For my public speaking class this semester, I gave a speech about panic attacks. Specifically about how an attack comes about, what your body goes through, the aftermath of an attack and some ways to recover. I chose this topic because I had a panic attack in my senior year of high school and it took me a while to fully recover. My recovery included figuring out situations that could possibly cause an attack and avoiding them. These situations are usually similar to the place and activity I was doing leading up to the attack. But on some occasions I had to face my stressors.
This leads me to Octavia Butler’s Clay’s Ark and the anxiety I had to work through while reading it. Reading this book gave me a lot of anxiety because it was about a topic I fear so much. I am already a bit of a hypochondriac and to me the microorganisms are what my nightmares are made of.
I got through the book because I followed some steps I figured out on my own, then through research for my speech I realized were legitimate coping mechanisms. According to David Carbonell on his website Anxietycoach.com these are some steps to help relieve an attack,
The A is for Acknowledge & Accept. In this step, one acknowledges the present reality. You are afraid and starting to panic. You shouldn’t try to ignore it, or pretend it’s not there. You shouldn’t fight the feeling, blame yourselves, or anybody else. I accepted that I am uncomfortable with the affliction depicted in Butler’s work.
The W is for Wait & Watch/work. This step is where you just stand there. It’s similar to the suggestion of “count to ten before you get mad”. You use the occasion to observe how the panic works, and how you respond to it. For this step, I do remember a couple of times I had to put the book down because of invasive thoughts.
The next A is for Action. This is to make yourselves more comfortable like getting into a more comfortable position if possible. I would usually take a break from reading the book and watch some videos on youtube to make me feel better.
R is for Repeat. This step is here because you might start feeling better, then feel another wave of panic. Your first reaction might then be to wonder if the previous steps worked. The step is here to remind you that it’s OK if the steps don’t work immediately. Just do them again. It’s not unusual or dangerous.
E is for the End. This step is here to remind you that the panic attack will end; that all panic attacks end and that your only job is to make yourselves as comfortable as possible while waiting for the attack to end.
Though what I felt while reading Clay’s Ark did not manifest itself into a full panic attack, I learned something. I learned more about the things that give me anxiety and ways I can effectively deal with them when they appear. I also try to remember that whatever negative situation I am going through will end eventually and I just have to hold out until it does.