Through yesterday’s post I rediscovered my love for lists. And as I’ve been asked what to do when I have a panic attack several times I thought that my needs in such a situation might be similar to other peoples’ needs and that a “Panic-Attack-To-Do-List” could be helpful. So let’s do this:
- Speak in a calm way, hectic makes everything worse.
- Don’t panic yourself – if you feel helpless it’s better to leave me alone than to expect extensive instructions by me.
- Open windows/take me outside if possible.
- Send gawpers away.
- Get water.
- If necessary, help me with the removal of tight clothes/seatbelts in the car, etc. if I can’t breath (stop driving the car first^^).
- Ask simple Yes/No-questions, for example: “Do you want to stay here?”, “Do you need a hanky?”,…
- DON’T! TOUCH! WITHOUT! ASKING! Seriously, it can be comforting to hold a hand but if somebody thinks I want to be hugged out of the blue, I don’t just believe that we’re all going to die but also that it’s gonna be extremely painful.
- Don’t ask why I have the attack – either I don’t know myself or I can’t explain it or it is an awesome trigger such as “I smelled my burger and reacted with mortal fear for some reason.” – yes, things like that happen^^
- When there’s somebody there who knows me well (like my partner), get this person.
- I like black humour but I dislike stupid jokes.
- If possible, breathe slowly and invite me to follow your example.
After a panic attack I feel stupefied, tired, exhausted, confused or just small and scared. If you expect too much that might result in yet another attack so it helps me if you make decisions for me (like inviting me to leave the ground in front of the restaurant where I’m sitting). When the panic abates, hugs might be helpful just like a hand to hold on to. Sleeping/resting are fine but don’t work immediately so distraction can be comforting (talk about irrevelances, turn on a harmless movie, read a book to me,…). I often feel embarassed when someone has seen me in such a vulnerable state so I don’t feel inclined to talk through the whole event in detail – questions are okay but strong curiosity makes me feel like an animal in the zoo…
I take for granted that everyone is clever enough not to tell a person who suffers from a panic attack that he/she should just pull him/herself together 😉
I hope this is helpful for somebody and I’m also looking forward to additions in the comments.