Trust your gut. Your intuition. We have all heard it. This is supposed to be how we protect ourselves. Being half Scottish, superstitions are in my bones. As a child, I had foreseen my grandfather picking me up after school one day. It wasn’t something that was ordinary, or planned for me by my parents; that I was aware of. So when I saw his truck after school, imagine my surprise when it was my uncle in my grandfather’s truck. It was all legit, nothing bad happened. My parents were unable to be home when the bus would drop me off, so they made alternate arrangements.
Premonitions. I can say this was the first time I had one. It wasn’t the last. Sometimes I dream things up before they happen. Other times, a stray thought turns from what if into a reality. So there is a foundation for the thought at the start. My gut does perceive things, and they turn out to be close to the truth, if not the truth before it happens.
So when do you know that your senses are misfiring? At the risk of sounding a little off center, I have asked. When I am second guessing myself, that is when I know it is time to see if I am being rational or irrational. Most times I am over reacting. So I am now learning that if I am wondering if I am being rational or not, usually I am not. I have a big loud feeling that something bad is going to happen, and a little tiny feeling of maybe I am over reacting as well. So now I have to try and find the correct feeling if the spidey sense goes off. Better safe then sorry, when it comes to personal safety, but in relation to social or work doubts, it turns out that is usually what they are. Not actual warnings of anything that is dangerous, but my overactive imagination; my own doubts.
When I have the wrong kind of gut feeling, it is hard to stomp it out. It causes panic and over sensitivity too. Those things are not productive, and the little doubts fan the flames. I have to rationally calm down the irrational doubts. Not an easy thing to do. But necessary, for functioning in everyday life.
Having other things to focus on helps. Diving into a book, or work, or a TV show can steer the panic away. Diversion is a useful tool. As long as it is not something that interrupts what needs to happen for life to continue on as it needs to do. If I can’t shake it, things get worse before they get better. Anxiety attacks are not nice. I have had some when I didn’t understand what was happening. That is scary. When I realize what is happening, I am able to calm down. When I don’t, they escalate. That is bad news. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and when I get worked up about something, it usually bubbles over somewhere in my day. This is hard to explain, sometimes, as I can get angry or upset, and have difficulty verbalizing what is wrong. There have been times when I am so upset that there is a physical reaction that prevents me from talking, a feeling like my throat is closing off. It is hard to deal with other people when that happens, but I always bounce back. It is what I do.
The first time I had a panic attack, I did not know what was happening. I was hyperventilating, and close to fainting. What did I do? I called my Mom. I was in another province at the time, and on day 9 of being a Nanny for 3 girls aged 10 and under. Their parents were on another continent looking for a new home. I was in the suburbs of Toronto, and on day 9 of 10 days alone with the girls, the reality and responsibility caught up with me. It was all a little too much for me to comprehend. Thankfully, there was a relative of the girls nearby, and she gave me a break. She sent me to the mall. I calmed down after that and a beer. I was legally able to drink that beer, being 19 or 20 years old at the time.
Not knowing what was happening was scary. It was a while before I had another one, and because I do not have them frequently, I can miss the warning signs because I am not always on guard. When I figure out what is happening, I can usually calm myself down. Not everyone is so lucky. Some people aren’t able to calm down without medication. I am lucky that I can, and sympathize with anyone who goes through panic attacks that can’t calm down by themselves. It is not anyone’s fault if they have panic attacks. They happen. People have to find coping strategies to deal with them, so they can function day to day. What can you do if someone you know suffers from this? Listen to them. Sometimes that is the best thing that you can do. Offering to help with a daunting task is also a good choice, if they are open to accepting your assistance. Mostly support in whatever way you can, and in a way that they say is OK. People that have panic attacks are still people, and helping a friend is never a bad thing, as long as they are able to accept what you want to do. Taking over is not the way to go, that may make them feel like they are not capable of what they are trying to do, and even though you might feel better, they may not. In this type of situation, you want your friend to feel like they can accomplish things, and by asking what you can do, you are helping. Even if they decline your help, they know you care, and you want to help. Sometimes that is all you can do, and all that is necessary.
It is important for your friend to know that you support them, so that they can do what they need to do to find their way out of the attack. Don’t brush it off, or make light of what they are feeling. It is real for them, I know. It was real for me. If they push you away, give them space, but keep checking on them. Call, bring them a coffee, or take them out for one. Little things can be big if they are done from your heart. It can make the difference between the worst day ever, or the best friend that helps you feel better about yourself. The world needs more people that want to be good friends. So do what feels right, and hope for the best. It will mean the world to your friend if you let them know you support them, however they let you. Be the best friend you can be, and it will matter. You can make a difference. You may never know how big of an impact you are in someone else’s life, so make the effort. You can’t fix everything, but you can help by being a good friend.