Do you have a panic attack every time someone misgenders you, looks you over or asks for your identification? Does needing to use a pubic washroom send your blood pressure souring and you start to shake as if it ten below zero under your skirt? So much so that you avoid situations that might put your gender identity under scrutiny and give you feelings of panic and dysphoria? Bringing to light your ultimate fear of being "outed" in public, opening you up to ridicule and discrimination. You want to run home and hide under a rock, never to emerge until you are reincarnated as the gender you identify with. You begin to restrict your movements and even (as painful as it is) try to conform to the pressure by wearing clothing that society deems more suitable to your physical appearance. Leaving your butterfly wings clipped and you drooping in sadness.
Credit: Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.netPanic attacks can be the most debilitating and destructive element in a transgender woman's life. You end up doing anything to avoid that spike in blood pressure and redness in your eyes so intense it actually becomes hard to see. Fight or flight kicks in and your body begins to shake with the rush of adrenaline pumping through your system. They seem uncontrollable and unavoidable as you struggle through your daily routine and can be so bad that you contemplate self harm and destructive behavior in an effort to punish yourself for these feelings even though punishment is not applicable nor helpful in a panic situation. Sometimes a panic attack can last for just a few seconds or minutes, however they also can drag on for hour or even days; leaving you malnourished, overtired and filled with a sense of impending doom.
Credit: Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] / FreeDigitalPhotos.netPanic attacks like this can make social situations impossible, job interviews unbelievable and dating inconceivable. Simply because of other people's perception of what your gender is and what your perception is on how they are going to react to you as a transgender woman. This is a vicious spiral that can send your head spinning in all kinds of negative direction, leaving you paralyzed and incapable of leading a normal life(as much as transwoman are allowed in today's society). There are some way that you can try to deal with panic attacks; an arsenal of weapons if you will, against a most persistent and annoying foe. With any luck some of these techniques will help you fight against the panic and take back your life:
- Breathe: I know it sounds simple enough but it has a huge effect on the symptoms of your panic attack. Making sure you breath deep and easy will slow down your heartbeat and the distribution of adrenaline through your body. Well oxygenated blood will also help you keep a clear head.
- Consult: Talk to your doctor about your panic attacks to see if there is any way that they can help you deal with them.
- Reach Out: Reach out to your friends, family and even your local trans community. You will find out that you are not alone and that people can help you through panic attacks just by being there to listen to you, talk to you and reassure you. Having an outlet for those feelings really helps to take the pressure off.
- Get Healthy: Learning to take care of your body and living a healthy lifestyle can help your body and your mind deal with the stress of the panic attacks. Making them feel less intense and at least a lot easier to deal with. Remember taking care of your body also includes a healthy diet if you can possibly pull that off living at the "transgender" level in our society.
- Let it Happen: When a panic attack starts to overwhelm you, stay calm if you can, breath deep and just let the panic attack happen. Just keep breathing and do not react or try to control the feeling as it washed over you. Find a place to sit down if you are standing and just wait as the panic attack abates. Then refuse to let it control you and get on with whatever it is you are doing.
- Watch out: Watch out for situations that are likely to give you a panic attack and avoid them if you can without it constricting your freedoms. For example if you are walking past a construction site and the workers there give you a hard time, avoid walking down that street if you can. Cross the road if a huge gaggle of teens are approaching, little maneuvers like this can make your day go a lot smoother.
- Remove yourself: If the situation is making your panic attack way too much for your to bear then it would be best for you to remove yourself from the situation in any way possible. Do things to take your mind off of what is happening. Play mental games like doing math or singing to yourself can help take your mind off of the attack and lessen its effect.
- Divert your thoughts: Try to find a diversion like listening to music, playing a game or reading if possible; your system will begin to calm down as your mind begins to concentrate on other things.
- Meditate: Meditation is widely known to help people calm and control their emotions through controlling their own though patterns. Meditation will help you remain calm and in control during situations that may otherwise lead to a panic attack.
As a transgender woman you are going to have to deal with all kinds of situations and attacks on your gender identity. Panic attacks are a natural reaction to the stress of transitioning especially when you are just beginning your transition. Be aware and be ready for them and your transition will go a lot more smoothly. Eventually as you become more confident in your new gender role and care less about what people think, you will have a much easier time and have at chance at least of enjoying your life as a transgender woman.