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Fight or Flight - Give me a break!

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outlook

New member
Joined
Jun 8, 2021
Messages
1
Location
Wales
Hi everyone,

First-time poster and forum member. I've read some of the threads and think it's great that there's somewhere people can bring their feelings and emotions to a community of selfless posters offering support around the issues. I've often struggled to talk out loud to anyone about the way I feel, especially recently. My girlfriend calls it the MEM - Male Ego Roadblock :rofl2:

I'm giving as much detail as possible below as my last step before I pay to go see a psychologist. I just want to know how I can better manage my panic moments nowadays. I'm well aware of them, but just can't seem to rationalise them with myself anymore. It's like my brain completely takes over and ignores my reassurance.

Background
I'm male, in my mid-20s, just graduating from University. Had some trauma in my teen years, nothing crazy but definitely not things that everyone goes through. Fast forward to 18 and I'm finally getting my sh*t together. Powering through my anxiety, stop worrying about what people think of me, feeling invincible. I head off, travel Southeast Asia, lots of holidays, festivals. Social butterfly!

A week before I head to university (Now aged 22) I'm on holiday, drinking naturally a fair bit. One night I'm sat in the chair and I feel like I can't breathe. I've suffered lots from reflux in my life so heartburn is a common symptom when I drink. But this was different. My body felt shaky, I had pins and needles in my hands and feet, my heart was racing. I went back to my room and curled up in bed, text my mum that I loved her in case I was dying from some bad alcohol. I laid there for like an hour, no idea what was going on. When it calmed down, I went to get some food. I was sat in the dark trying to swallow and couldn't, my throat had just closed and it all started again. I started to google my symptoms and read about panic attacks. Bingo. I'd always considered the term "panic attack" to be something you could snap out of. Boy, did that night change my perspective. The weeks after, moving to uni, new home, new place. It kept happening out of nowhere. I was so confused as it wasn't part of who I perceived myself as. I slowly learnt to deal with it, noticed the signs of it starting, reassured myself and managed it well. I've never been the same since that night, though.

The last few years I've continued to slowly come to terms with it all, managing it, it even goes away for months on end and I think I've cured myself only for it to randomly start again. So I started looking for patterns.

Triggers
I started to notice that being in a restaurant trying to eat often led to me not being able to swallow, my hands sweating. Something about the distinct sound of chatter in the background set me off.
Then it started happening when I was in supermarkets, standing to queue my legs felt like they were shaking, the noises around me felt amplified, I felt like I was glazed over and numb to what my eyes were looking at but so in tune with every other sense around me.
When I'm in a one-way store system, such as IKEA, I often start to get the symptoms. I'll be walking and feel like the world is spinning slightly as I feel my adrenaline fire up, is this perhaps because I'm stuck in the store with only one way out?
Now recently, riding a bike, scooter.. Anything I previously did without issue gets my hands ultra sweaty and my fists clenched tightly. I have to regulate my breathing the whole time to stay as calm as possible.

When I'm sat here, at home, in front of my computer.. I'm absolutely fine. It's like the real world, noises and the sound of life puts me into an instant fight or flight situation that because of COVID and barely being out, has been amplified massively.

Fight or Flight Symptoms?
I get adrenal pumps to my legs, my fists tighten, I sweat. My heart rate, strangely, barely changes. Sometimes, my mind seems to try to detach itself from my body. I walk through a busy park and feel like I'm swaying and struggle to focus on the present.
Sometimes, when trying to eat in a restaurant, I get random, uncontrollable urges to move my hands quickly, to jolt my leg, to stand up. My body feels like it is in a sheer state of life of death, and no matter what I try to do to rationalize it, I can't. My throat closes up and the cycle begins.

A Plea for Advice
Please tell me there's someone here who has similar experiences? It's putting me off everything in life now. I can't go for dinner with my friends, I worry about walking into supermarkets, going round someone's house for a drink.

I just want to better understand how to stop my body flying into this state of fight or flight instantly. I have no idea if this is what you'd consider a panic disorder. The doctor just put it down to anxiety, though I'm really not feeling aware of any anxiety aside from the typical need to find a job, pay the bills etc. Generally, I'm very mellow and people would likely never expect to hear what goes on behind closed doors. Even when I speak to the waiter, for example, after feeling the whole meal like the world is about to end, would likely have no idea I'd been that way. When my body NEEDS to start being present, it does.. it's just when I spiral with no distraction.

I'm sorry for the wall of text, I just don't understand why this has started, how to better control it and regain my life a little. I try to be mindful of my emotions, the world around me, but my brain seems to have a mind of its own, no matter what I tell it.

Sincerely,
outlook
 
jajingna

jajingna

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 31, 2020
Messages
5,122
Location
Canada
Well, it's a survival response, all animals have it. It's more instinctive than our thoughts. It happens faster too, then we think about it after it takes place. Thinking has very little chance to control it. If it did, we'd all be calmer. I guess what we need is a way to train our nervous system to be calmer. To feel genuinely safe when there are no real threats. The old brain doesn't seem to care if threats are real or imaginary, it reacts the same for both, setting off that stress response, pumping out the hormones, making you feel like you're in danger and need to escape.

What to do? How to train the nervous system? There are some techniques for that. I do some EFT tapping every day, it brings a bit of calmness. And you know some of the other things, like taking breath consciously, getting exercise, sleeping enough, eating proper foods.
 
Wishbone

Wishbone

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 20, 2019
Messages
1,313
Location
England
All the things you describe are when you're in social settings but you're fine when you're on your own, so it's something to do with other people, or unfamiliar people? How are you when you're alone with your girlfriend, or eating meals together at home just you two - does it ever happen then or only in public?
 
D

Distant_Alien

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2021
Messages
6
Location
Australia
Take my advice with a grain of salt. See a psychologist or psychiatrist and try some fast acting medication like Valium. Honestly, just having it on your person helps a lot. It should go without saying though, don’t become dependant. If you need to retreat home and calm down or take Valium for the 5th day in a row. Go home. It can be a fantastic tool and hopefully just knowing it’s an option could be enough. I’m not trying to scare you, it’s just that it can be very addictive.
 
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