Panic using face mask, seems it's a trigger...

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
Took me few times to make the connection, but I seem to have panic attack and/or flashbacks every time I put one of those face masks on. I was out 2-3h ago and although the immediate panic subsided, it's still affecting me.

I keep getting random waves of panic, hypervigilance or waves of dissociating and it's making my work harder. I'm trying to do what I need to do anyways, and I got hot water bottle to keep me at least vaguely grounded(flashbacks make me super cold). But it's still hard staying present, it's like I have to constantly snap myself into the present. Can I somehow diffuse it trigger wise?

p.s. Also it feels like the next wave of panic is hitting me and sometimes that means taking a fast walk until I can't breathe or doing something distracting cause I feel all irritable and sensitive to every touch and sound and my heart racing constantly... But we're in curfew hours.
What can I do to calm down at home?
 

The Albatross

MyPTSD Pro
Use your regular "go to" maintenance for stress and exercise activities. Breath work, reality orientation, rational vs irrational cognitive work.... etc. Turn toward a self nurturing/soothing activity for the body... to turn away from something you can choose to turn toward something personally assistive & beneficial eh?

You CAN elect to diffuse the trigger but under the circumstances this is probably not the time to attempt to do so.

P.S. I had to desensitize the trigger when I had to begin wearing a c-pap mask.
 

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
Use your regular "go to" maintenance for stress and exercise activities. Breath work, reality orientation, rational vs irrational cognitive work.... etc. Turn toward a self nurturing/soothing activity for the body... to turn away from something you can choose to turn toward something personally assistive & beneficial eh?

You CAN elect to diffuse the trigger but under the circumstances this is probably not the time to attempt to do so.
I mean... this situation could go on for a bit. Will I need to do self-care routine every time I come home after going out? People are wearing masks all the time outside right now, so I should as well, but it makes it harder to go out. I thought somehow that diffusing it would be the easier route(well, if there was a way to diffuse it in a day). I don't know. Haven't had strong triggers in a while, and yes, this isn't a great time for one, but, such is life.

Right now I'm working, so great, but I have to take frequent calm-down moments. And I get this- my whole body hurts kind of thing that only happens if I have a strong freak-out reaction. Definitely time for self-care for today.
How did you desensitize your trigger, was it just like, keep doing it until your body gets it or?
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
Can you shift focus to your environs, line of sight, and needed activities instead?

And, what concretely is the most issue - because I can think of at least twenty things for the start it could be, and how to's with it would differ. That a mask = trigger is still veery general to advise better on.

(I relate, tho both super comfort zone / work normal / different times thing issue, and normal masks I handle well. Gas ones still working on. Tbh to my way of thinking face coverings file just as an Arabic clothing attire so all cool, only weird in other states :p. But get experiences differ. Hence asking what corner the distress from, for you.)
 

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
@Ronin I'm trying to- hence the working with water bottle on my legs, keeps me warmer and able to do at least some work. Because of the current work hours of stores I had to shift going to stores of errands for mornings and work after that.

The issue. I don't even know. Like all triggers at first it's a lot of body and mind reactions before I can pull anything making sense out of my fuzzy thoughts. What I do know is this: the moment I put it over my mouth I start panicking and my heart racing. What I start snapping into memory-wise is when in a bad situation(the one starting my PTSD) my nose was closed from crying and then the person had a hand on my mouth so I couldn't breathe and for a bit I was scared I'll choke before I get a breath in. It's stupid, but I don't even know how to explain the magnitude of reactions it creates in waves in my body.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
Not stupid at all :D

And thank you for explaining. Makes sense.

One thing I've done with this bit (mouth covered = assault & will be choked soonest) was use my own hand for a long time. Reminding myself it's MY hand. Followed by it's Just a hand. Followed by, oh look it, there is just a thing. On my mouth. That don't effect my breathing what so ever. That is just There... not doing anything. Followed by, it's not a hand but just clothing, not even tight one? Oh. Ookay brain. We treat it as just something to disegard, feel it but no need to pay more mind to it.

Sort of thing.
Gradual desenzitization / exposure on that trigger. Until it normalizes, or I'm not startled much less thrown by the panic, too.

That & reminders / mental reorient help me a lot. When I can *think* 'I can't breathe' I can almost guarantee I *can* breathe fine. Situations I really can't leave me confused & not sure whats wrong. Or one 'oh shit' thought before the world goes black. Things like that.

If I'm anxious about breathing?
I'm essentially fine.
 

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
@Ronin Cool! Thank you for the breakdown, gives me a way to work on it.

If I'm all regular state of mind- I can organize myself, figure out how to deal with things. When something really hits me strong(which isn't often anymore, so it's been a while)- a lot of my knowledge goes out the window, everything gets all mixed and fuzzy and pulsing in panic and coming to me in bright memories and feeling.

Like now, it's waves of 'I'm working anyways' between waves of sensations and feeling and finding myself dissociating a lot. Planning to watch something that gives me that home feeling after work. Or maybe reorganise pictures from good times on my computer as grounding.

Oh well. Hope tomorrow goes better, but the simple fact is, I may have to wear a mask more often now. So... I don't need to dig as deep as possible, but I do need to be able to cope without shooting in panic mode every time. And I would like to be able to wear one without it being a thing at all, that would be great. I'm SO not there yet, but I would like to be, you know.

Also, I think the worst after-result, after flashbacks, for me is having my whole body aching for hours after, like being sore or bruised. Wish I knew how to remove that. Would actual physical painkiller help it? I never tried. But it's just something that is really annoying.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
Yep, painkillers are one way of help, warm to comfort showers other, so are soft and warm blankets and comfortable clothes, drinking more water / liquids anything, some times exercise or mild exercise (endorphines, yay :D costless painkillers.), self affirmations that you are alright in a form that works for you, where pain is compounded by emotional one, cuddling up something soft, eating / refill on aall the stress flood bad juju of before (& glucose -> can clear brain fog, not hazing the dumb -> helps ground in the reality of now / not under threat)...

Things like that. Worth a try.
 

Friday

Moderator
1. What @The Albatross & @Ronin said! :D Go to skills for self soothing (hot water bottles, ballet, et al). & I’d start doing exposure therapy at home to start knocking off the sharp edges off the trigger.

Like trying a ribbon around my face, placing a silky scarf over half my face whilst laying down and reading, blocking my nose closed (another great use for tampons ;)), breathing through pillows, trying different things with my hair, etc.,... things that hit pieces of the trigger, without the full on trigger. Just enough to get a little shiver or spike of reaction... without the whole reaction, itself. So I can start to desensitize myself / knock those sharp edges off.

2. How about alternatives that still cover half your face, but aren’t so tight against your face? Or that hold different connotations to you?
- Like an Abaya/hijab/niqab? There are sooooo many different styles! :D One of my favorites -niqab- floats down from the bridge of your nose... So there’s no pressure on your lower face whatsoever. But hijabs are endlessly wrappable, so you could practice styles that wrap pressure differently... and one of the nice things about abayas, is that they protect all of your clothing (to a degree, anyhow, like a jacket protects your shirt. When you take it off, coming indoors, the outdoors stays -mostly- with it). Most abayas don’t cover one’s face, at all, but some do. And some can easily be altered to.
- Ski masks (balaclavas, half masks, & neck warmers, oh my! :sneaky: ) My kid has a neck warmer /that when you pull it up over the lower part of your face? It’s a skeleton. The make tons of fun/funky prints like that, or there’s just plain old solids and patterns.
- Theatre/Dramatic masks. Might be a fun project to make, at home? A fox face (or any other animal) is fairly obvious... but also things like an Arabian Nights / Shaharizad dangly beads mask (the strings of beads over the functional part of the mask) giving you something to distract yourself with by making the curtain of beads and bells move gently across your face & jingle against each other. Whilst something like a paper maché deep sea divers bell (outlandish as hell!) would keep things off your face full stop.

3. Sensory tricks... smear the mask with camphor/tigers balm, or perfume, or orange & jasmine, etc.... so every time you put it on you’re overwhelmed with a rush of sensory information to help drown out the subtle things tying themselves to your trauma.
 

SeekingAfrica

MyPTSD Pro
Just wanted to say a little thank you to everyone who contributed to this thread and gave me so many ideas on how to handle it!
While there is a lot that has not been good with my mental health right now, this one, was a WIN.

I have been using the ideas I got here and in the past- what has it been? 2 weeks? it's easy to lose track of time now- I have been working on this particular trigger. I'm not 100% over it, but I have to say that wearing a mask when I need to outside is slowly becoming easier and easier which in turn has started slowly making my grocery shopping trips a lot more acceptable. I haven't had panic attacks when shopping this past week at all, even when wearing a mask! Still affects me, but a lot less...

So this, THIS one thing was a win. And that means so much right now!

So thank you, @Friday , @Ronin and @The Albatross for helping me get through this one.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
This might not be helpful @SeekingAfrica , and the others have the best advice. Just to say, I feel that way too. So instead I tried to focus on how soft it feels, and though too hot, hot is ok if you are cold. But just when I got over that, I found the safety glasses make me feel like I'm suffocating and so hard to get a breath, and instant panic. (The visor is even worse. ) So I did 4 square breathing, because I figured a good dose of carbon dioxide might calm me down when hyperventilating, like a paper bag. And just focused on the 4 seconds in, 4 out. The trouble is breathing out (unless you coat the glasses with shaving cream, so they say but have not tried, but that would be not the smell I'd want) it all fogs up. So to deal with the trigger of not being able to breathe, I try on purpose to fog up as much as possible, and suck it all back, and make someone laugh, but in doing so I am present, and their laughter helps. And if I can't get my breath they can't tell, either. Stupid, I know, but I figure if I can assign a different connotation eventually it won't be as triggering, though it totally wears me out now. I don't mind being hidden behind it though, but it moves when you smile with your eyes. :)

Good luck to you. :hug:

(PS, I like the idea of doing something personal with it. )
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
I saw this thread a long while back and didn't respond because I hadn't been wearing a mask and I had no idea how to calm a trigger I didn't think I'd ever have.

HaHa. Surprised the heck out of me! I went to the grocery today with a mask on and I thought I was going to die. Felt like there was something stuck in my throat and I couldn't breathe. So anxious and panicky.

I seem to have panic attack and/or flashbacks every time I put one of those face masks on.

Are you aware of the reason for the trigger? (Sorry if you said; I may have missed it)

I had to desensitize the trigger when I had to begin wearing a c-pap mask.

Oh, wow. Now that I think about it, I have never been able to wear a face mask. I had to move to nasal pillows (which I really like and now I only sometimes feel like I can't breathe.

this situation could go on for a bit.

Ugh.

I’d start doing exposure therapy at home to start knocking off the sharp edges off the trigger.

This is a great idea!

How about alternatives that still cover half your face, but aren’t so tight against your face? Or that hold different connotations to you?
- Like an Abaya/hijab/niqab?

I love this idea!

While there is a lot that has not been good with my mental health right now, this one, was a WIN.

I'm so glad you are working through this, @SeekingAfrica. And thanks for the thread!
 
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