actually take you below your normal performance levels. This means when you drink your 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning, you are trying to restore your body to regular performance levels. Skipping this “essential” step in our morning routine may be difficult at first, but there are many health benefits once you are accustomed to life without caffeine.
Now that we have eliminated one harmful habit (caffeine) and replaced it with a good habit (vitamins), the next thing we want to do is hydrate. Many Americans deal with dehydration symptoms but are unaware of their connection to the lack of water in their system. The benefits of drinking a proper amount of water are practically limitless. However, one of the most important factors to consider here is that water is better to help you focus than caffeine! The brain consists of 90% water! So if you find yourself too often reaching for a soda or coffee you may want to take an honest moment and ask yourself if you’re drinking enough water. Maintaining proper hydration can make you look younger, feel better, give you more energy, focus, assist in weight loss and much, much more.
The last piece of advice I have is to consider meditation, counseling, or both. I am fairly early on in the process of dealing with anxiety however I am taking the opportunity to learn more about the world around me and my body. There are numerous benefits of meditation however here is a small sample. If you are unsure about the process of meditation, here are a few tips to help you get started. As you explore the world of meditation, you will find there are countless programs from masters in the field to help you along the way. The practice of meditation is primarily about operating in the present. Still your mind and focus on your breathing. If you feel your mind drifting, don’t chastise yourself! Just bring your mind back into the present. As some masters of mediation preach: “Return to the breath”. You may find difficulty keeping your mind at peace for longer than a second or two at first because our minds are so active. Some of the most successful people on earth profess that meditation has become an integral part of their routine. I should clarify that, by success, I am not referring simply to “the rich”. I define success as achievement of goals in personal and professional and emotional areas of their lives.
In the end, the main lesson I am taking away from this experience is that the direction I have been traveling in life has directly lead me to this point. The choices have been my own. It’s not dumb luck that I was struck with an anxiety attack. My way of life brought me here. I do interpret this as a warning sign of sorts. I can either ignore it and continue to struggle with fear and uncertainty… or I can use this opportunity to make a better me.
One thing is for sure… I didn’t die this past Sunday night on the way to the ER. Despite the convincing nature of the attack I am very much alive. What happens next is entirely up to me.