The Rituals of Panic
Those of us who have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks usually have formed some sort of ritual they go through in order to (hopefully) create some sort of relief – even if it lasts a nanosecond.
Over the years I’ve certainly had several different rituals I’ve gone through. That is completely natural because as you grow up you learn new things and other things dull and stop helping.
The first ritual I can remember having was crossing my fingers. I’d start to feel sick and then I’d cross my fingers, both hands of course, and then keep closed fists. I’d go to sleep like this, I’d wake up like this. If I had to go to school I’d ride the whole way there with those crossed fingers. It was me wishing myself luck. The luck was that I wouldn’t get sick and that I would feel better soon.
Next was the television and radio. I’d start to panic and on would come the television. Sometimes that I could listen to and try to really pay attention to. Reading never helped enough so I had to stick with visuals and audio. Each night was a decision whether I’d sleep with the television on or the radio. Being a young child I would usually lose the battle of keeping the TV on all night so I had an alarm clock radio set to whatever talk station we had at the time in my hometown. That still sticks with me in my adult years. Sometimes I keep the TV on all night but God Bless the sleep function!
Later on in my teens I discovered that ice cubes were a savior. Because I’d get so overheated during an attack the only physical relief I could get was sticking my hand in a bowl of ice. Sometimes I’d wrap the ice cube in a towel and wipe it across my forehead – as though I have a fever. I even went so far as to drop a cube in my bra and just leave it there. Many years later I realized that I wasn’t only using the ice to cool off but to shift my physical symptoms elsewhere and to distract me from the severe nausea I was experiencing.
Most recently, in this wonderful age of technology, I have taken to playing games on my smartphone. Being a functioning adult who needs to go places and do things I can’t always been in the comfort of my own home close to all the ice cubes there ever was. I’ve moved through several games. The first one was Tetris. The second one was some bubble blaster game, then BeJeweled and finally Skeeball. I’ve recently reverted back to Tetris because the controls are so flimsy that it actually annoys me and distracts me from whatever is going on inside my body.
What rituals help you? Do you just stick to breathing techniques? Maybe you just go to sleep right away. Self-mediciation is a big and bad one. Alcohol and illegal drugs can interfere with true help.
I know my rituals will change and shift and technology races forward and old techniques become obsolete.
But for now, TETRIS.