12 May 2014

Turns Out- I have Panic Attacks

It has been very difficult for me to bring myself up to writing a personal post, where I would talk not about past experiences or memories, but something that is completely new and confusing to me, that I cannot even explain to myself.
Before I start, here is a disclaimer:

1. Although I will be talking about myself here, this post is detailed with my few panic attack experiences and can trigger the same thoughts or behavior in others. I really wish this won´t happen to any of you, but just in case, be safe and if this post is making you uncomfortable you can certainly ignore it.
2. I am only speaking for myself and about my personal experiences. Panic attacks are various and can reach a lever of panic disorder which I do not have. This is a post to help myself make clear of the situation.
3. If some of you know me, please don´t worry. Everything is alright, this is just an informative post that I would like to help myself with and maybe be helpful to someone else out there. I am perfectly fine and there is nothing to worry about.


Before I get started on the matter, I thought that explaining the term Panic Attack can be helpful:

Panic attacks are periods of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset[1] and of variable duration from minutes to hours.[2] Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, may reach a peak within 10 to 20 minutes, but may continue for hours in some cases.[2][3] Panic attacks usually subside on their own over the next several hours.[citation needed] Often, those afflicted will experience significant anticipatory anxiety and limited symptom attacks in between attacks, in situations where attacks have previously occurred.[citation needed]The effects of a panic attack vary. Some, notably first-time sufferers, may call for emergency services. Many who experience a panic attack, mostly for the first time, fear they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown.[4] Common psychological themes associated with panic attacks include the fears of impending death or loss of sanity;depersonalisation is relatively common.

Basically a panic attack is the feeling of worry and dread in a situation where that worry and dread would normally won´t be caused. After reading a very helpful post about panic attacks (in a blog that I unfortunately cannot find at the moment) the best example for panic attacks is the following:
Having a panic attack is when in a line of parked cars on the street, one single car is suddenly ringing its alarm after someone touched it slightly with a finger. Unlike all other cars which would set their alarm only after their window has been broken.

So in other words, having a panic attacks is like having a very sensitive reaction to different situations, where the body triggers a "protective reaction" when it allegedly feels threatened (although in reality nothing is happening that can be dangerous to you). 

How did I find it out?
I found it out after it happened 3 times. I was never diagnosed with anything in my life, so the assumption that what I´ve suffered from was a panic attack is fully my own, considering all the information I´ve read about it on the internet, videos I´ve seen on youtube explaining the symptoms that I´ve realized I´ve been having. The more I become older though, the more I want to diagnose myself, because I am also suspecting of suffering from self harm without actually admitting it to myself.
Which is actually why I began to research the matter. It has always been very important to me to be transparent with myself and help me understand myself better. It has been always important to me to know exactly what is going on in my mind and body and to not be in denial or neglect important physiological and psychological developments that I might be having through the years. I don´t know why I am like that, but it really has been a matter to me all my life. Which has brought me to come in terms with having panic attacks.

First experience
Before having any experiences at all, I had a friend who suffered from it (I hope she doesn´t any more). Once when being at her house she began having a panic attack, which was shear mystery to me. When it happened, I´ve felt totally helpless because I´ve wanted to help her in any way I could, but she told me it had nothing to do with me, nor was her panic attack caused by me. I´ve really wanted to help her, but couldn´t understand how something could be immediately wrong with a person out of the blue...

That was before I´ve had it as well.
The first time happened 2 years ago when I was at work at the technical support center I´ve worked at in Israel. That work was very stressful and horrible, but it had never ever triggered a panic attack in me until that day. I came work in the morning and after a few minutes into my shift I began to feel heavy beating in my chest, I began to shake and felt very very cold despite being dressed well. I put my headphones and microphone on my desk and felt I couldn´t go on. I had no idea what was going on, as I slept well that night, ate a good breakfast and had a generally good mood that day (despite not wanting to go to work of course).
I approached the shift manager and ask for a break, because I just couldn´t do anything with myself. After sitting on the chair and hugging myself I´ve decided to do something and when on break, drank coffee outside of the building until the feeling went away.
Looking on it back, I realized why I had a panic attack. In that time I had some issues with my mother. It was the time when Boris and I moved in together, I´ve stopped playing the recorder, which was exactly the opposite of what my mother wanted me to do in life. Fearing that she was disappointed in me, it was a very difficult time to understand what were my real goals in life and how I viewed my mother in general (getting out of the house and looking at her from a different view with all her weaknesses suddenly exposed was a very painful hit for me). Only a couple of month, even maybe a year later I´ve realized what had caused my panic attack. Actually after the incident occurred I´ve suspected that it might have been it.

Second experience
Happened last spring at a night club, 2 years after the first panic attack! Boris and I went to an occasional goth party here in Berlin. We were also about to meet friends there, and I was generally in a positive mood ready to party! However, when we came into the venue and went down to the cellar where the party was held, it happened. The cellar was very crowded and smoked until there was literally no oxygen inside (a common ventilation problem bothering no one in European venues). After a few minutes in that venue I felt the worst, I went with Boris to the main entrance of the venue which was on the first floor of the building, where I sat hugging myself again like in the first time, I was shaking and felt very very distressed. Boris was clueless the same as was I the first time I watched that friend of mine having a panic attack. What helped was to get out of the venue (despite paying entrance money, which I was sorry for). We walked on the streets until Boris got me coffee and a croissant. After eating I´ve felt much much better, but decided not to come back to the venue ever again.
The conditions of the venue are indeed a very logical trigger for a panic attack. What was odd to me is that I have been enjoying myself a lot in other cellar-like venues and absolutely loved the atmosphere there, even when there were a lot of people around. I couldn´t recall a crowded and stuffed occasion from my past that could have triggered the panic attack.

Third experience, final so far...
Happened this winter in another situation where I´ve least expected it. Boris and 2 good friends of ours went to a squat place to diy ours and their band pins. The squad held a pub and we just sat there with the machine. I was very excited, since I´ve designed the logo for the pins of both bands, and was so happy that the´ve liked it and we would sit all together and make it and would have quality time as well. However, when we sat down I had a panic attack, despite being surrounded by best friends in a place I knew I wouldn´t be hurt (I´ve visited and am visiting squats regularly and I always enjoy the atmosphere and feel so much better there than in other mainstream places). What helped was Boris who bought me a frizzy drink, and I drank the wine that we brought with us later on.

The point is, after these 3 happenings I´ve had some things that were and weren´t clear to me. And because this is something that has never ever happened to me before, I´ve been analyzing it ever since.

  •  All panic attacks felt the same, and were obviously unexpected.
  • What helped to feel better again was Boris who suggested different things such as food and drink and asked what would help me. Eating or drinking is what makes the panic attack go away.
  • Why do panic attacks keep happening in places where I´ve always felt good at? Except for the club incident, all other places were never causing me to panic before. Although in other cellar-clubs I´ve always felt comfortable, and never feared big crowds in my life.
  • How come I´ve never experienced panic attacks before?? I´ve never had such problems as a child and teenager, except from being very depressed as a teen (and never suffering from the same lever of depression after my teenage years?). 
  • Where in my lifetime something happened, that has brought the panic attacks? I do hope that thinking in this way makes sense, otherwise I have no explanation why I am having panic attacks in the middle of my life.
To summarize this, I am writing this post to help me have an overview of the happenings and maybe come up with an answer soon. What is most mysterious to me, is that I´ve never had problems making life decisions, nor when doing something majorly as moving to a different country, which was of course worrying and scary, but it has never triggered a panic attack in me ever once, not even the hardest part of it!
So with my goal to understand what is happening in me, I am trying to find out how come a generally balanced person as myself would have panic attacks in the least expected period in his life? Was it caused by a determining event? I am eager to find out, and the more I read about panic attacks and anxiety the more I am less afraid of having it, the more I know how to help myself when it would occur. Again, with the last 3 panic attacks I had absolutely no problem living and enjoying my life.

I know that a lot of people are struggling with all kinds of disorders and much difficult states of panic attacks. Thus I am sorry this post is more helping myself than providing advice to others. Truth is, I had very little experience with panic attacks and feel it would be a lie to advice people who suffer from the worse states of it. I am sure other are well aware of themselves as much as I of myself.
Either way, I am thinking more and more about consulting a professional as the time goes by. Telling this story to my mother however was a big relief to me, since she understood me and even told me a story of the only time in her life she had a panic attack as well. Her understanding made me confront my situation with more confidence.

Thank you so much if you´ve read this post. I feel like I would write more personal posts from time to time, hope it is alright.
Have a good week and be safe!

N. Finsternis


  1. Well, at least you're aware now and can live around it. My life got much more easier once I came to terms with my face-blindness. I thought I was just stupid when I couldn't follow a movie, or couldn't make friends because I couldn't remember who anyone was, or not recognize my boss or my family. You seem to have a healthy attitude about it and a good support network. Hope the panic attacks lessen or go away.

    1. Oh, face blindness? is that a condition? because I´ve never heard about it. God, there are so many things that can go around in our heads it can be sometimes freaky to even think what other things are messed up in there...
      I´m happy that you are aware of that as well, that´s great!!