Can Words Help Us Mid-Panic Attack?

Last week I experienced my first panic attack. Ever.

At least, that’s what the internet says it was.

All I know is: my body took over my brain. My heartbeat was too fast, too loud, too strong. My limbs were trembling. My mind and my heart were both racing; nausea took over my digestive system. I was one step away from asking my husband to take me to the Emergency Room – but I had no idea what they could have done for me. I would have voted for temporary oblivion.

Instead, I talked myself off the cliff- well, I talked myself away from the edge of the cliff – using the advice from my own book.

Talk about a test of the material.

The Core Phrases are not designed to fix any serious mental illness or condition – but it was worth a try. It turned out to be enough to allow me to get some hours of sleep, and to function at work the next day.

What happened?

Background: I’ve had three surgeries on my left hip, and the last two contained some “surprises” – in one case, a damaged nerve that resulted in paralysis of the left knee for months; in another, a defect in the replacement causing it suddenly to slip out of place, leaving me to squeak like a rusty hinge with each step until emergency surgery could be scheduled.

That was two years ago, and though I don’t have full function in the leg, I can walk. I’ll take it, gratefully.

But suddenly, last week, out of nowhere: shooting pain in that hip. Like – owwww!

I can deal with pain fairly well – I gave birth to two children – but what caused the panic?

Fear. And the unknown. My body remembers sudden trauma all too well, and my inner (primal) brain just took over my logical brain.

I did not decide to have a panic attack. My fear just stepped in and took over.  It worked overtime.

To make it even more stressful, I had to be up all week at 3 AM to do a work shift (radio), and there was no understudy.

Worry layered over worry – and pain, and nausea.

So I did the only thing I could do -I took my own advice. I lay there, trembling, and focused on my breath. I tried to take air all the way in. With each inhale, I started repeating the two phrases that seemed helpful through the fear:

All Will Be Well. (Core Phrase #4, Trust)

and

Whatever Happens, I’ll Handle It Somehow. (Core Phrase #7, Esteem)

Did I miraculously get all better? No. But the ship turned around enough so that I stopped spiraling, and didn’t make myself worse.

I repeated those phrases over and over until, mercifully, I fell asleep. I repeated them again at midnight when my fear woke me up again, and got three more hours of sleep. I was able to get up, walk (with a walker) to work, and get the job done. And research my symptoms to understand what my body had decided to do.

I’ll confirm at my orthopedic surgeon appointment tomorrow, but I think the hip pain is muscular (a muscle that rests on the sciatic nerve), and the rest of the episode was, indeed, my body in panic mode.

With any luck, this is treatable. With more luck, non-surgically.

But in the meantime, I know how to talk myself away from the cliff’s edge. Words work.

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