I Think I Had My First Anxiety Attack Today

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I Think I Had My First Anxiety Attack Today

Post by Conreezy on Mon Dec 08, 2014 1:47 pm

Today has been a hell of a day (and it's not over yet.) I have 3 final exams lined up right after the other: 7 am, 10 am, and 1 pm.

When I started my organic chem final this morning, at about the 5th or 6th question, I started to come unglued. My hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and my vision started getting blurry. I've had bouts of vertigo, and God knows I've over caffeinated myself many times, but this felt like none of that. My mouth was bone dry, I felt nauseated, but not unbalanced, and there was no sudden filling of my bladder. I thought I was going to pass out.

I slowed my breathing down with some force. I managed to bear down (literally) and finish my exam without any deleterious affect to my performance. At the end, I felt composed enough to review my answers and felt okay about them. The weird unease never left me, though, and hit me just as hard during my second exam. Still, I got through it.

This out of control response has never happened to me before--never after studying for tests, never even when I knew I was going to fail and test, never in the semi-finals or finals of fencing tournaments, and not in 5 years of responding to emergencies and fires. I've had my freak-outs and break downs on the way to or after calls, though that happened less and less after experience and apathy kicked in, and I've felt guilty about being an unprepared student because it was wasting my parents' money. But I've managed to write that all off in the moment to deal with my apprehension.

What's the worst is how unfounded any anxiety would be. This is the best I've ever done scholastically, and I felt as prepared as possible for these exams.

I've come up with a list of possibilities, and the cause is probably some combination of them all:

1) Having a week to study for three cumulative exams on the same day left me with too much time to worry. Sounds like me, but the nervous energy usually goes away when the action starts.

2) I hate too little for the amount of caffeine I had this morning. Possible, but I had a normal cup at Starbucks.

3) My confidence has been destroyed by a particular class: my "weed out" general microbiology class, in which a 52 percent on a test is "pretty good" according to the teacher. I've had asshole professors, and I get that college is largely self-taught, but no amount of time put into that class has helped me feel any sort of competent after her exams. Still, I have a B in the class after the ridiculous curve, which I would think would make me feel better, but I guess the fact that it's such a time-sink has affected my confidence in my chemistry class.

Heavier stuff. More likely:

4) As this is my first semester as a full time student, no job to hang my identity too, I'm having some crisis of self image at the most inopportune time. I don't feel bad about changing careers, but I have some messed up feelings towards the transition period. It reminds me too much of my time as a late teenager, when I was "finding myself" but massively disappointing those who had certain expectations of success after my stellar high-school career. I count myself here, and I've only somewhat come to terms with that, so now, as these exams represent the majority of my productive hours, I can't just say "yeah, I didn't go all that great, but I did just fine for a working adult." If I fail (not only these tests today, but my overall goal of getting into a Physician Assistant program), then I'm no better than I was at 20 for all practical purposes. I'm still trying to repair the shitty GPA I earned in those years, so not having been accepted to a PA program is weighing heavily on me. Having at least the assurance that I'm in, no matter how much work is still ahead of me, would feel better than not knowing if I've improved myself enough to the eyes of some academic committee.

Also, I have trouble letting go of other skill sets. I'm not so vain as to skip studying to go to the gym, but it's frustrating to see my skill levels at fencing, kendo, and crossfit atrophy. Luckily, that lunacy has only a %30 chance of hitting me and sticking. I remind myself of the long-term goals and the extenuating circumstances all the time.

4.5) Getting married right before quitting my job. The massive life changes came all at once. Being the stay-at-home spouse is odd, though I wasn't unprepared for it. My wife, though, seems to be wrestling with the idea of being the only income. She feels it's a lot of pressure to not fail me. I feel it's a lot of pressure to not fail her!.

I tell her how thankful I am that she was amenable to (in fact, pushing for) my departure from the physical battering that was the fire department. It had to be done if I was going to continue studying with any success. I try my damnedest to keep things presentable at home, though there's been a learning curve as neither of us has live this arrangement before. Still, plans don't often survive contact with reality

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Re: I Think I Had My First Anxiety Attack Today

Post by reboot on Mon Dec 08, 2014 2:07 pm

Probably a panic attack and one that makes a whole lot of sense, given the amount of pressure you are under. School this time around sounds like it means a lot more to you and has much more riding on it, including some self identity issues. Top it off, back to back major life changes, even positive ones, are hella crazy stressful.

Now that you know that this can happen, I recommend doing some mindful breathing before and during your exams and maybe skip caffeine. I would also try doing some abbreviated fencing, kendo, cross fit routines whenever you can fit them in because losing exercise in times of stress means you lose those endorphins too. Also, if possible, try some nightly meditation for 15-20 minutes whenever you can.

So sorry this happened to you Sad
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Re: I Think I Had My First Anxiety Attack Today

Post by The Wisp on Mon Dec 08, 2014 3:00 pm

As somebody who is prone to panic attacks, yes this definitely sounds like one. I agree with reboot's recommendations. Definitely skip the caffeine entirely the days of exams, and also you should eat a protein and complex carb heavy meal beforehand and make sure you're well-hydrated (simple carbs and sugars can increase anxiety, as can an empty stomach or thirst).
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Re: I Think I Had My First Anxiety Attack Today

Post by Autumnflame on Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:12 pm

Conreezy wrote:2) I hate too little for the amount of caffeine I had this morning. Possible, but I had a normal cup at Starbucks.

Don't mean to make light of the experience (as I'm pretty sure I've never had an anxiety attack - it sounds awful), but this typo made me giggle. Caffeine: requires hate to bring down the caffeination. Wink

As far as having time to get workouts in, what about short time-boxed high intensity interval training stuff? I've heard good things about Mike Chang's short workouts. Good for at least getting the heart going and off your butt several times a week/day.


Last edited by Autumnflame on Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: I Think I Had My First Anxiety Attack Today

Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:38 pm

As my high school unofficial psychology teacher would say, eustress is still stress. Give yourself a break when you can. Hope you feel better!
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Re: I Think I Had My First Anxiety Attack Today

Post by Conreezy on Mon Dec 08, 2014 6:06 pm

Now that you know that this can happen, I recommend doing some mindful breathing before and during your exams and maybe skip caffeine. I would also try doing some abbreviated fencing, kendo, cross fit routines whenever you can fit them in because losing exercise in times of stress means you lose those endorphins too. Also, if possible, try some nightly meditation for 15-20 minutes whenever you can.

Those are all great suggestions.

I think I'm going to drink, though. Razz

Definitely skip the caffeine entirely the days of exams,

I have been planning on kicking it entirely. It'll be a tough fight against my Colombian heritage.

Caffeine: requires hate to bring down the caffeination.

The path of the dark side, that is.

Anyway, there's one more thing to be anxious about: I went to the wrong final exam! There were two for my class, one for each lecture time. I put down the wrong time in my planner. Mine was supposed to be on Friday.

I e-mailed my TA. It was an ignorant mistake, not an attempt at an advantage, but I'll take whatever lumps come my way.

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