I’ve already lost you.
So bored. Someone talk to me?
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
- Stay with us and keep calm.
The last thing we need when we’re panicking, is to have someone else panicking with us.
- Offer medicine if we usually take it during an attack.
You might have to ask whether or not we take medicine- heck, some might not; but please, ask. It really helps.
- Move us to a quiet place.
We need time to think, to breathe. Being surrounded by people isn’t going to help.
- Don’t make assumptions about what we need. Ask.
We’ll tell you what we need. Sometimes; you may have to ask- but never assume.
- Speak to us in short, simple sentences.
- Be predictable. Avoid surprises.
- Help slow our breathing by breathing us or by counting slowly to 10.
As odd as it sounds, it works.WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T DO:
1. Say, “You have nothing to be panicked about.”
We know. Weknow. We know. And because we know we have nothing to be panicked about, we panic even more. When I realize that my anxiety is unfounded, I panic even more because then I feel like I’m not in touch with reality. It’s unsettling. Scary.
Most of the time, a panic attack is irrational. Sometimes they stem from circumstances — a certain couch triggers a bad memory or being on an airplane makes you claustrophobic or a break up causes you to flip your lid — but mostly, the reasons I’m panicking are complex, hard to articulate or simply, unknown. I could tell myself all day that I have no reason to be having a panic attack and I would still be panicking. Sometimes, because I’m a perfectionist, I become even more overwhelmed when I think my behaviour is “unacceptable” (as I often believe it is when I’m panicking). I know it’s all in my mind, but my mind can be a pretty dark and scary place when it gets going.
Alternate suggestion: Say, “I understand you’re upset. It is okay. You have a right to be upset and I am here to help.”
2. Say, “Calm down.”
This reminds me of a MadTV sketch where Bob Newhart plays a therapist who tells his patients to simply “Stop it!” whenever they express anxiety or fear. As a sketch, it’s funny. In real life, it’s one of the worst things you can do to someone having a panic attack. When someone tells me to “stop panicking” or to “calm down,” I just think, “Oh, okay. I haven’t tried that one. Hold on, let me get outa pen and paper and jot that down, you jerk.”
Instead of taking action so that they do relax, simply telling a panicking person to “calm down” or “stop it” does nothing. No-thing.
Alternate suggestion: The best thing to do is to listen and support. In order to calm them down without the generalities, counting helps.
3. Say, “I’m just going to leave you alone for a minute.”
Being left alone while panicking makes my heart race even harder. The last thing I want is to be left by myself with my troubled brain. Many of my panic attacks spark from over-thinking and it’s helpful to have another person with me, not only for medical reasons (in case I pass out or need water) but also it’s helpful to have another person around to force me to think about something other than the noise in my head.
Alternate suggestion: It sometimes helps me if the person I’m with distracts me by telling me a story or sings to me. I need to get out of my own head and think about something other than my own panic.
4. Say, “You’re overreacting.”
Here’s the thing: I’m not. Panic attacks might be in my head, but I’m in actual physical pain. If you’d cut open your leg, no one would be telling you you’re overreacting. It’s a common trope in mental health to diminish the feelings or experience of someone suffering from anxiety or panic because there’s no visible physical ailment and because there’s no discernible reason for the person to be having such a strong fear reaction.
The worst thing you can tell someone who is panicking is that they are overreacting.
Alternate suggestion: Treat a panic attack like any other medical emergency. Listen to what the person is telling you. Get them water if they need it. It helps me if someone rubs my back a little. If you’re in over your head, don’t hesitate to call 911 (or whatever the emergency services number is where you are). But please, take the person seriously. Mental health deserves the same respect as physical health.
50 questions, 50 ways to get to know me. ANONS.
- 1: What would you name your future daughter?
- 2: Do you miss anyone?
- 3: What if I told you that you were pretty?
- 4: Ever been told “it’s not you, it’s me”?
- 5: What are you looking forward to in the next week?
- 6: Did you go out or stay in last night?
- 7: How late did you stay up last night?
- 8: Honestly, has anyone seen you in your underwear in the past 3 months?
- 9: What were you doing at 12:30 this afternoon?
- 10: Have you ever told somebody you loved them and not actually meant it?
- 11: Could you go for the rest of your life without drinking alcohol?
- 12: Have you pretended to like someone?
- 13: Could you go the rest of your life without smoking a cigarette?
- 14: Is there one person in your life that can always make you smile?
- 15: Is it hard for you to get over someone?
- 16: Think back five months ago, were you single?
- 17: Have you ever cried from being so mad?
- 18: Hold hands with anyone this week?
- 19: Did your last kiss take place in/on a bed?
- 20: Who did you last see in person?
- 21: What is the last thing you said out lot?
- 22: Have you kissed three or more people in one night?
- 23: Have you ever been to Paris?
- 24: Are you good at hiding your feelings?
- 25: Do you use chap stick?
- 26: Who did you last share a bed with?
- 27: Are you listening to music right now?
- 28: What is something you currently want right now?
- 29: Were your last three kisses from the same person?
- 30: How is your heart lately?
- 31: Do you wear the hood on your hoodie?
- 32: When was the last time a member of the opposite sex hugged you?
- 33: What do people call you?
- 34: Have you ever wanted to tell someone something but didn’t?
- 35: Are there any stressful situations in your life?
- 36: What are you listening to right now?
- 37: What is wrong with you right now?
- 38: Love really is a beautiful thing huh?
- 39: Do you make wishes at 11:11?
- 40: What is on your wrists right now?
- 41: Are you single/taken/heartbroken/confused/waiting for the unexpected?
- 42: Where did you get the shirt/sweatshirt you’re wearing?
- 43: Have you ever regretted kissing someone?
- 44: Have you hugged someone within the last week?
- 45: Have you kissed anyone in the last five days?
- 46: What were you doing at midnight last night?
- 47: Do you miss the way things were six months ago?
- 48: Would you rather sleep with someone else or alone?
- 49: Have you ever been to New York?
- 50: Think of the last person who said I love you, do you think they meant it?