Last April I experienced my first ever panic attack and my first ambulance ride all in one night! At the time I did not realize I was having a panic attack. I was pretty sure that my throat was closing and I was having an allergic reaction. After an exam at the hospital, paying over $1200 to the ambulance service, and a few tests, I was diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Lame.
Yet, I further convinced myself that I was allergic to something. Over the next few weeks I had a couple more panic attacks. I also experienced the paranoia of not wanting to leave the house, because I felt safer at home and the food I knew. I got why people stayed home, had amazingly irrational panicky thoughts, had trouble falling asleep, and realized just how exhausting anxiety was.
I started to see a psychologist and she recommended The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. This book helped me understand anxiety, since I really hadn't had it much in classic form. It also taught me about what tools you could use to cope with the thoughts and sensations, etc. Anxiety like this was so foreign to me. I
talked with close friends about their anxiety, but it was obviously more
difficult experiencing it myself. I was used to episodes of exploding (which was probably repressed anxiety). I wasn't proud of those moments, but I knew them. I knew the consequences and how to ask for forgiveness for those times.
I also started taking medication for the anxiety (generic Zoloft). Those of you that take medicine like this know it takes a few weeks to really start to work. Thankfully, I have an AMAZING husband who was so patient, kind, understanding, and loving as I walked through this period. He was there during each of my panic attacks and helped me through them without judgment. I was embarrassed during them and frustrated at the same time though.
So, I write this experience because I learned a few things about myself and to encourage those with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue. I don't know if you feel it, but I know I do and some of my friends do too...the feeling of the stigma that is still out there with mental health. I honestly only shared what I was going through with those I knew for certain would not judge me. I was dealing with so much, I couldn't handle processing and forgiving other people's judgments too.
Although, I loathe panic attacks and am not fond of the experience I've gone through over the last year, I did learn that I need to take care of myself. The Type-A helper that I am consistently puts tasks and people before myself. I will forego eating until after I have finished all the tasks in my mind that "need" to be done and get everything for everyone else. This causes me to be hangry A LOT. I used to just explode at my poor children and husband, but since I gave birth to the cutest baby ever born, my anxiety has turned into straight anxiety.
Walking has also become a wonderful tool for me. It helps rid of built up anxiety, as well as makes my rear end a little perkier. ;) I've laid off drinking so much bloody caffeine. It's not helpful when I'm juiced up on coffee and not eating. My blood sugar drops and the phobia, the anxiety starts to build. Stretching, yoga, and meditating have also helped me through some of the toughest days.
Now, hear me, it's not because I was NOT doing all these things that I had panic attacks. They could have helped initiate them, but there are so many factors to mental health. Sometimes life is just crappy and you have to have a freaking panic attack.
Today I am on Day 7 of weaning off my anxiety medicine. If I don't have to take it, I'd like not to, but I have no shame on taking it for the rest of my life, if need be. We treat our emotional and especially our physical health daily with no qualms, and my brain is just as much as a part of me as anything else. People with mental health diagnosis, symptoms, or issues are no less strong or capable than those without. We are all different and experience life differently.
There is no shame.
My heart goes out to those of you that experience these things in such a deeper, stronger way. You are so brave and so amazing that you carry on life every day despite the continual energy you have to use to work through your thoughts and emotions. You are great mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, coworkers, friends, leaders....I know you probably don't feel exceptional very often, but working through adversity with honesty and grace builds such richness and meaning to life.
Thanks (in a weird way) , Anxiety, for helping me see life in a different way.