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Throughout my life, I have struggled with panic attacks. I rarely get them any longer since I started the child abuse healing process. However, I got them with regularity throughout my adult life before then.

I still remember the first time I had one. I was in my teens (maybe 14), and my body would not stop shaking. It scared me because I did not know what was going on. To my knowledge, there was no trigger involved. My baseline was always anxious, but suddenly I could not hold it in any longer.

I remember calling out to my father from the hallway and asking him what was wrong with me. I kept shaking – violently shaking – and I could not stop. I was hyperventilating. I thought I was losing my mind. My father had no idea what was going on with me, either.

After that first time, I had panic attacks with regularity. About every two or three months, the anxiety would build to a crescendo, and then the panic attack would come. I would lie in my bed, and the shaking would begin. It would start with my head and move down to my entire body. My body would jerk so violently that my headboard would thump against the wall and disturb everyone in the house. It would get harder and harder until it felt like my body was going into convulsions.

I would hyperventilate while my body shook. I would usually cry because I was so frightened. This would go on for about ten to fifteen minutes and then abruptly stop. My body would feel relaxed, and I would then feel soooo much better. I would sleep better than I had in weeks.

I heard other people talk about panic attacks, but theirs did not sound like mine. I never heard about another person having a similar type of panic attack until I read the book, Safe Passage to Healing, by Chrystine Oksana, who is also a ritual abuse survivor. Finally, my panic attacks made sense.

I finally worked up the courage to talk about my panic attacks over on Isurvive, which is a message board for child abuse survivors. One of the members explained to me that my panic attacks were a normal (and effective) way of managing my overwhelming anxiety. She explained that wild rabbits are routinely traumatized by being chased by numerous types of animals. When they get away and are safe, their bodies shake. This is how they work the adrenaline out of their bodies and succeed in going about their lives, even though they are traumatized routinely by being chased with the potential of being another animal’s lunch.

I don’t know if the comparison is correct or not, but it does make sense. I think the panic attacks were a way for me to manage the overwhelming terror from the ritual abuse memories.

Related Topic:

Trauma Tuesday: Panic Attacks and the Adopted Child

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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