Vera

“I bet you thought you’d gotten rid of me.”

Vera smirks, she perches onto her dusty, tattered thrown. It’s almost as old as I am, because Vera is the name of my anxiety and she’s been with me for as long as I can remember now.

Vera is an elf like creature. She’s tiny and I should be able to fight her, but I can’t and it kills me that she’s so powerful.

Vera is in my brain and in my heart. She’s in my chest and my stomach, my hands, my legs, my eyes. She is wherever she wants to be, and she knows she can take over me.

Vera’s hair is black and matted and her skin is greying. Her clothing is torn and she looks battered after all these years, and all my failed attempts to drown her out. I never succeed.

Vera’s voice is the part that fills me with dread the most. It’s louder than ever now, she demands to be heard. She screams and screams and screams over anything left of the rational thought process I’d tried so hard to build up. She will be heard. She knows how to get to me.

Her voice goes in waves and whirls until it fills my head and I feel it all the way down to my throat, and it’s choking me.

Vera gets angry with me, she’s screaming now. Was I incapable of looking out for myself? How had I let this happen? Why would I put myself in a vulnerable position? She says that now she’s back to protect me, to stop harm from coming my way.

Vera clicks her wicked fingers, her long black fingernails are touching my own and now suddenly, there’s pins and needles. I can’t feel my hands, and then it’s my feet and I’m trapped.

I’m stuck and I can’t get out and I just sit and I listen to Vera punishing me.

I let myself get like this.

This is my fault.

Why hadn’t I been afraid?

Vera asks me what’s wrong. When I won’t tell her, she yells at me. She yells at the top of her lungs and although she’s so small, her roar makes my whole body shake and I can’t stop.

I tell her what’s upset me, begrudgingly. She shakes her head and glares at me with bloodshot eyes, her pupils a sea of blackness into her dark soul. “Your fault,” she shrieks.

Her shrieking brings a tear to my eye, and another one, and another one, and another one, and they won’t stop and it could be hours before they do and that’s the scary part.

Vera wants more answers and she knows she’s got control of me now. She knows I can’t give in and give her the rational answer, even if I want to.

“There’s no point.”

“You can never fix this.”

“It can only go wrong.”

“She hates you. Why shouldn’t she?”

Now she’s clip-clop, clip-clopping on my heart with her spikey leather boots. She’s kicking and she’s thrashing and now she’s down on all fours and I swear this is the time she’s going to give me a heart attack and I’m going to die.

Vera screams that everyone is out to hurt me and that everyone secretly hates me, and I wonder if she knows how much I hate her now.

Vera flutters down towards my lungs and my stomach churns and she smirks at me. She knows that she has me under her spell now, and she’s cackling. She tells me I’m worthless and she asks me a question,

“Why would anyone want to be around you?”

She screams and screams and screams, and she won’t stop and I can’t think and she’s tricked me once again.

She knows she’s the winner; she’s always the winner.

She squeezes my lungs and a heavy black cloud weighs down my chest and my throat closes up and I can’t breathe anymore. I’m hyperventilating now and I can’t make it stop and all I can hear is this screeching inside of my head,

“This is your fault.”

“You’re so stupid.”

“You’re pathetic.”

My ears are ringing and it drowns everything out. The sound of my friend trying to calm me down and the rational thoughts are all washed away with every breath that I struggle to take. I know she’s won, again.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

Then sometimes there’s a thud, and my exhausted body collapses onto the cold, hard floor. Often it feels like the easier route because for a moment my eyes black out, and I can’t hear, and I have peace for just a few moments. Its peace, all the same.

And eventually the short staggered breaths even out, but the tears keep flowing and my body is full of this emptiness.

Now Vera is staring, beady eyed at my hunched over limp, lifeless body and she shakes her head and asks,

“Who wants to deal with an anxious mess like you?”

She turns away and I think that’s the end but somehow, somehow in between my sobs she finds the space to hurt me one last time.

Vera squeezes me tightly, her claws digging into my skin so hard that her words are left like tiny scars on my arm. She says,

“Don’t let this happen again.”

Now I’m alone with my thoughts, and Vera’s words keep swirling through my mind; I know she’s wrong but she always manages to take over me. Vera knows I’m afraid of putting myself into a position where she’ll come back again. She knows I’ll avoid facing my fears.

She knows she’s the winner; she’s always the winner.

How To Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

Trying to help someone that’s in the middle of having a panic attack can be hard, and I’m sure a lot of the timepanicattack people have no idea what to do. In fact, I’d say it makes a lot of people feel helpless and scared themselves. Earlier this week I had a panic attack, and some of the people around me had never seen one before and weren’t sure what to do to help. I was discussing it with my housemates yesterday and I said, “I think I need to give everyone who comes into contact with me a crash course on dealing with panic attacks.” So here it is, a little guide for everyone on how to help somebody that’s having a panic attack.

  1. Stay calm

I know it’s probably difficult, but the most important thing to do is stay calm. If the person having a panic attack sees everyone around them panicking, they’re going to panic even more because they’re thinking “Oh God, this must be really bad”. Remember that nothing life threatening can result from the panic attack, and they’ll be okay once they’ve calmed down.

  1. Eye contact

Get the person having a panic attack to look you in the eyes, so that they have something to focus their attention on other than the panic. If they break eye contact, firmly but calmly tell them they need to keep looking at you.

  1. Deep breaths

Once the person is able to maintain eye contact with you, start getting them to take deep breaths. This works the best if you breathe in sync with them, inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for another four seconds. They might not be able to breathe properly at first if they’re hyperventilating, but keep breathing in sync with them until their breathing returns to normal.

  1. Don’t panic if they pass out

There’s been a couple of times where I’ve been breathing so quickly that I’ve ended up passing out, which can be really scary for those around you. But just remember that so long as they’re breathing, they have a pulse and they haven’t banged their head on anything they’ll be okay.

  1. Remove them from public places

If they’re in a public place it’s important to remove them from the situation when it’s safe. The last thing the person having the panic attack wants is to draw any more attention to themselves, and with me when people are watching me it makes me feel even worse. It also helps not to overcrowd the person with people trying to help. While it’s great that lots of people want to help and the person panicking is grateful for that, it’s easier to calm down when you’re only listening to what one person is saying to you.

  1. Don’t be patronising

You need to be careful what you’re saying when you’re dealing with somebody having a panic attack, because you could very easily make them worse. Don’t tell them to “stop it” or to “calm down” because believe me, if it was that easy we would. Don’t tell them that they’re overreacting, because they already know that. But it’s something that their body is doing and they have absolutely no control over what was going on. And finally, do not under any circumstances make comments like “She/he’s just looking for attention.” The last thing we want is anybody’s unnecessary attention, and remarks like this are extremely hurtful for a person suffering from anxiety. Mental illness is not something that anyone chooses or wants, and mental health deserves just as much respect as physical health does.