When I came back to Crete my depression was over but I was still getting anxiety and panic attacks. Over a month it has been standard for me to wake up in the morning, usually very early, lie in bed hoping to snooze again then having a panic attack ensue the moment I started to drift off again. If I stayed in bed these would get worse and worse and when I finally got up I would be in a mess. My technique therefore was to try and get out of bed as quickly as possible. Other times I would get them while going into trance during meditation. Every day I would feel tired and it would take me hours in the morning to get motivated.
Moments of anxiety would also hit me during the day too. I have been fighting this for so long, sometimes thinking I was winning, sometimes sure I would never win.
Three or four days ago I lay down on my sofa and used a Paul McKenna hypnotic recording to relax. I went into trance then into sleep. When I woke up it was to a massive panic/anxiety attack. A whole body one with the skin on my arms feeling hot, my body buzzing, and of course I felt awful. All I could do was lie there and wait for it to pass – until I could get up and start doing things. It later passed but the next morning I had the same routine as above, at 4AM.
Later in the morning I felt so tired I lay on the sofa again, needing to rest but afraid to sleep. I started to doze off and, again, each time I did so, I had a panic attack. But then something happened...
Some days back I did some gardening. I cleared out a couple of composters and started weeding. Just feeling shit and wanting to get the job done. It then occurred to me to be mindful about what I was doing. Instead of letting my mind wander off into worries and negative thinking, which I just let go, I focused completely on what I was doing. Meticulously pulling the weeds, feeling them in my hands, smelling them, really looking at what I was doing – living in the moment. This really started to make me feel better and by the time I left the garden (my fingers cold and stiff) I felt that euphoria of normality.
During this last lot of panic attacks mindfulness kicked in again, and I found myself mentally stepping back from the panic attacks and just observing them with detached interest. The result of this was that I did get some snoozes in and got off the sofa feeling pretty good.
I did some internet research and it seems that all my fighting was the wrong thing to do. The first stage of recovering from panic attacks is ‘acceptance’. Okay, that was right. I then did further research and discovered a seemingly counterintuitive technique. Encourage the attacks. Try to make them worse. Till now I had been trying to stop them. I had some success but just felt more anxious afterwards. Next meditation session, when they came, I really tried to make the attacks worse and what happened was surprising, they withered away.
This morning I woke and did the same thing, and instead of them steadily getting worse as I lay in bed they got weaker and weaker. For the first time in months I actually managed to lie in bed and catch a few extra snoozes, and then get up feeling refreshed. My energy level for the day seemed twice what it has been.
So, win the fight by giving in, by actively helping the perceived enemy. This has never been in my playbook, but it is now.