I am OK is a short video which takes the viewer through a panic attack, helping them to understand the feelings of anxiety, stress and paranoia that people feel during these distressing events. This video is not meant to be an objective depiction of a panic attack, as all panic attacks are different due to personal history and cause, but, I hope to provide some insight into this disorder by sharing my experience with these episodes. My experience with panic attacks begins with a sense of being overwhelmed by my surroundings, unable to control my thoughts, feelings or emotions as the fear or anxiety takes over. My brain, attempting to resolve the danger it perceives, begins to take in and process as much information as it can, which ultimately makes the problem worse.
This video was shot is one continuous take then cut and edited together to convey my perception of reality during an attack. A considerable amount of the sound-scape of the video had to be spliced together in post, as sound is often an overwhelming part of my experience during a panic attack. Gathering all the sounds my ears picked up and hyper-focused on while filming proved difficult, so a considerable amount of work went into gathering sounds from the environment after the filming of each take. The audio component of this piece was greatly inspired by the work of Canadian artist and sound designer Janet Cardiff and her sound walks.
This video uses rhythmic background hum to create a sense of unease, which builds as the volume increases. This sound plays a key role in helping the viewer get into my mind during this video as it is almost imperceptible when it begins to play, but the viewer feels a sense of pressure almost instantly when the sound begins. This sound combined with the cinematography of the piece help to create a sense of paranoia and being overwhelmed due to sensory overload. The intensity builds as the situation begins to get overwhelming and a high pitched whine begins to play and the background noise is overshadowed by the immense sound, building the anxiety further. The increase in intensity is mirrored by the cinematography becoming more erratic and disoriented, reflecting my emotional state at this stage of an attack. Finally, I am able to find a place which is quiet and feels relatively safe to deal with the situation properly and prevent myself from being overwhelmed further. With the help of my wristwatch, I am able to regulate my breathing, reminding myself that my brain is overreacting by saying my mantra to calm myself down. When I feel calm enough to handle moving on, I get up and check the time and walking towards the subway; a reminder that life doesn't stop even for a panic attack and I have to keep on moving forward.
Thank you very much for watching my video, I hope that it helped to provide you with a new insight into what it means to experience a panic attack.
Please remember, if you’re dealing with mental health issues, homelessness or any other issue, you are never alone. There are lots of people you are able to talk to; if you live in Canada, you can follow this link which connects directly to Crisis Services Canada’s website, the perfect first step on a path to recovery. We can make it through this, together, I believe in you.