Archive for April 15th, 2008

Storm clouds (c) Lynda BernhardtI used to have panic attacks on a regular basis after suffering from child abuse. They only stopped after I did the hard work of healing from the child abuse. Until then, I had panic attacks every couple of months. I knew this was not normal, and I had no idea what caused them. I only knew that I felt much, much better after having one.

I would feel the anxiety building up for several days before having a panic attack. I knew that the only way to relieve the anxiety was to allow myself to have a panic attack. I got really good at holding myself together until I could be alone and let loose.

I would lie down in my bed and start to shake. At first, it would only be my knees. Then, the shaking would travel to my thighs and calves. Next, it would move upward until every part of my body was shaking violently. Sometimes, I would shake so hard that the headboard would beat against the wall. I would often jerk my head rhythmically, kind of like head-banging into the air instead of into a wall or pillow. I would hyperventilate and force myself to breathe more deeply. Otherwise, I would get lightheaded.

This would go on for 10 to 20 minutes until it ran its course. Then, I would just stop. My body would feel amazing. All of my muscles would feel very relaxed, and I would sleep more deeply than I had in months (or since the previous episode).

I never told anyone about my panic attacks because I was embarrassed by them. I did not understand why I had them, and I feared it meant that I was crazy. I have since learned that some other child abuse survivors have them, too.

One abuse survivor told me that wild animals shake their bodies like this to release the adrenaline. She said that rabbits are constantly in danger, but they cannot function if they are in a state of terror all the time. So, after they are chased and escape with their lives, their bodies shake to release the adrenaline, and then they go back to normal.

I wonder if that is what my body was doing. Was I just releasing adrenaline? I don’t know. All I know is that I had panic attacks for decades, and I don’t anymore now that I have healed.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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