One of the things people find quite difficult to understand about any form of anxiety disorder is the sheer randomness of it all.
The smallest things can trigger an attack, and so for someone on the outside it can seem as though you are fine for weeks or even months and then suddenly you are bad again. Some people even go as far as to think that you are lying about the disorder, because there is no rhyme or reason to what you can or can't do on certain days, which can be very confusing to people who do not understand in the ins and outs of suffering from a panic disorder. If people can't rationalise something, they tend to think that it can't be true.
That's partly why I like to talk about it in my blog, because people will continue to think this way unless we as sufferers of such illnesses are able to speak openly about them.
The randomness of the illness is very frustrating for the sufferer as well as the people around them. I have gone weeks without a panic attack, and even managed to go away on holiday last week without experiencing any symptoms. I've achieved things in the last few months that I never thought would have been possible for me, and made such huge progress in my recovery, but since I have been home from my recent holiday I have found it really difficult to keep my anxiety disorder under control. I think it's probably because at times, where I live isn't the calm environment that I need it to be.
Unfortunately, this morning I suffered quite a large attack due to plans for an important trip outside the house being changed at the last minute - an anxiety sufferers worst nightmare! It can take many hours, sometimes days or preparation for me to be able to leave the house. Every part of the whole process is planned to ensure that nothing will sneak up on me and that I have full control of the situation to feel as comfortable and prepared as possible. Unfortunately this didn't turn out to be the case this morning.
Other than the actual physical symptoms of a panic attack, (hyperventilating, numbness, tingling limbs, racing heart, fainting, vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise, blurred vision, migraine, tightness of the chest, exhaustion to name but a few) which can be terrifying and extremely uncomfortable and painful, you also have to deal with the emotional effects of having an anxiety attack.
For me personally, after sleeping off the physical effects of an attack in a silent and pitch black room, I then have to deal with the emotional after effects of a panic attack. The only way I can think of to describe this is that they are very similar to what I would imagine a clean alcoholic feels after they have a forbidden drink.
I feel immense guilt and dissappointment in myself immediately after an attack has ended. Despite the fact that I have no control over what is happening to me at the time of an attack, afterwards I feel guilty and frustrated at myself for letting it happen. It's a very weird feeling because you know that it's not your fault, yet you feel angry that it has happened because it feels like you are taking a step backwards in your treatment and recovery. This is something that you have to deal with every time an attack happens and can last for days afterwards.
You also feel a sense of stupidity, because when you are thinking rationally, you know that the attack was completely unnecessary and the reasons for the attack are quite frankly ridiculous.
The important thing to remember is that the path to recovery does not always follow a straight line. There will be twists and turns but the end of your journey is in sight. Keep plodding on. Onwards and upwards.