Can You Draw A Panic Attack?
I’ve said it before: ideally, it’s best to be there, Ram Dass-style, when you’re experiencing a panic attack. That’s how you’ll learn to accept and overcome those uncomfortable sensations.
Of course, getting to that point can be difficult — very difficult, in fact. While I’m a huge advocate of cognitive behavioral therapy, I have to admit this — I’ve done CBT with five different therapists now, all with slightly different ways of approaching panic and anxiety.
I’ve definitely seen some improvements, but I still panic. And when I do, I still cannot muster up the gumption to just sit there and acknowledge that these feelings will eventually subside.
I have to distract myself to get through it. Making a phone call, playing a game on my phone, even making an alphabetic list of stuff you’d find at the grocery store — they’re all tried-and-true distraction methods for me.
On Reddit today, I noticed this piece of artwork posted to the r/anxiety community:
User Xoruik says, while having a recent panic attack, she tried to “draw a visualization of it” to distract her from the panic itself.
This is a really neat concept. I’ve seen a lot of migraine-related art, but nothing yet related to panic (other than some very stereotypical stuff, like people breathing into paper bags…see this blog’s logo, for instance).
I like Xoruik’s artwork in particular because it’s nothing like my own. What do I draw when I’m feeling panicky? The answer is simple: stupid kitschy shit. Like flowers and birds. The stuff of non-panic. The stuff of children’s books and notebook scribbles and Lisa Frank folders.
Xoruik, on the other hand, seems to allow the panic to shake its way down to her hand to guide her marker. Although she calls this distraction, in a way, drawing this type of artwork is another way of living in the moment. The very uncomfortable moment (or minute, or minutes, or longer) of panic itself.
Ah, paradox. A distraction that’s not really a distraction. A distraction that’s practically…exposure.
Xoruik says that the drawing didn’t do anything to change the intensity of the attack, but it helped in other ways:
[Drawing it helped to] clarify to myself what was going on in my head at the time, if that makes any sense.
A lot of times when I have panic attacks, my mind is going a mile a minute and don’t really keep tabs on what I’m thinking. What was bolded were thoughts that my mind kept coming back to.
Have you ever drawn any anxiety or panic-related artwork? How did either the process or the product help you to “come down” from your anxious state?
Beretsky, S. (2013). Can You Draw A Panic Attack?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 31, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2013/06/can-you-draw-a-panic-attack/