Dangling Off the Side of An Anxiety Attack

anxiety attackI’m having an anxiety attack.

As in right now.

My chest is tight.  My heart is racing.  My hands are shaking.  I have an overwhelming feeling of dread.

FYI, it’s very hard to type when your hands are shaking.

This is not postpartum anxiety, as I am grateful to have gotten past that many years ago.  This is good old, garden variety anxiety disorder, which I will have always.

I rarely have anxiety attacks.  I take medication for my OCD and it keeps me stable most days.  Every now and then, though, stress hits the secret high mark, some critical mass — I’ve never been made privy to the exact amount — and it starts.  It isn’t any one thing, really.  Just some combination of weights pushing down on my mind like grand pianos and then careening over the top I go.

I went over the damn top.

I hate that I can’t see it coming until it’s here and now I’m going to sit here and feel out of control.  I know this is part of who I am, like an uncle I rarely see and don’t particularly like, but who is part of my family nonetheless so I must welcome him with a pasted-on grin twice a year.

For me, anxiety attacks are part my biology and partly my own creation.  By the expectations I have for myself, the work I give myself to do, the things I bring inside of me that could probably just as easily have been left outside.

I don’t like this feeling.  It’s disconcerting.  It sucks.

Now I will hang on to the side of this anxiety attack for dear life, legs dangling, fingernails broken. This is not how I will be tomorrow. It’s not even perhaps how I’ll be five hours from now.  It’s not permanent.  I’m not dying.  I will not be scarred, or broken or bowed.

I will shake.  And then I will stop shaking.


Photo credit: Fotolia © Albert Lozano-Nieto

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. You know I'm going to say good for you for putting it out there. We're here. If you need us at all. Whatever you need. Thinking of you. Can you give yourself a time out, so to speak? Where you can hide away and get your bearings some? Sending you loads of hugs and love. I'm here if you need me.

  2. Anxiety and the feelings, the attacks it brings are disconcerting. debilitating. crippling sometimes. And they suck SO VERY MUCH. I don't like it either, especially the shaking.

    I'm sorry you're caught in it's throes. I pray and hope that you can find a way to shake it off or a place you can rest in until it subsides.Sending you loads of hugs and love, and towels to wipe up the sweat if you get sweaty from them like I do haha. But you're right, it's not permanent. It's temporary, and although it sucks, it will stop eventually. Hoping you get there sooner than later.

  3. Robin | Farewell, St says:

    Been there and will be again. It does suck. But knowing it's temporary and accepting that it happens is so much better than just feeling out of control without knowing why. Keep hanging on!

  4. Great description! I am like you – I'm a lifer. Fortunately this weird "uncle" doesn't visit me often (thank God for meds) but when he does, your description nailed it.

  5. Curling my toes and sending you breath… until your shaking stops.


  6. hang on. and then keep hanging on.


  7. I'm having one of those days too. Maybe not quite as strong of emotions but lots of anxiety during the whole week. It brings back so many unwelcome emotions and thoughts. I think I still have problems remembering to hang on and that it will end… because it seems like an eternity when you are in a sucky place. I hope you feel better soon. You and this website have helped me during so many of my bad (and good) days!

  8. So well written. Sorry you had to write it in the midst of a panic attack. You described so well what it is like. I hate them everytime they come, but thanks for the reminder that it does end.

  9. Katherine Stone says:

    Thank you Andrea, A'Driane, Grace, Jenni, Stacey and Robin! Really. You are so lovely to offer your kindness and support and it makes me happy that I know lovely people. It's now 4pm and the attack is over. What a relief!

  10. Glad you feel better! That has to be harrowing.

  11. Take care.!….glad it is over now. I believe it is not something "your" mind created. It can be a whole complex system of biology and neurotransmitters that turn your body into a performance stage upon which your mind "sits" and fills the stage with a "play" of anxiety / fear type thoughts.

  12. Thank you for your honesty, once again. I just love you, like to pieces and I don't even know you, well not "really". want to know something odd? I too had a panic attack today, haven't had one in so stinkin long, it took me a few minutes to remember what it was. But it was a full blown, over-the-top, in front of my kids, panic attack. So I embraced it for what it was, a very temporary state of mind. Took deep breaths, even cried as it passed. And when it was over, I thanked God I survived it, took more deep breaths, and then played like my depended on it, with the kids. And you know what? They were, and still are, fine. Actually they're more than fine, they're awesome. I mean why wouldn't they be? Just remember panic attacks are only temporary, no matter how bad. And the time in between them is really all that matters. 🙂

  13. Oh, I am right there with you Katherine! I am in the same situation in that I will always have anxiety, and in that it does creep up on me sometimes, especially when I am run down from stress, lack of sleep, illness, etc. It sucks, and it's even worse when you've been having a really good streak and starting to think maybe you've left it behind.

    Like your uncle analogy, I tell people it's like being mercilessly bullied and then hearing that the bully moved away. Then suddenly one day, there he is, hanging around your locker.

    Strange that so many people mentioned feeling the same way recently. I've had a not-so-great week myself. Perhaps the planets are badly aligned or something?? 🙂

    Take care, take a breather, and give yourself another point – you beat the bastard again!

  14. The thing that sucks about anxiety attacks is no matter how many times you have them it makes you feel like you are going to die. I tell myself whenever I do get a panic attack to breath deeply and it will pass but for some reason when your in dead set panic you think you will die and never come out of it. I have to say since my ppd ocd i dont get too many of those anymore thanks to meds!

  15. Hi Katherine,

    I'm recovering and battling PPOCD/Anxiety and have been for almost 7 months….made huge progress…some days are harder then others….but I know the anxiety…it's awful…and as I learn more about myself I am learning where the roots of my anxiety have stemmed from and am learning to eat slower, move around my house slower, not freak out if my day didn't go as planned….and when the OCD tries to come in I thankfully don't get paralyzed the way I used to….it still sucks though….thankful for a good pysch, therapist, meds, and support group….I used to be an andrenaline junkie (former Navy ER Nurse) typical spun up type A….but am learning to breathe….i just hate the anxiety and intrusive thoughts when I am with the kids…but you know what….i am light years away from where I started and am resilient and I am going to beat this beast.

  16. I'm so sorry. Hang in there. I know you'll pull through. I so wish we could take all this pain away from each other.

  17. Thank you for your honesty and for describing so clearly what it feels like for you. I went over the top last night, at 5 am, when I was home from an aborted camping trip trying to get my two-year old to finally, sweetlordohpleasefinally, go to sleep. I am grateful, ever so grateful, to know that other mamas feel the same way I do, maybe even at the same time, no matter where we are.

  18. I know that feeling all too well. It is so amazing how quickly it can take over. Your writing and sharing proves you are human like the rest of us. (o:

  19. You are limitless in your ability to use your experiences to help women! So many women will read this and feel like someone "gets" them. Your transparency is always refreshing and appreciated. All that being said, I'm so sorry you have to deal with those unexpected attacks 🙁 I will pray for you.

  20. I hope that when you are feeling overwhelmed you'll ask for help. Sometimes I think anxiety attacks come out of nowhere, but then other times I think that they are kind of like a volcano, building for a long while until something, even the tiniest thing, can make it blow.

    I noticed myself feeling more fidgety and agitated over the past couple of weeks. I realized that too much work being done at home and for my job, and too much volunteer work not getting done was putting me into this funk. Feeling exhausted from working too much and then guilting myself about all I hadn't done. And, I was drinking high caffeine coffee, which is an anxiety trigger in and of itself for me. I guess all this is to say that sometimes taking inventory of the recent past can help us prevent future attacks, and then other times, well, we just have to live through them and move on.


  21. Ladies!

    There is an end to ppd. I have been battling ppd ocd for 28 months do to the fact of trying to find the right medicine. It is a long recovery but I have to say I am almost 100% cured. I never thought I would see this day. I am so happy that I can feel like me again. I know now when to expect my flare ups around ovulation time. I get the depressive episode for about 4 days and then it subsides. I cant tell you how great it is to be able to think clearly again and have my feelings back. To be able to hug my daughter and feel so much love back is the greatest feeling god could ever give a mother. You would never think that you could feel so emotionless and have all these horrific thoughts go through your head about your child. My psychiatrist told me that all intrusive thoughts are is a circuit in your brain that is being misfired. I know now that these thoughts are not me that its just my brain going haywire because of hormones. Now when I get a hormone flare up and intrusive thoughts start going through my head I can now ignore them and instead of me getting anxiety I just dismiss it and it goes away. I have also learned through 17 years of anxiety and panic attacks is that you cant control some things that are out of our control. For you ladies who are suffering from a ppd illness I highly recommend the pregnancy and postpartum anxiety workbook. It has helped me tremendously. That is one huge thing that got me through my ppd ocd. You can order it off amazon. Ppd is a long recovery but when you start seeing the light your whole world lights up again!

  22. Oh that Uncle…kind of like that Aunt that shows up once a month…

    Hugs friend. Whatever it is know that it will pass and that you have a tremendous army behind you. Huge army that will help you up and out.

    PS. Ive become very knowledgeable in the Chuck Norris "roundhouse kick" department and can put a hit out on that Uncle if you so wish.

  23. Kudos on hanging in and being brave enough to share with us. I know someone who used to suffer from panic attacks, she has managed to overcome this to a large extent on her own. I hope that you manage to conquer this soon.

  24. I hate that feeling. I wonder what would happen if I were brave/stupid enough not to hang on to the edge of it for dear life sometime/

    Would it pass more quickly or would the dreaded, unquantified "what if" actually happen.

    Maybe I'll try it one day. But for now please hang in there and breathe deeply. I often close my eyes, breathe as slowly and deeply as I can and visualise the word "Calm" on a in breath and "Smooth" on a out breath…for both I imagine the words written in soft fluffy clouds! It helps! xx

  25. My recovery from PPD is going well, but I still have a lot of anxiety. The biggest problem is that I cannot cure all of my anxiety through medication. Medication helps with irrational anxiety (e.g. enabling me to sleep rather than constantly worrying if the baby is still breathing and needing to stay awake to watch him all night to ensure he's safe), but medication does not help with anxiety that's caused by my lifestyle choices– such as taking on too many work projects, being exhausted because I worked until 2 or 3am to finish something, not making time to exercise, not making time to relax and not taking care of myself. My anxiety was so severe this summer that I finally decided to do something about it. I'm regularly seeing an acupuncturist for stress, eating healthier and forcing myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour even if I still have work to do. I'm seeing an improvement in my health, but it's a continuous struggle. Thank you for sharing your story.


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