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Finding Friends in Unexpected Places

Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay

So often in life, we have experiences that make us feel isolated and alone. We may not have a support system where we are, especially in unfamiliar places. But it's important to remember that every person you are close to in life now started off as a stranger. So, being afraid of meeting new people and making new connections can be holding us back from some of the richness of life that we could be experiencing.

This is especially true when we are struggling. We may have a difficult time reaching out for help when we don't feel as though we have a strong support system. At times like this, we can seek out professional help, or rely on the kindness of strangers for support.

Yesterday, I went through a really difficult and frightening situation, and at first it felt like I wasn't getting the support I needed to cope with what was happening.

Some new people moved in next to me, and it was a couple who was having a bad domestic situation. The girl living next to me was assaulted by her boyfriend, and the police were called. Unfortunately though, the situation wasn't resolved. He was allowed to stay on the premises, and I could hear the two of them arguing loudly all night, and slamming furniture against the wall.

By the time the morning rolled around, I was getting towards a panic state (since I was once a victim of domestic violence myself!) and being in a situation that felt very unsafe was triggering for me. At first, the management told me that the would be evicted, however the manager decided to give them one more chance.

That was too much for me, and I started to have a panic attack, I told the management that I couldn't stay another night in a scary situation like that. I started packing up my things to leave.

Fortunately, two of the ladies on the staff were very understanding of me and my situation, and found me another unit to move into on short notice, so that I would be somewhere safe and quiet.

While I was waiting to be able to move, I went outside to smoke a cigarette and call my boyfriend. Several of the other residents here gathered around me, letting me know that I wasn't alone, and that there are other people here looking out for me, and trying to make this a safe community.

Having that sense of community meant a great deal to me in the panicked state that I was in, and helped me to be able to calm down and find some good in the day, even with everything that had happened to make me feel so out of control.

The situation reminded me that, no matter how bad things seem, there are always guardian angels watching over us, quite often in the form of other people who we come in contact with. Even in a bad situation, there are good people out there who are willing to help others, and stand up for them.

Making the connections with the staff and residents here yesterday really helped me turn around a bad day, when I was feeling really defeated and ready to give up. A smile, a kind word, and going out of their way to make me feel safe and welcome here really made a huge difference for me.

I am grateful for the staff here for accommodating my needs, even when it meant going out of their way to find me a new unit with no notice. I am also grateful for all the residents who took time to sit and talk with me until I was feeling better.

One of them told me, "Remember, you have friends here." That really made me feel so much better about things.

I think the worst of our suffering in life comes when we feel like we have to deal with life's storms alone. Knowing that we are part of a wider community of caring people can really help to increase a feeling of belonging and safety. It can also provide hope in dark times.

If someone you know is having a panic attack, your support can make a huge difference, even if you just stay with them until they get feeling better again. Support matters more to us than you could possibly know!

According to Lancaster General Health, here are some tips to help someone who is having a panic attack:

  • Stay with the person and keep calm.

  • Move the person to a quiet place.

  • Ask what the person needs.

  • Speak to the person in short, simple sentences.

  • Be predictable, and avoid surprises.

  • Help the person focus. Ask the person to repeat a simple, physically tiring task such as raising his or her arms over the head.

  • Help slow the person's breathing. You can do this by breathing with him or her or by counting slowly to 10.

  • Know what to say. It's helpful when the person is having a panic attack to say things such as:

  • "You can get through this."

  • "I'm proud of you. Good job."

  • "Tell me what you need now."

  • "Concentrate on your breathing. Stay in the present."

  • "It's not the place that is bothering you; it's the thought."

  • "What you are feeling is scary, but it's not dangerous."

By staying with someone who is having a panic attack and remaining calm yourself, you can make a huge impact on helping them get feeling better more quickly. Having them take deep breaths or drink water (which can also help to regulate breathing) are some simple ways to get the person having the panic attack to feel better.

Remaining calm yourself is key, too. Everyone I talked to yesterday was so understanding, it was beautiful. They let me know that "we have all been here too" and that it was ok to let my feelings out. Having a safe place to be able to recover allowed me to calm down much more quickly.

Also, my boyfriend reminded me that no matter how triggering the situation was for me, it wasn't me who was actually in danger.

If you suffer from panic attacks yourself, I would encourage you to reach out for support, even if it is from people that you don't know well. Showing some trust towards others allows them to be more open too, and puts them in a mindset that allows them to help you.

True, there are some people in this world who will blame or shame you because of your mental health, but it isn't everyone. There are a lot of good people out there in this world too, and when you are willing to be vulnerable and ask for the support you need, often people will be willing to provide that support.

To read more about coping with PTSD and panic attacks, I have put together a PTSD resource guide with more helpful reading for you.

If you have questions about reaching out for support, or other mental health topics, leave me a note in the comments and I will be happy to address your questions in a future blog post!

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