PANIC Attacks!

Not to be confused with worry or concern. Panic, is concentrated fear.

The symptoms can include some, or all, of the following:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering

  • Feelings of choking

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Nausea or abdominal distress

  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint

  • Chills or heat sensations

  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)

  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)

  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”

  • Fear of dying

Panic attacks are extremely unpleasant and can be very frightening. As a result, people who experience repeated panic attacks often become very worried about having another attack and may make changes to their lifestyle so as to avoid having panic attacks.

All of this sounds bad, but the symptoms and description of “extremely unpleasant’ and “very frightening” does not quite encapsulate what a panic attack truly feels like.

If you have never experienced a panic attack, I wish that you never do. But, you can imagine what one feels like.

Pretend that you are relaxing in front of the television, watching your favorite show; when all of a sudden, a 700 pound Siberian Tiger bursts into your living room. It roars, and your brain quickly realizes that you just got knocked down to the bottom of the food chain. The tiger sits back on it’s haunches, coiling it’s powerful rear legs, and then leaps across the room directly at you.

“I’m going to f____ you up.”

“I’m going to f____ you up.”

It’s mouth is wide open, large teeth clearly visible, and right before you realize you are about to die, the tiger vanishes into a wisp of smoke.

Then, a 700 pound Siberian Tiger bursts into your living room. Roars, leaps, is about to tear you about apart, and then it disappears.

Roar. Leap. Death. Fade.

Roar. Death. Fade.

Death. Fade.

Death. Death. Death. Death. Death.

Panic attacks are the psychological equivalent of this imagined scenario. You constantly ride the edge between life and death, almost 100% certain that you will die. That your death will be both agonizing and slow.

What would you do if a massive tiger leap at you right now? Fighting it is useless. You have no chance of running away. All you can do, is be frozen in place while you get yourself right with your maker.

See how horrifying that is? It is no wonder that a panic attack can be debilitating in the moment, but the effects can linger.

Say the tiger vanishes and does not reappear. Your mind is ready for it to pop back into existence to end yours. But it does not. Tentatively, you stand up, arms in front of your torso to give your vulnerable belly some measure of protection.

Imagine your mind on fire.

Imagine your mind on fire.

Your senses are heightened, blood is pounding, and fear compels you to either sprint or freeze.

At that point, you don’t think that you have to pick up your kids from school later that day. You aren’t worried about that staff meeting at 2pm.

Your brain is on overdrive, trying to find the TIGER THAT WILL KILL YOU!

It takes some time to come down from that state.

In my experience, there is no immediate “snapping out” of a panic attack. You need to let it run its course. It will be awful, but, I promise you, it will end. You will be okay.

Mind Hack: More Vitamin D

I am naturally Vitamin D deficient. Which means I have to find ways to increase the amount of Vitamin D my body can produce. Some of that is with supplements, waking up to a UVB blue light, and driving without my sunglasses. Watch the video to learn more.

Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: When to Test and How to Treat

Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin

Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?

Treatment of vitamin D deficiency with UV light in patients with malabsorption syndromes: a case series

Philips goLITE BLU Therapy Device - At $275, it’s pricey, but it makes waking up so much easier for me. Just to note, I’m not a paid spokesman for Philips. I’ve used several light devices and this one has worked the best for me.

What Does Depression Feel Like?

I have JK Rowling to thank for opening up the idea that mental illness is a real condition. In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Voldemort, the villainous dark wizard, kills Harry Potter. Well, technically.

I won’t go into the details. Read the books, they’re worth it.

One quote stuck with me more than any other in the thousands of words I’ve read by Rowling, and it comes from Albus Dumbledore:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

This answer came during a conversation in the afterlife with the recently deceased headmaster of Hogwarts, or Harry hallucinated an entire conversation so his mind could be distracted by the immense pain delivered by a killing curse. Like I said, read the books.

The problem for depressives, like myself, is that our vocabulary tends to fall flat with people who do not have the same lived experiences. It’s analogous to explaining color to a dog.

Decades ago, the analogy would have been trying to explain color to a dog and the dog didn’t believe color existed. So we’re making progress as a society in being able to explain a deeply personal and varied experience to those who don’t have any reference to said experiences.

So what does depression feel like?

That is a tricky question, and no, I’m not going to leave you with that astute observation. But it is a tricky question because unlike an understood physical ailment, mental illness is unique to each person living with it.

The CDC lists “fever, chills, sweats, headaches, and nauseous and vomiting” as some of the symptoms of malaria. For depression, someone can expect to experience “feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling irritable, feeling restless, and feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless.”

Malaria symptoms are clear-cut and defined; while symptoms of depression are feelings, and with feelings come with the entire gradient of human experience.

A better question to ask may be: What does depression feel like to you?

I experience depression as a searing pain. It is hot, sharp, quick, and relentless. I will feel sad and feel as if someone is sliding a paring knife across my chest.

I will feel restless and have the sensation that lines of fire are being traced across my face. Sometimes, I see flashes of light paired with the fiery cuts. Like the aftereffect of being punched in the face.

I’ve spoken with other depressives who feel frostbitten; and others who feel as if they’re slowing being crushed to death. Why the variation? Because our brains interpret thing differently. Because Harry might have talked to Dumbledore in the afterlife, or his brain was trying to make sense of masses of conflicting signals and sensory inputs.

As the headmaster sagely put it: “why on earth should it mean that it is not real?”