My first panic attack in a long time – exactly what happened

I’ve been thinking long and hard for a few weeks now about whether to write this post, primarily as it’s been a while since anything like this happened but also because I don’t want to seem a bit stupid / melodramatic and I don’t want to worry my Mum, who I know doesn’t like these types of posts (don’t worry, Mum – everything is fine. Honest.)

However, in the interest of this being an honest and open blog, I decided to. Plus, I’m conscious that I haven’t written much lately about the core issues which prompted me to start this blog, largely because they haven’t been a significant problem over the past 18-20 months.

So, here we go. A few weeks ago, for the first time in well over a year (pretty much since Covid affected all our lives), I had a panic attack.

It’s a strange one really as it came from nowhere and hit me like a cannonball. I was attending a college open day with my daughter, who is currently in her last year at secondary school. It was the first open day / evening we’d attended and was at a sizeable college. The objectives were straightforward: look around, see what the facilities and the general feel of the place was like, visit the subjects my daughter is interested in, and chat to lecturers and students. Nothing complex; nothing out of the ordinary; seemingly nothing to be concerned about. The college was understandably swarming with people and, after only a few minutes of being there, it hit me. I was suddenly conscious about how others were viewing me. I was conscious of how I looked. I was conscious that the shirt I was wearing may not have been too flattering to my less-than-svelte figure. I was conscious that I was attracting the attention of everyone else there. These feelings then manifested themselves in the same old ways. My throat went dry. My mind was racing. I started sweating. Firstly, my armpits. Then, as I became more aware and fearful of that, my back. Then my forehead. All of this made it even worse and it was difficult to stop. I was constantly thinking that these now visible signs ensured that people were definitely watching me and judging me even more. All the while, I was ridiculously conscious of trying to hold it all together for the sake of my daughter. So, this continued for much of the visit and didn’t ease off until we were walking back to the car. I couldn’t ‘stop it’ or let it ease until that point.

In hindsight, the thoughts running through my head were absolute nonsense. People weren’t looking at me and judging me or being as critical as I am to myself. They were going about their business and focusing on the things important to them, i.e. their families and what they wanted to get out of the visit. I have no idea why this happened in this circumstance. It’s not as if this is the first busy event I’ve been to in over 18 months. Since lockdown restrictions eased, I’ve performed live gigs again as one half of Lux Bay. I’ve attended quite a few comedy / music gigs. We’ve since attended a couple of other college open events without any issues. There’s no explanation at all.

I’m sure the same old core issues underpin this, i.e. low self-esteem, a smidgeon of self-loathing (at times), and that feeling (again, at times) that people are looking at me in a negative and critical way, though the really frustrating thing for me is that I cannot begin to understand why this particular instance triggered this whilst other similar situations have not, particularly as those trigger points are seemingly the same.

I suppose the same solution remains – try and lose weight (or certainly shed body fat), undoubtedly feel better about myself, and try to build my self-esteem. I’ve written about the weight-loss / fat-shedding battle a few times previously and feel another post is due, particularly as that is still some way off. I’m assuming (and desperately hoping) that this will help me though it remains to be seen.

So, there you have it. Apologies for some of the candid detail but I feel it’s important to explain exactly what happens to me in these circumstances. The main reason for me starting the blog is the main reason I’ve shared this experience – the hope that it helps someone who may have experienced something similar at some point in their life, to illustrate that you’re not on your own. That’s something I always think about after these occurrences – am I some sort of freak? The only person who this happens to? I doubt that is the case but I don’t know for sure.  If sharing this resonates with just one person, then it’s certainly worth writing.

As always, thanks for reading, stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. And don’t worry, Mum – I’m ok. This is just something I have learned to live with over many years, though I do need to work a little harder at trying to beat this.

Best wishes.

Mick

5 Comments

  1. Completely resonates Mick, despite being outwardly confident and carefree the gremlins rear their head on a regular basis. What do people think about how I look, sound, act etc? Trying to reason with yourself is the hardest bit sometimes! Keep we’ll.

    1. Really sorry to hear that. Difficult, isn’t it? Again, I’m sure this affects far more people than we might first realise. Take care.

  2. Hi Mike, I too have these problems randomly, without any explanation. Unfortunately the weight loss isn’t a magic cure. I still feel people are looking at me and judging me (like you , not all the time). But how I see myself in the mirror hasn’t changed, unfortunately.

    1. Really sorry to hear that Kay. It is tough to deal with. Perhaps I’m pinning too many of my hopes on weight-loss being the magic cure. Perhaps this will always be with me. I suppose time will tell. Take care. x

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