This month I’ve been asked to write about panic attacks. Wow! I thought. Why haven’t I covered it before? When any of us are unable to think straight, our biology, our emotions carry us along.
Where they carry us, we don’t know until we stop, draw breath and take in what we can of our situation. Up until that point, we don’t know which direction we’re taking ourselves. We become proverbial “headless chickens”.
Before any compensatory therapy or strategy can prove useful, Step One has to be a willingness to face fears. This is most true of clients whose cognitive functioning can be problematic, even on the happier days.
The clouding of consciousness (brain fog) is for ABI clients / patients, physical. In a lot of cases it does not go away. Emotions determine the degree of cloud cover, but it’s always there to be lived with.
Another way to describe an injured brain might be as a faulty TV set. I am reminded of Sunday mornings I spent many, many years ago – playing around with the aerial of my parents’ gogglebox – trying to get an undistorted picture of the BBC test card before “Mr. Benn” started.
As therapists, the most we can do is reduce the amount of static and suggest positions the aerial might work better. The aerial’s actual positioning to stabilise their picture behind their static is our clients’ job.
There is no real, by the book, “how to…” with this. In my view, it has to be person-centred. Here‘s a link to Part One of a counselling session (not one of mine) with a head injured client. It lasts 9 or so minutes.
N.B. The client reports being “snappy”, NOT “panicky”.
Panic Button Controls
- DON’T FIGHT, TAKE FLIGHT. Remove yourself from the environment / situation causing your panic.
- Find somewhere you can be safe and quiet.
- Begin listening to your own breathing, taking slow, deep breaths
- Close your eyes and, if possible, imagine you’re in your favourite surroundings, doing a favourite thing.
- If imagining you are somewhere else is impossible for you, hold an object in both hands and look at it. Keep listening to your breathing as you notice each of the object’s details – shape, colour, texture, markings…
- Keep practicing. Set a special time and place aside for yourself.
Reading what to do might be easy. Remembering and doing it, as we all know, is hard. It helps most to be with someone while you practice.
Click here for Part Two of the counselling session. Again, not a counselling session of mine. Part Two also lasts around 9 minutes.
Patchy Reception & Counselling
If you are perhaps wanting counselling, the following points may help you decide.
- It offers you a room clear of clutter and distraction – space to breathe and relax.
- Regular time slots (50-60 minutes) that can be used to off load – kind of scatter thoughts, feelings, experiences into and around that room.
- It provides someone who will support, not judge. Part of that support is in helping take control of the panic. Part is in helping you get organised.
If I was to counsel you, I’d combine listening with breathing techniques and other Mindfulness exercises. A new sense of self can grow. Because as your new self becomes less patchy, you could begin to identify your gut instincts – which situations cause panic more than others and how to deal with them yourself.
Take care for now.