Sometimes my hands shake so much, I look like I’m leading a symphony. (Without a baton.) Legs too, I have to sit down.
Maybe you panic before a test, the very fear of having a seizure, social rejection, job anxieties, debt, fear of failure, an anticipated argument, holidays, fear of flying.
There are probably as many kinds of panic attacks as there are those of us who suffer from them.
And behaviors: trembling, sweating, hyperventilating, breathlessness, feeling faint or light-headed, a sense of disorientation, cramping, nausea, your heart pounding like it’s going to explode from your chest, a fear of dying. Or you’re just plain scared.
I could go on forever. And I’m sure you could, too.
It might be because your serotonin level is low, you’re feeling a sense of “fight or flight.”
But anxiety is actually related to epilepsy in more specific ways. It can occur not only as a reaction, but also as a symptom and in some cases, as a side effect of seizure medicines.
In some cases, panic attacks have been misdiagnosed as epilepsy, and epilepsy has even been misdiagnosed as panic attacks!
For example, hyperventilation caused by anxiety can trigger a convulsion, which can further complicate the diagnosis.
A person can have a panic attack which may eventually turn to a seizure, or that seizure may be the result of a panic attack.
The worst part is that neither just “goes away.”
But happily, there are some solutions…
I’m sure you have your own techniques, but here are the ones that work best for me…
1. Deep breathing. I breath in through my nostrils and hold my breath for ten seconds (although, some people do it for 5 seconds) and then exhale to the count of ten, through pursed lips. (Sort of like blowing out a candle, as Candi so cleverly put it.) The beauty of it is that you can do it any time, any where, and as long as you need to until that nasty panic goes away.
2. Visualization. I think of a particular happy experience (or two) and sort of let it take over my body. Like watching the waves crash. Or eating a lobster roll in Maine.
3. Music. I take 30 minutes that’s just mine, get in a comfy chair, put on headphones and forget about the rest of the stuff. It’s so relaxing, that sometimes I feel like I’m transported to another place. Away from my fears.
4. Walking a few miles or so. Taking in my surroundings. Sometimes it’s the trees, a bird flying by, a beautiful sunset. Or maybe watching other people (I admit it, I’m an incurable people watcher), cloud formations. Whatever presents itself before me. Being in the moment.
5. I do run an epilepsy support group. (You could join one or start your own.) It’s helpful to hear other people’s fears and concerns and try to help each other. There’s a feeling of accomplishment, community, sharing and of course, making new friends. After all, aren’t we all in this together?
6. I try to do something new that’s creative. (Obviously, after 33 years, it’s not writing.) Right now, I’m trying to learn more about my camera, so I can take some real pictures, other than just of my cat.
7. There’s meds (yup, that too) and cognitive therapy (which has done a world of good for me).
I’ve love to be able to meditate, but I just don’t have the attention span. Try deep muscle relaxation, but who has the time?
Or finally, confront my fears and think of what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Maybe some day. Soon.
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