Being of the autistic and anxious nature, I tend to suffer from panic attacks. These can be categorised two ways - anxiety attacks and overloads. These commonly happen at work and at dance class, and a lot of people don't understand really WHY it happens. At dance, it's often assumed that my attacks are because I don't feel like I can keep up with the class (when I think at least 80% of the time I'm pretty good at keeping up) and I'm really not sure what the guys at work think.
Here's a quick overview of how it works:
As stated earlier, I either have an anxiety attack or I overload. This is because unfortunately I have limited energy for coping with the stresses of life that everyone else seems to take in their stride. Think of it as having two meters: my "Social Energy" meter and my "Data Usage" meter.
My "Social Energy" meter is how much energy I have left to deal with social situations before I can't hold off the anxiety any longer. Things like conversations, going out to fix customers problems, driving, dealing with my fears, talking on the phone etc deplete this meter.
My "Data Usage" meter is how much more I can process before I overload. Sound and touch contribute to depleting this meter, as does trying to learn or trying to absorb new information.
If one meter gets too low, it can start impacting on the other meter. Also, my panic scale can also affect how fast the meters go down. Being at a high level on the scale can drain my "Social Energy" meter, while making it harder for me to absorb information, which starts to drain at my "Data Usage" meter. Conversely, if I can get my panic scale low enough (to a 2.5 or below) I can actually start to recuperate any lost "energy" or "data". This is why I insist on walking at lunchtimes, because it will easily replenish my "Social Energy" meter, while listening to music and letting my brain go nuts will replenish my "Data Usage" meter.
Of course, if the meters get too low, then it becomes harder for me to get and keep to a low panic scale. Also my physical condition can affect how fast the meters go down as well. Plus, I don't always start the day with the same amount of energy as I did the day before. A couple of long or stressful days in a row can have me starting my days with next to no petrol tickets left in either tank.
So let's look at some examples. Take my first mini-attack at Swingsation on Saturday, brought on by my dread of losing my balance. This was during a workshop, which was just after another workshop, so my "Data Usage" meter was already pretty low. This was starting to drain at my "Social Energy" meter, as well, raising my panic scale to around a 5. Now, earlier, when my "Data Usage" scale was fuller, I was happily sitting at 3.5. Then, they showed us we were going to be doing a dip. Like I said at the time, it was a sudden hit of fear to the face, instantly throwing my panic scale up to a 7. Had my meter had more data available, I could have maybe gotten back down to a 3.5 and gutsed it out, but I was depleted and thus after three or four attempts at the dip I hit 8 and fled.
The major attack on the Sunday at Swingsation was similar, only this time both meters were out. Unfortunately I could only recover so much energy from Friday, which I used up on Saturday, and couldn't fully recover by Sunday. Physically too I was drained. Dancing was able to keep me down to a 3, but then I picked a fast dance with a complete and utter manic which completely wiped out my "Data Usage" meter and left my "Social Energy" precariously low. Sure enough, I hit a 9 and couldn't speak. Super-embarrassing stuff.
Just this week too I had another attack, but this time because my panic scale was otherwise low, I was able to recover the energy and data and guts it out. This one was caused by a one-footed spin which had me off-balance, which is a great way to send me to an instant 6 on the panic scale. Coupled with all the information I was getting in class depleting my "Data Usage" meter, I had an attack. However, my "Social Energy" meter was high enough that after sitting down for five minutes I could guts out the rest of the lesson, and a few dances (which mostly bring my scale down to 2) were enough to replenish my meters and I was able to enjoy the rest of the night.
It's important to be able to tell if I'm anxious or overloading - if I overload, DO NOT TOUCH ME UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES because it will HURT like anything because I simply can't take any more input. However, if it's anxiety, I need to be hugged and fretted over and protected. Of course, if both meters get completely wiped out and I hit a 10...you know what, let's not even go there, because I certainly never want to hit a 10 ever again.