Lots of people grapple with anxiety, which can manifest in a variety of ways. One of the most terrifying aspects of an actual anxiety disorder are panic attacks, which can be triggered by a variety of things and actually shut down a person’s body. People often go to the hospital thinking they’re having a heart attack, when what is actually happening is a panic attack. That’s how scary and painful they are.
Buzzfeed writer Kelsey Darragh went viral for her comprehensive list on things that can be done to help during a panic attack for her boyfriend, but which she thinks could benefit anyone in a relationship with somebody who has anxiety. If you haven’t experienced it, it can be hard to know what to do. Someone in the grips of an attack will most likely be unable to articulate what they need. So, a list of dos and don’ts ahead of time is very helpful.
Darragh’s handwritten list starts off with, “Know that I am scared and won’t be able to explain why, so please don’t freak out or be annoyed with me.”
She also tells him to grab her meds if they’re nearby and make sure she takes them.
One of the most important things is breathing, which she brings up over and over. She asks that he tries to lead her in breathing exercises and sync her to his breathing pattern, which will hopefully be much calmer.
Darragh writes that she can handle gentle suggestions for distracting activities, but if she says no to something he should listen—and not tell her what she should do.
Often during an attack, she’ll have a dissociative moment, meaning she feels disconnected from her life or body. Darragh asks that her boyfriend remind her of nice things in their lives together that will make her laugh, so she can remember who she is and where she’s at.
The list continues! Darragh asks that he be really nice to her during a panic attack, because she feels guilty and embarrassed for putting him through the whole ordeal, and those feelings just make it worse.
Sometimes she wants a “big, loose, long hug” to “feel safe.”
In general, a lot of Darragh’s tips boil down to “let me live.” It’s hardest to deal with a panic attack when you fight it or feel bad about yourself for having one.
“Empathize with me!” she writes.”You may not get it, but you get me!”
And just as importantly, Darragh says that in the aftermath (several hours later) they both need to talk about how things went, in case there’s something better that can be done later.
The response to the post has been huge, with almost 10,000 retweets and hundreds of comments from other people who experience anxiety and who have their own tips for how to deal with it from the outside.
There were also a lot of people who were learning about the severity of panic and anxiety attacks for the first time.
Though Darragh’s list is very specific to her condition, it’s a great example of how having open conversations when you’re not in crisis can mean you get the support you need down the line. Have an honest talk with your partner today!