Jens Dendoncker describes his anxiety attack for the first time...

“There was one morning when I woke up and almost couldn’t get out of bed,” Dendoncker says. “I was crying, my girlfriend had to help me out of bed. I couldn’t get into the shower, physically I was completely stuck. And I didn’t stop crying. Then we said: okay, something’s up. A fear had grown to such an extent that it mortgaged my life.”

“Specifically, I got an enormous pressure on my chest,” he continues. “My breath was cut off exactly. There’s a obsession that won’t let go, that grabs you by the scruff of the neck. It is a very bad feeling, because it seems that you have completely lost control of your own body. Although there will also be people who will describe an anxiety attack differently. This is personal to me. It has a very paralyzing aspect, nothing works yet. You feel very heavy, it chains you to your bed or to your seat.”

Out of the blue

To come back to himself, Dendoncker tried to sit down somewhere. “With my hands on the floor, so that I had contact with the floor. Then I just tried to count, to ten or twenty. To push that thought back. I also started paying attention to my breathing. That also helped.”

The comedian goes on to say that it is difficult for him to pinpoint a concrete cause for his fears. “That’s also the problem. There is really no concrete reason. In itself I had a very good life: a job that I liked, a love, a house. In my context it is very difficult to say: that and that caused that depression. I believe it’s much clearer with some people, but it’s not with me. It was a bit out of the blue.”

Dendoncker was admitted for almost three months, from November 2020 to the end of January, beginning of February 2021. “Under intense supervision, both group therapy and individual therapy. At first I couldn’t believe it myself, during that first week I was still in denial. I also felt quite okay then, after that morning I had gathered myself together again. But when it all started to sink in, I calmed down on the one hand and panicked again on the other. Then I felt: ok, that’s what i’m here for.

Taboo

“It was not easy, because you are constantly thinking about the home front. My love, who must do everything alone. At the same time, try to keep in mind, as best you can: I need to fix this so I can be my old self again. That is the goal, even if it means being away from home for months.”

Dendoncker himself announced via Instagram that he had been recorded. “In the first place to make it clear to people who are struggling with the same problems, fears or depression that they should not feel taboo or hesitating to share that. I thought: if I do this it might persuade someone to talk to professionals. Because you can’t wait too long.”

silver edge

And Dendoncker speaks from experience. “The fact that I postponed it just shows how much I didn’t want it. How badly I was not ready to face those panic attacks, with that depression in general. It always catches you at a bad time. I think I’ve been thinking for a long time: If I ignore it, it will go away. But it doesn’t help you forward, because then you’ll get it double and thick later. So: don’t try to obscure those signals and just listen very carefully.”

Now that things are gradually improving, the comedian sees a silver lining in the dark months in the distance. When Terryn asks if there’s comedy in everything he’s been through, he replies positively. “There’s comedy in everything, including what I’ve been through. But it will be a while before I get told that way.”

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