Having a Panic Attack at Work

Work was an interesting challenge yesterday. I’m normally fairly good at coping with work and my mental health, admittedly I have had the odd hiccup, but my colleagues are fantastically supportive – they’re a wonderful bunch and they always manage to help me get back on track.

Work is familiar ground for me – I’ve studied and worked in the same place for five years. Working somewhere that I feel comfortable and able to best utilise my talents is something that I’m grateful for, it also helps a great deal in terms of managing my anxiety. However, yesterday we had an away day – where I was doing fine, leading presentations on a project that we’re currently running, until I sat down after having a few minutes outside and I kid you not the world’s greatest panic attack decided to take over.

I was sat in my chair (a really cool, fancy one) clutching on to the arms, and trying so hard not to pass out, it was awful. My body went ice cold, but I was so hot, and sweaty (lovely I know), everything felt like it was spinning, but the problem was I felt too anxious and overwhelmed (and panicky) to get up and leave the room. I sat there awkwardly rubbing my arms and twiddling my thumbs in an attempt to ground myself, but all I could think about was how silly and embarrassing this must have looked and about how badly I wanted to run from the room. I was also terrified that my legs would turn to jelly if I tried to move so there was a lot of conflict, and a lot of thoughts spinning around in my head.

After pleading with myself internally to move I somehow managed to get up and – as casually as possible – leave the room. I think if I’d have sat in that chair any longer I definitely would have passed out. I felt as though I was drunk – as I sort of stumbled to the bathroom. The corridor was weirdly lit, so it really felt as though I was in a very dramatic, very horrible nightmare. I’d definitely also forgot how to breathe correctly, so I have no idea how I managed to make it to the end of that corridor.

By the time I got to the toilets I locked myself in the furthest cubicle and collapsed to the floor (literally, like how they do in films when people are being dramatic – I sort of slid down the wall and just sat on the floor). I wanted to cry, but my chest had other ideas, as it tried to figure out how to breathe – something that’s it’s been doing for 22 years, but apparently yesterday it got confused. I also didn’t want to make any noise (the fear of people hearing me, and me looking like a fool was just as sincere as the anxiety and panic that had taken over my body).

I sat there stupidly for a bit – still feeling as though I was about to pass out, after about ten or fifteen minutes, I managed to get myself back to some sort of steady, “things’ll be okay” kind of mindset. At this point one of my colleagues (bloody lovely, amazing, wonderful colleagues) came in to ask how I was doing, and reassured me that I could take as long as I needed. (I guess my attempt to not let others know what was going on wasn’t overly great – but still, what can ya do).

What made things a little more difficult was having to encourage myself to actually return back to the meeting room – I felt incredibly fragile anyway, as you can imagine – but I was terrified that I’d walk back into the room and people would judge me.

Source: Pinterest.

Of course, this was something that I needn’t have worried about, but it did play on my mind for a good five minutes or so, just prolonging the crappy feeling that I was experiencing.

Also, why do places tend to only have hot water taps now in bathrooms – like, when I’m panicking and I want to splash cold water on my face and wrists it’s not helpful when there isn’t any bloody cold water. (Just saying).

The next few hours were quite tricky – but my colleague reminded me that I only had to make it through another two hours and then I could go home (and create a fort in my bed and forget about the world for the rest of the evening). I managed to make it through, but by the time I got home it felt as though I’d run twenty marathons, and I was exhausted. I’ve also somehow now managed to develop a cold, which ain’t great.



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