Pink opens up about her panic attacks: ‘I would feel like I was having strokes’

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Considering the giant garbage pile we appear to be sitting on, let’s remind each other to look after our mental health as much as possible. The Child Mind Institute has kicked off its Dare to Share campaign that features a different celebrity each day talking about how they manage their mental health, beginning with Pink. Pink filmed a video telling fans that she suffered from debilitating panic attacks in her early 20s. Because she didn’t know what was going on, she would end up in the hospital, much like Ireland Baldwin, hooked up to an EKG machine, only to be told she was “fine.” So Pink began building a “spiritual toolbox” with items she needs to help her refocus and keep her centered and encourages people suffering from panic attacks to do the same.

Pink is opening up about her mental health struggles to remind young people dealing with similar issues that “it does get better.”

“I used to get pretty awful panic attacks and I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t have anybody to talk to about it and I didn’t know what to do,” the singer began. “I would feel like I was having strokes, like, stroke symptoms, it was terrifying.”

During that time, she explained, she would go to the hospital and sit in her car in the emergency room parking lot until she felt better or would go into the emergency room.

“I had a number of EKGs that always led back to ‘You’re fine, you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong, you’re imagining it all, it’s all in your head,’” she explained. “Then I started seeing a therapist, and then I started doing all these things. I started learning all these steps on how to take care of myself, I’d never been taught how to take care of myself.”

The singer said she began to compile a “spiritual toolbox,” comprised of things like “candles and incense.” She also partook in “full moon ceremonies for women only” and practiced various forms of meditation to “take care of me and my heart and my head.”

“Writing songs is the probably the thing that has saved my life,” she said. “Writing in a journal, writing poetry, reading other people’s stories, being inspired. Exercise. Eating healthy. Cooking is like a meditation.

“So now I know in my life, when I’m getting lost, I reach under my bed and I grab out my spiritual toolbox,” she said. “I light my incense and I take a bath and I breathe and I do my gratitudes. I also have surrounded myself with a village of people that know when I’ve forgotten that I have a spiritual toolbox, they remind me. And so I encourage all of you to write, journal, talk to someone and start building your own spiritual toolbox and put people around you that remind you that you have it under the bed.”

The singer concluded, “I will tell you from being a very, very afraid 7, 8, 13, 23, 31, and now 42-year-old woman, it does get better and there are beautiful moments waiting for you and there are beautiful people waiting to love you, and one of those people is yourself.”

[From Yahoo!]

I didn’t know Pink suffered from panic attacks. That may be on me. It’s possible she’s spoken of them before, and I just didn’t know. But they sound crippling, especially if she had to calm herself down in the parking lot of the emergency room just to make it into the actual emergency room. And not knowing what was happening, again, only heightens the panic. We’ve heard doctors telling panic patients, “you’re imagining it all, it’s all in your head,” for so long, I hope they are finding other language now. I hope they at least suggest a therapist for panic attacks. The unknown diagnosis seems to be the common thread in all these stories.

I like Pink’s suggestion of a spiritual toolbox. Even if you wouldn’t pack the same items as she does, the idea of having a box or bag of things that ground you is a good one. Also, her advice about having “people around you that remind you that you have (your spiritual toolbox) under the bed” is key. It is very important to have a support group. Lastly, it’s not mentioned here, and I know it’s often the butt of jokes, but a mental happy place is useful in a pinch. Have a time or place in which you knew serenity and keep that memory locked in your mind to conjure when you start spinning.

And as hard as it is to believe, Pink is telling the truth: it does get better.

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11 Responses to “Pink opens up about her panic attacks: ‘I would feel like I was having strokes’”

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  1. Merricat says:

    A panic attack feels like dying. So sick of the medical misogyny that has stunted our knowledge of women’s health. So tired of women being classified as hysterical and then dismissed.

  2. K says:

    This affects so many of us. I hope the day comes when the medical community puts mental health just as much of a priority as physical health. Stress can make you ill. It can kill you. Mental health IS health. Learn what works for you. Pink is awesome for talking about this. The more people who speak out the better.

  3. Nessa says:

    I remember my first panic attack. It was after my brother was in a traumatic accident, and he was finally pulling through to the point that we knew he’d survive. That’s when they started. I remember thinking that I was losing my mind and I was worried I’d get to a point where I’d hurt myself or others. I had no idea what anxiety was or what a panic attack was and it was f-ing terrifying. Knowing what it is and being able to talk about it has been a lifesaver.

  4. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    I have panic attacks. One of the wonderful (sarcasm) side effects of my TIA’s. They’re the scariest things. I feel like I am going to die. I shake. I can’t move. If I move, I am going to die and that’s just the least serious feelings I have. So. Yes. I get Pink and I hear her and have nothing but compassion for those of us that deal with this.
    I have learned to have a “happy place” as Hecate says. I have two. I’m either in a hammock at the beach, or in a library during a thunderstorm.
    If I am paying attention I can head them off by imagining those places. If not, then I tell myself over and over “this will pass. You’re fine” until I am back on solid ground.

    • Sue says:

      “This will pass” is one of the most powerful mantras for folks with anxiety disorders. My happy place is a lake house where my husband and I stayed at last summer.

  5. Sue says:

    From ages 29 through 36, I had daily panic attacks. They run in my family. The first few months were full of visits to urgent care to get EKG’s, visiting a cardiologist and visiting a neurologist and being told there was nothing wrong with me. I was convinced I was dying, developed hypochondria and unfortunately when one stint of medication through my primary doctor didn’t work and I couldn’t afford a psychiatrist (my insurance at the time didn’t cover mental health) I turned to drinking, which really makes panic disorder worse! Luckily the attacks finally faded out at 36. I still have anxiety disorder but I am now properly medicated, in therapy and sober af.

  6. Deni says:

    I am glad people its talking about this.
    I started going to the doctor to get exams in my 20s. I was always fine and would get the “its all in your head”, but was never instructed or seen in the path to get my mental health checked.
    After having my first baby I ended up in the hospital for 3 days getting pricey tests because I felt my face numbed and felt I was dying. It was panic attacks.
    Now I understand my condition better and I am medicated but it is life changing. There must be more information about this.

  7. Jane Wilson says:

    I once had a panic attack on live tv. I hosted a daily, live, hour-long news and public show for several years on the west coast of canada.
    These were packed shows – local and national politicians, authors, and science, environmental, business, technology, mental health and other experts.
    I did the show day after day, researching, writing and creating the questions for guests. It was a lot, but I was ALWAYS prepared from hours of reading and familiarizing myself with deep dives into issues.
    Until that day.
    About 10 minutes before the show, we got a call telling us the guests (3) for the first segment (about Transplant surgery and Donor celebration) were going to be late. Within 60 seconds, the show producer quickly decided to substitute a taped story. No problem. I rearranged my script, wrote a quick intro, and went on-set.
    About 60 seconds before the count-in to opening credits, the three guests suddenly appeared and it was decided to stick them on set and go with the original show.
    With like 30 seconds to go, the guests were hurriedly mic’ed and it hit me: I was completely thrown. My heart went a million miles an hour, my vision got a little weird, my ears were ringing and my mouth dried up within seconds.
    Even though I was prepared, researched, (and expecting to begin with them just 10 minutes earlier) when they switched it back just 60 seconds before, I lost every bit of confidence, ease, comfort and focus. It was TERRIFYING.
    It was a ten minute interview and all I remember was feeling like I was dying and not knowing if I could speak. Luckily I had the pages of questions, so even though I couldn’t hear them, I just read each question, no matter what the response to the previous one was, and somehow got through it. And the rest of the show.
    And nobody noticed. The producer asked about a couple of things I didn’t follow up on, but of the dying, sweating, dry-mouthed humiliated zombie…there was no mention.
    Sadly, getting away with it, wasn’t confidence building. Getting away with it meant my deep dark secret would stay a secret – and I never began another show without feeling like disaster could be lurking.
    And nobody ever noticed.

  8. Regina Falangie says:

    “There are beautiful moments waiting for you and there are beautiful people waiting to love you, and one of those people is yourself.”

    Whoa. That statement took my breath away. That’s really beautiful. And so true.