Do you know how to help someone when they are having a panic attack? Do you know the signs and symptoms of a person having a panic attack? I’m going to share my learnings associated with my loved one dealing with panic attacks. The more she tried to hide her feelings without support the more the panic attacks would occur. And they would increase in intensity. Eventually, she would be admitted to a youth psychiatric unit and be diagnosed with PTSD, severe anxiety and major depressive disorder.
Number 1 and most important thing to remember is to stay calm. If anyone around her would show frustration or any discouraging emotion at all, her panic attack would intensify. Some of the symptoms she experienced during the most severe attacks would be stuttering and shaking uncontrollably. When these intense attacks would occur, it would take even longer for her to calm down. I must admit that in the beginning of her battle with panic attacks, I would get very frustrated because I couldn’t understand her. Before this all happened, she was a brilliant student with speech and debate skills that I found to be phenomenal.
I also learned how to respect her boundaries. I couldn’t just tell her “Oh, it’ll be okay baby girl” and kiss her boo-boo away just like I would when she was younger. In fact, I wasn’t even able to touch her at all. Sometimes, a panic attack would be triggered just by someone accidentally brushing up against her in passing when we were in public. I learned how to help others that were around. I had to keep the situation under control around any crowds. Ensuring none of them tried to touch her and knew how to communicate with her. One thing that helped with some people is that she learned a little about sign language and could communicate during her more severe episodes when she would experience the stuttering.
I learned some of the coping skills she learned during her stay at the psychiatric unit. I researched more to try to understand those coping skills. And when those coping skills weren’t helping, I researched how to help her try a different coping skill.
Another important lesson I learned is how much I needed to change my own thoughts and understanding about mental health to be a better caregiver. I was only familiar with depression and I had never given it a second thought beyond that. By changing my thoughts, I’ve also learned not to underestimate myself. I discovered that the imperfections in the lives of the ones I love the most brought out the strength in me. I’ve become a better caregiver to her and to others in my life that need someone. My mom had battled breast cancer before this and has battled early stage of pancreatic cancer too. I was fortunate enough to be with her through everything. She is a very strong woman and warrior.
I had to learn to trust the doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and counselors to help her with her healing. And let me tell you, there were many of those. If she felt any bad vibes from anyone involved in her medical care, she was done with them and moved on to the next one. Recently, I have learned that other factors can also affect a person’s mental health. When she was 3 months old, I discovered a small knot in her elbow and asked the doctor to check it out. The doctor ordered a blood draw and diagnosed her with slight hypercalcemia. I honestly never gave it any more thought because the doctor said it was “slightly” high amount of calcium in her blood. Now that she is 19 years old, she recently complained to a different doctor at a physical about more knots in different parts of her body. The blood draw shows that levels are higher now. I began researching it through WedMD and found that it has an affect on the brain and could cause depression.
I learned how to pay attention to her more. I learned to watch for things that I knew would trigger her anxiety or panic attack. And to stay clear from what has triggered the worst panic attacks imaginable in the past.
Lastly and most impressive to me is how I have been able to let go of a lot of the pain I feel while trying to help her. I pray and let God take control over it. This has helped me find hope again. I can’t say that she’s done with battling this depression and anxiety. But I can say that I can see her getting stronger.
“Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”