Even in the storm
I have a bowl of snow and water next to me that I’m sticking my face and hands in to calm my body.
Ive been crying and anxious for two days now. I worked too many hours back to back without sleep last week only to work long and hard on projects for school that can’t upload and are due tonight. My body aches from a painful fibromyalgia flare and I feel simultaneously shut down and overwhelmed knowing full well that there are others suffering so much more compared to me and that I should never complain. I should be able to handle this.
During a panic/anxiety attack the amygdala (fight or flight response system) goes into serious over drive and the body stars flooding with cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline at intense levels.
Shocking the body forces the brain to focus on those immediate sensations giving the amygdala the time to slow down and the central nervous system time to reset.
Little by little you begin to feel your body relax, your heart rate slow, your breathing ease.
Thats the science behind panic and anxiety attacks.
If you haven’t experienced one (wonderful! 🙏), its hard to really understand what it feels like. People will tell you you just need to think positively, brush it off and march on, and while good, strong, positive self talk is truly important, it fails to acknowledge the science going on inside and can feel dismissive to the person going through that hell.
People who know what this feels like because they have experienced it first hand know exactly what i am talking about.
It is so strange to understand exactly what’s happening in your body and why you are feeling the way you are physically and emotionally as a result, while still in the throes of a rollercoaster ride you want no part of.
It’s helpful even if the result is still exhausting. We can know all the right things to say and do for ourselves and yet here we are anyway.
When someone you know is going through this just be compassionate and offer sensory experiences to help them through the rough parts. Ice water, cool cloths, fresh air, a hot shower, hands to hold, arms to be held in, something to listen to, rest or a break.
Just be there. However that looks. Understand that it feels like drowning and failing all at the same time for that person. It will pass, but the passing can be exhausting. Just be there and know that your presence helps more than anything.
The passing of this moment is as inevitable as the arrival of spring even in the coldest storm.