I keep having panic attacks at church, I don’t really know why. I seem to have become scared being around a lot of people again, being in crowded places is proving somewhat difficult again. I think this maybe a part of it, and possibly that my mind is becoming to associate church with having panic attacks, I go to church afraid I’m going to have a panic attack. I get so nervous about having a panic attack. Which seems to be how panic attacks work, I worry about having one so much I end up having a panic attack, which causes me to worry about them. A very vicious cycle.
- Please don’t stare at me or come up to me when you notice I’m starting to panic.
This is the moment when I am trying very hard to use my coping mechanisms to just try and stay calm. When people look at me intensely or approach me, I get extremely self -conscious and my anxiety rises even more. People approaching me makes me wary and more on edge, someone sympathetically putting their arm on my shoulder has literally made me jump out of my chair!
- Please do check in with me later to see if I’m OK.
I mean much later in the day, in the evening if I had a panic attack in the morning. It usually takes me a few hours of rest to recover from a panic attack. When I’m calm again it’s really encouraging when a friend asks me how I am. Please text me to make sure I’m OK. I can’t manage phone calls even when I am calm!
- Make plans with me in the future.
Panic attacks can be so isolating, I feel so alone afterwards. I need time to be alone to recover from them. After I’ve recovered, I feel so alone and distant from other people and I find it hard to reach out to you. Embarrassed by the fact I’m still struggling to keep my anxiety under control. Show me I’m still valuable to you by making plans with me sometime soon. Show me I still matter to you, even when I’m having some problems and believe you hate me.
- Listen to my story without judgement.
I know panic attacks don’t make sense. They don’t make sense to me either. They’re not logical, Mental illnesses aren’t always logical – they are illnesses. Sometimes it helps me to talk things over with people, but please don’t try to diagnose me, or judge me on whether I handled everything well. Please please just listen to me and give me grace.
- Give me permission to keep having panic attacks.
I feel like there is a lot of pressure on me to ‘just stop’, to recover from my issues and be ‘normal’ (well as normal as I am!). I am working so hard to be healthy and recover; it’s a long road. But my panic attacks might continue for a while, please try to be OK with that. I am doing my best. I might keep leaving places due to panic attacks, or maybe I wont show up to some places scared of being triggered. Either is OK. Please show me that either is fine and that I am OK the way I am.
- Ask me how you can help.
There might be something that I need or something you can do to help me in a certain circumstance, especially ones that really provoke my anxiety. I might not even know what I need but you might. Don’t approach me in the midst of an attack because it takes me everything to not just run away from everything and everyone during them. When you check in with me later ask if there is anything you can do to help, It’s nice to know you are there for me.
- Remind me you still want to be my friend.
I know panic attacks aren’t attractive; I don’t like the scared, nervous person they turn me into. Please show me in small ways you still want me in your life. Show me I am OK just the way I am right now, even if its just smiling at me when I come into church or inviting me to go grab a Diet Coke with you (I don’t do hot drinks!) even though I might not feel up to coming. Remind me that you still want me around.