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Canceled Flight Response

Coping with Stress When Life Hits Turbulence

By Veronica WrenPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 5 min read
Panic Attacks, Anxiety Attacks, and Their Shared Symptoms. Graphic by author: Veronica Wren

I’m having a panic attack right now, and I’m handling it shockingly well.

It all started, as many panic attacks have, because of Delta Airlines.

My incredible partner and I have flight vouchers to use after a nightmarish return flight last year. He called a few minutes ago, asking me to find them so we could plan our upcoming trip.

Unfortunately, it’s been several months since we got the vouchers and I’ve since moved apartments, so I misplaced them.

Onset and Escalation of Symptoms

As I chatted with him while searching for a few minutes, I began to realize my heart was hammering in my chest. My mouth had suddenly become dry and I was breathing so heavily I was practically panting.

His request was completely casual, yet I was stammering and apologizing for taking so long. He’s never once yelled at me, yet I had tunnel vision and was shaking like a salt shaker (and not in the fun way).

This is what trauma does.

Stress Response and Survival

There was a five year period in my dating history where my body’s response to losing those vouchers would have completely aligned with the energy of my partner.

When I was with my abuser of five years, the smallest mistake or perceived insult led to days of icy stonewalling, dangerously explosive tantrums, threats, assaults, or other punishments.

And he never let go of a grudge, no matter how thorough or desperate my attempts to repair to apparent insult.

It’s been over two years since I escaped that relationship. I’ve been doing the work, going to therapy, staying active, and doing my best to heal.

My logical brain knows my current partner is nothing like my abuser. It knows that danger has long passed. I’m fully aware of this, even as the tears stream. That didn’t stop my body from viscerally warning me of the invisible threat.

Seeking Help From Trusted Loved Ones

Luckily, my current partner is aware of my history, so when I abruptly cut him off by saying I was getting anxious and needed to get off the phone, he was a total sweetheart about it.

I’m sure it also helped that to a regulated, untraumatized person, this was a totally inconsequential matter that did not require much stress at all.

So if I know that, what the hell is wrong with me?

In an attempt to avoid reflecting on why I was feeling this sudden fear, I convinced myself I’d be able to focus and find the vouchers now that I was off the phone.

If I found the vouchers, I was certain, this reaction I was having would stop.

Breathing, Grounding, and Tons of Practice

I continued looking for a couple of excruciating minutes before realizing I needed to listen to what my body was screeching at me.

By this point, my shoulders had unconsciously become hunched over in an attempt to shrink myself. I was clutching my necklace, a talisman I often reach for when attempting to ground myself.

I retreated to my couch with my weighted blanket and heat pad and took several deep breaths.

It was when I was looking for my meditation app that I paused to reflect and congratulate myself on how much I was crushing this panic attack.

For the first time, though my body was in full-on flight mode, my mind was clear enough to react to my needs.

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ll know that doesn’t tend to be how it goes. In my experience at least, they tend to be just as debilitating mentally as they are physically.

How Am I Even Writing This Now?

I’m still feeling the anxiety heavily in my body, but I’m less shaky now than when I started jotting this thought down in an attempt to self-soothe.

I honestly don’t know what’s different about this particular attack versus the ones I’ve had in the past. Perhaps I’ve been feeling more mentally resilient after having a relatively positive past few days.

If one is going to have a panic attack, being at home with all of my candles, essential oils, dogs, and pampering supplies to calm and recover afterward definitely seems like the play.

Knowledge is Power

I’m pretty organized. I’m sure I’ll find the vouchers. My current partner would never have been upset, even if I’d lost them completely.

Besides, all of this was going down around 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. It was definitely not the most pressing task.

Do I know all these things logically? Absolutely. But is it easy to hold onto that logic in the midst of a crisis? Not typically.

Trigger and Symptom Management

Another contributing factor to my retaining the tiniest grasp on my mental faculties this time around could be the amount of these I’ve suffered through, and how desperately I’ve been trying to understand my triggers and practice coping skills.

My curiosity has led me to spend my free time learning as much about my CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as possible. For me, information helps tremendously in keeping me grounded in the present.

In addition to learning about my condition, I manage my symptoms with an SSRI medication. I also regularly practice journaling, meditation, and mindful stretching.

These efforts, along with about a million little daily micro-decisions, are what tenuously hold my chronically heightened stress response at bay.

Celebrate Your Coping Victories

People with CPTSD and other trauma disorders tend to have poorer health outcomes overall. It took a lot to escape my abusive relationship, and I didn’t make it out without some lasting damage.

By being diligent about my mental health, I hope to recognize and manage my symptoms as they arise and improve my odds of a relatively healthy life.

I’m definitely not perfect at managing my trauma, but I’m trying as hard as I possibly can and I’ll take the wins where I can. The fact that I was even aware and in my body enough to be able to type this entire article out makes me incredibly proud of the progress I’ve made, just as you should be proud that you’re taking the time to learn more about your own health by reading.

I’m Glad You’re Here

After years spent advocating for domestic violence victims while hiding my own suffering, I refuse to let anyone feel abandoned in their abuse or its aftermath any longer.

Trauma sucks. Recovery shouldn’t. That’s why I’m making communicating about my own experiences as normal as possible while actively calling out abuse and inequity when I see it.

My aim is to give others a safe environment in which to develop these tools so we can start making some much-needed changes together.

Please support my continued writing (and help me inch my way toward my first book) by following and engaging with me on trauma and advocacy. I’d love to hear from you!

Subscribe in one click to receive your FREE digital copy of my new guided journal, “Empower and Heal: 90 Days of Transformational Prompts for Trauma Recovery, Self-Discovery, and Growth”, delivered straight to your inbox!

Veronica Wren Trauma Recovery Book Club

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World – Melinda Gates

This post may contain affiliate links. This just means if you click a link and decide to make a purchase, I'll earn a few extra pennies to support my book-buying habit (and do an elaborate, celebratory dance around my apartment just for you). My promise to you is that I'll only ever recommend resources I truly believe in and have found beneficial in my healing journey. Happy reading!

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About the Creator

Veronica Wren

Trauma sucks. Recovery shouldn't. Subscribe here for your FREE exclusive guided journal

❤️‍🩹 ❤️‍🩹

Domestic Abuse & CPTSD Recovery Coach

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