Every time I’m alone with men I can feel the anxiety attacks sneaking up on me. First thing to happen is I get nervous and my heart beats faster. I try to locate the fastest way out and somehow plan an escape even before I have fully entered the room.
I think the anxiety attacks are our brains way of getting us out of potentially dangerous situations without having to think too much. You know, sometimes when you’re about to do something that’s not entirely safe and you think a lot about it before you do it. But with anxiety attacks, the brain just skips that part and goes straight to “We gotta get outta here or we gonna die, mate” and well, it works.
Last time I had a really bad anxiety attack, I was working different tasks and was promised that I’d only be working among women. Only, they broke that promise and suddenly this old guy comes up to me and he wants me to vacuum the floor in this corridor. Fine, I can do that, I thought. It was a very long corridor, with a room in the middle where the door to the garden also was. While I’m vacuuming one of the ends of this corridor, the guy comes back and starts walking towards me while talking about some other tasks I would have to do that day. Looking back at it, he probably just wanted to tell me what I was going to do afterwards, but in the moment I felt like I was in being driven up in a corner and he was blocking the only way out. I started breathing more rapidly, my hands were sweaty and my legs started shaking. I knew what was happening, but the only thing I could think of was that he was trying to corner me so he could hurt me. Fortunately he must have been able to see that something was completely wrong just by looking at my face, and he stepped back and I ran right past him and out of the door.
There was a long allée that led to the main road and I while I can usually only run for a like a minute or so because of an injury in my legs, I ran until I had almost reached the end of it. Go adrenalin! Suddenly I notice a loud noise behind me and when I look back, there was this big road sweeper following me. Inside of it were the guy that was responsible for me and looking back at it, he probably just wanted to know why I had suddenly run off without a word. But the only thought that came to my mind was “He’s gonna drive you over and kill you“. I started crying hysterically, shaking even more and I started to seriously have trouble breathing properly. When he caught up with me, he stepped out and yelled at me what the fuck I was doing, and I remember accidentally letting out a scream while I kept running. He must have thought I was crazy. He turned the sweeper around and went back towards the houses. When I reached the main road I called my boss and had her pick me up.
When I think of it now, it all sounds so silly. Like, no, he wasn’t going to hurt me in the corridor. He was moving closer to me to have a conversation. And that other guy following me in the road sweeper? Of course he wasn’t going to kill me. He was a bit fat and it would have been impossible for him to reach me on foot. Actually, it sort of a funny story. I mean, how did my brain come the conclusion that they were going to hurt me? Why did it come to that conclusion? The thing about anxiety attacks is, you never really know when it’s going to happen or how bad of an anxiety attack it’s going to be. This one I just told you about is the worst I’ve ever had in public, but when I think of it now it all seems rather funny that my brain completely shut down all logic and tried to “save” me from a guy with a road sweeper.
My experience with PTSD anxiety attacks is that you have to try to convince your body that you’re not in danger all the time. This anxiety attack helped me quite a lot actually, because it helped me realize how silly it must have looked. Of course having an anxiety attack because of something that is happening now and having them because of something you can’t control like dreams, smells or things like that are two completely different things. While I think this one anxiety attack seems sort of silly, I certainly don’t think that way about the other ones I’ve had or the ones that start out of nowhere. Not when I’m looking back at them either. The thing about this one attack is that it helped me to see that maybe there isn’t a reason to be so scared. It’s good to be careful, but there’s no need to be that scared “just” because I’m in a room with a guy.
Being able to distance yourself from the anxiety attacks and looking at them with new eyes is definitely a hard thing to do, but it can help you controlling them in the future if you can convince your brain that it’s not going to die. If you remember that nothing life threatening happened last time you were having an anxiety attack you may be able to control the next one better. I’m still in the process and I still get anxiety attacks. Sometimes it helps to think that last time was false alarm, sometimes it’s too late and I can’t stop it.
If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. That goes for controlling anxiety attacks too.