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The ‘Liminal Space’ Before a Panic Attack

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An anxiety disorder is a mental illness, and I get to battle it daily, along with many others.

Here are some truths about anxiety (from a wonderful infographic which can be found at the Mental Health America website):

  • No, it’s not nervousness about a coming event.
  • No, it’s not from too much caffeine consumption.
  • No, it’s not attention-seeking.
  • Yes, it’s me analyzing everything.
  • Yes, it’s a negative voice that follows me everywhere.
  • Yes, I am constantly overcoming fears and worries to battle it.

And no, I’m not ashamed (nor should you be). This is real. Let’s talk about it.

What prompted this post was an panic attack that came after some news I received during a post-op appointment. Here’s a little bit of context: On October 23, I was admitted to the hospital for severe abdominal pain (amongst other incredibly painful things). After my CT scan, I was booked for emergency surgery. My appendix (which we aptly named, Trouble) was angry and needed to come out. The surgery went well and was able to be performed laparoscopically.

Five weeks later, here I am walking into my post-op appointment. I met with my surgeon. He said I was healing beautifully. (Although, we now know I am allergic to steri-strip adhesive. So itchy!) He also told me to keep an eye out for any pain or oozing during my last week of healing.

Then, the surgeon sat down and said he was looking at the tests they did on my appendix. What he said next was the clincher: “You actually had an abscess on your appendix. If you would’ve waited even one more day, then it would’ve been a much graver situation.”

At the time, I casually acknowledged the information. It hit me as I was walking out, in the pouring rain, to my car. “Hold it together. Just make it to the car,” I was telling myself. I shut the door, and the key element of my anxiety disorder, a panic attack, descended.

A panic attack for me is:

  • Shortness of breath, hyperventilating
  • Tears
  • Fear
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Sweating
  • Blinding clarity

The most intimidating of all my symptoms was the blinding clarity. Yes, I did have surgery for a life-threatening illness. Yes, it was real (even the bill for the surgery didn’t make it real!) Yes, if I would’ve waited even a day longer, my life, my life, would’ve been threatened.

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Until this attack, I had been floating in a “liminal space,” (and take your time reading about it because I had trouble understanding the immensity of the definition.) In own words (with the the minor research I’ve done), it is the space between one stage of my life and another. It’s basically like remaining in limbo. The information I received from my surgeon triggered me out of this liminal space and into the reality of my life after accepting this new information.

One of the ways to battle a panic attack is to reach out to someone you trust and ask for help. For me, I chose to call someone who knows my anxiety and knows not to say, “just relax,” that cringe phrase!

Here’s how she helped me:

  • She broke the situation down into small bites I could handle.
  • She helped me walk through the situation to acknowledge what was happening.
  • She explained the situation in anatomical details, which actually calms my brain down.
  • She brought me back into reality gently by asking me questions about that day.

I crossed two large bridges that day.

  1. The fog I was in actually has a name, the liminal space, and it was my body’s way of coping with a traumatic event.
  2. An anxiety disorder is a mental illness that is real, but it can be dealt with.

Let’s talk openly about this. Hit like if you can relate. Have you been through a traumatic event that caused a panic attack? I’d love to hear how you were able to walk yourself through it, so I can add to my plan of attack. Just know, we are strong and we can change the thinking around this mental illness.

*I am in no way medically-certified. This reflection is my own opinion of how I battle my anxiety. It’s meant for relating and sharing knowledge, not medical advice. If you feel you need help, then I encourage you to contact your health care profession immediately.

xo,

Holly

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My 3 New Year’s Resolutions as Someone Trying to Overcome Anxiety

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It can be a challenge to set New Year’s resolutions when you have anxiety. Before I even touch pen to paper, I can picture myself failing to meet any goal or resolution I set. It becomes even more challenging when you are a person with anxiety who has just begun therapy, as I have. You have so many new goals. Yet, they still feel unattainable.

An important part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is goal setting. There is a lot of reasoning behind this. They give you direction, focus and allow you to feel accomplished. But when you have anxiety, each goal is a new opportunity for failure.

I am a believer in the power of sharing and the strength it brings. Perhaps, by sharing my New Year’s resolutions for overcoming anxiety, I will gain the strength to live up to them and have a supportive community to hold me up if I fail.

1. Stop hiding.

Struggling with anxiety in silence from a young age has given me an incredible ability to hide the truth. I don’t lie about everyday things. I lie about how I am feeling. When I show up smiling while my insides are crumbling, my face is telling the lie. So I resolve to acknowledge when I am not OK and seek out support.

2. Stop people pleasing.

Every aspect of my life has focused on keeping others happy. The little voice in my head has always told me people wouldn’t like me if I weren’t exactly what they wanted. I’ve always strived to be the perfect daughter, the star student and the most supportive friend. People pleasing compels you to do a lot of kind and selfless acts, but they come at your expense. I resolve to hold on to this kindness, but to also be kind to myself and take care of my wants and needs.

3. Accept myself.

The drive to be perfect in everyone’s eyes has led me to feel deeply flawed in my own. I’ve set impossible standards for myself that I could never reasonably live up to. I resolve to tell myself every day that I’m deserving of love just the way I am. I resolve to believe my self-worth only comes from me and to not allow anyone’s negativity to make me feel not good enough.

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I hope you too learn to accept and love yourself in 2017. For me, 2016, has been a year of change. I look to 2017 to be a year of personal growth.

You can read more of my posts on TranQool.

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When Someone Asked Me How I'm So Good at 'Acting Fine’

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I’ve been told I’m good at acting like I’m fine, and I am. I’m really good at it. Yet, sometimes, I wish I could turn around and say I’m not. I wish I could just tell someone I actually haven’t been fine in such a long time.

I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel tired. I don’t mean, “I only got five hours sleep last night” tired. I mean physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. It doesn’t matter if I actually manage to get sleep during the night, I still feel exhausted. My stresses are even coming into my dreams at night.

Yet, people think I’m fine because I can laugh, smile and act like I’m OK. I get up in a morning, and I get on the buses to university. I go to my classes. I go to the library and I do my work. I get home, and I do my reading and essays. I have a cup of tea, dinner and a shower, and I go to bed. I act pretty normal.

Yet, no one sees what it’s like. No one knows in my head I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. No one knows actually when I go for a shower, it’s usually somewhere I can cry and get away with it because I’ll just say I got water in my eyes if they’re a little red. They don’t know when I go to bed, I don’t go to sleep. I lay there tossing, turning and getting more and more frustrated that I can’t sleep to the point where, again, I end up crying.

They don’t know I am so close to giving up because I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of everything, but I don’t. I carry on going, even when I don’t know why I’m doing it anymore. I carry on, smile, laugh and act like a “normal” person would. I feel as though it’s a chore getting up in the morning. Getting up in the morning is so hard.

But why? That’s what is always going through my mind. Why are you getting up? Why are you participating? And I don’t even know anymore. I really don’t. Someone asked me today how I was so good at acting like I’m fine. Honestly, my anxiety started at 15 years old. I’ve been “managing” it for five years now. It’s a part of my daily life, and I’ve just learned how to put a wall up and not show it.

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It’s there in my head. It’s always there in my head. It never leaves! It frustrates me so much being there, and it frustrates me that people think I’m fine. Yet, I never show anybody a reason to think I wasn’t fine.

Sometimes, I wish I could bring my wall down and show people, but it’s not that easy. I have to go on with life, do my work and go to university.

I guess, sometimes, I just wish I wasn’t such a good actor.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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To My Past Self and Anyone Else Struggling With Anxiety

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Dear past self,

I know you think something is wrong with you.

I know you feel like you’re leading two lives, a physical one and a mental one. In your physical life, you know you’re happy. You have a great family, lots of friends, good grades, passions, an awesome job and a hopeful future. You have every reason to be happy, and you know it.

In your mental life, you’re not happy. You’re stressed all the time, and it’s not the “normal” kind of stress. You’re worried about everything. You think you’re going to fail that next test. You think that friend is going to replace you, and you fear being lonely.

You think that guy is going to wake up one day and not like you anymore. You fear heartbreak is going to kill you. You think something bad is going to happen to your family. You think you’re not going to be there to say goodbye because you’re too busy staring at the mirror wondering why you can’t look your reflection in the eye.

I know your mental life is starting to seep into your physical life, but no one else can see it. I know most days you feel like you’re underwater, moving through life in slow motion while the rest of the world continues at a normal pace. I know most nights you’re scared to fall asleep because you think you’ll wake up to find your life moved on without you.

You’ll tell yourself you’re losing it. You’ll call yourself “crazy.” You’ll beat yourself up for it every night, and you’ll tell yourself you just need to get over it. Other people will tell you the same things. You’ll keep them close because you think they’re being supportive.

I know you refuse to use the word “anxiety.” I know you think saying it will make you ungrateful. I know you think saying it will change how others see you. I know memes and social media posts aren’t enough to convince you otherwise. I know it needs to be a real person, and I also know she’ll be there soon.

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I know once you start talking about it, things will start to get better. You’ll go to therapy, and you’ll learn how to breathe again, something you didn’t even know you’d forgotten. You’ll do poorly on a few tests, but it’s OK because you’ll do better on the next one. Then, you’ll cry when you get that acceptance letter.

That friend is going to replace you. So is that other friend, but it’s OK because you’re about to meet some wonderful people who will make it impossible to feel alone. That guy really is going to wake up one day and tell you he never truly cared about you. It’s OK because you’re able to look your reflection in the eye, and this will make it hard to be sad. You’re going to be there when bad things happen to your family, but it’s OK because you’ll all be together. This will make it easier to pull through.

I know you’ll always have anxiety, and I know you’ll learn to be OK with that. I know you’ll have hard days, but I know you’ll pull through. I know it’s too late to save you, but I also know it’s never too late to save someone else.

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13 Things That Happen When You Have an Anxious Mind, but a Laid-Back Personality

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This piece was written by Brianna Wiest, a Thought Catalog contributor.

There’s really no such thing as having an “anxious mind.” There’s only having your anxiety fueled by your thoughts (which is something that everyone experiences now and again). But some of the people who feel it most intensely are those whose rapid thinking is in constant contrast to their super chill, laid-back personalities. They never know when to fight or flight, everything seems like an over-reaction and their self-angst is maxed out, because their hearts are calm and their heads are crazed, more often than they will ever admit.

Here are some of the things that happen when you have an anxious mind and a laid-back personality

1. You epitomize leading a life of “quiet desperation.” Half of the reason you’re anxious all the time is because you don’t naturally act on or, therefore, process your emotions, and while that’s positive in some ways, it’s debilitating in others.

2. You’re naturally zen in that you observe your emotions objectively. Which is fantastic in that you’re not controlled by them, but harmful because you then start to believe you only have to process or truly feel the ones you want to.

3. You’re highly indecisive; your head and heart are a paradox all within themselves. You feel as though you’re always going back and forth between preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, and rarely in-between.

4. You’re laid back because you know how to quiet your mind. Most of your #chill lifestyle was developed out of necessity. Your brain starts to short circuit when you overload it with any more drama or worry, so you actively go out of your way to create a life where the only problems you have are the ones you make up in your mind.

5. You’re most comfortable with your life when you feel prepared for the worst. Your mind constantly goes back to what you’d do if you were to lose a job, lose a relationship, etc.

6. You seek solitude and relaxing environments so your brain can process and let off steam. You’re not one of those people who needs any more external stimuli to keep them entertained or wondering or interested — you’ve got that all covered, perhaps to an unhealthy degree.

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7. You are your own locus of control. And perhaps this is the most positive characteristic you have: you do not assume that anybody else is responsible for your emotions, and you know this because thinking otherwise places you in a minefield of suffering for the rest of your life.

8. You’re non-confrontational to a fault. You’ll do anything to avoid not having to upset anybody, and that often results in you not communicating how you really feel, when doing so would eliminate the problem altogether.

9. You often wonder if it’s your resistance to action that creates your anxiety-thoughts. That maybe feeling jealous or anxious or upset is just an internal call to do better, one that’s being avoided.

10. You keep a tight social circle. You feel like you can only really have fun when you’re in the presence of people you’re truly comfortable with.

11. You’re particular about what you want, yet super chill about what you have. You probably need to keep a gratitude journal if you don’t have one already, one, because that’s something you’d be into, and two, because you have a hard time being completely “in the moment.”

12. You’re all but convinced the smartest people on Earth have somehow transcended their neurological hardwiring, and know how to just enjoy life. You know that “ignorance is bliss” may be a misquote and a generally terrible way to approach life, and yet you often fantasize about how lovely it would be to just not worry at all.

13. Your entire life struggle can be summed up as not having “the wisdom to know the difference.” You’re very good at letting go. You’re even better at trying harder. But knowing when each is appropriate is completely lost on you. Alas: the #struggle.

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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Every ‘Small Win’ Against My Anxiety Is a Big Deal

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I have let anxiety, phobias and panic attacks limit my life. A lot.

But over the past few days, I’m learning to celebrate the wins. All of them.

I rarely drive. When I do, one thing I avoid is left-hand turns. I will go the long way or not drive at all if I have to make left-hand turns.

My win: I made a left-hand turn! To some, no big deal. But for me, big deal! I crossed four lanes to make that turn! I felt proud of myself.

It helps to have a support system that understands these little things are big deals. So I’m happy I can share my small wins. The small wins show progress. The small wins say “I can do this!” Something that was once difficult to do can be done.

Each day, when I conquer something my anxiety and phobias have limited me doing, I celebrate. I’m putting those good vibes in the universe!

Guess what? You can, too. Celebrate your wins, big and small.

Follow this journey on JayCreed.com

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