I’m going to write this all out and it won’t be eloquent or pretty or poetic. I’m not going to pour over it for days, making sure my words fall just so and all my statements sound lovely. I’m going to write it because I feel like writing it and because maybe it will help. Maybe it will help me, Maybe it will help you, too.
The thing is, I’m panicking.
The kids are fine. Our family is safe. Everything is a-okay.
Except. I’m panicking.
Out of nowhere– standing in line at the grocery, talking with friends at church, driving the kids home from the sitter, waking up to a quiet morning at home– I feel it lurch into my chest and wiggle down to my fingertips. It comes in wave after wave, this sinking feeling that nothing is right and I am in danger. My stomach heaves and rotates inside me. My fingers tingle. My shoulders clench against the cold washing over me. I am dizzy. I am miles away. I want to run. I have to get out. I think I’m going to be sick.
Having a panic attack is scary as hell. It doesn’t matter that absolutely nothing is wrong, your body is telling you otherwise. For me, it started in college. I think I had my first panic attack when my mother drove away from the dorm on day one. I remember riding the elevator up to my tiny shared room and thinking that the walls were closing in on me. I laid in bed for hours, convinced I had the flu, or a stomach bug, or that maybe I was dying. This went on every day, for weeks.
I know what it is now. Panic disorder: “Sudden episodes of acute apprehension or intense fear that occur ‘out of the blue,’ without any apparent cause… Episodes occur spontaneously and unexpectedly for no apparent reason.” (Source) But at the time, I was terrified. Still, with medication and therapy and a few years of hard work, I eventually mastered the tools I needed to ward off that feeling of doom. It came back from time to time but stayed away for the most part.
Until this summer.
I’m not sure if it was the postpartum hormones (which tend to make me more anxious than depressed) or all the changes of having two babies in the house rather than one, but panic slowly crept back into my life this summer and I just can’t seem to shake it. It’s why I’ve been going to bed early and trying to take long walks. It’s why I’ve had trouble focusing and feeling like myself. It’s why I’ve been the absolute worst at responding to emails. It’s why I’ve been writing fewer posts on this little blog. Sometimes it feels like I spend all day in a battle with this pesky body that insists on running through fight-or-flight scenarios when there’s nothing to fight or fly from.
I’m working on myself right now. And when I feel afraid, I’m focusing on calm. And when I’m feeling calm and safe, I’m soaking up my kids and my husband and this lovely life that’s right here in front of me.
I am not a worrier. I’m not even a terribly anxious person. But, apparently, my body is.
So I’ll write when I want to write and I’ll share when I want to share (speaking of, I just got the BEST Stitch Fix and I will for sure post about it because I am in loooove with this one sweater) and I’ll pull out my old bag of tools for warding off this phantom doom. Everything will be fine.
Everything will be fine.
Thanks for reading, Friends.
If you deal with panic attacks or any kind of anxiety disorder (panic disorder, generalized anxiety, agoraphobia, OCD, PTSD, specific phobias) you are not crazy and you are not alone. Seriously, you’re not. I’ve been working on this part of my life for over 10 years and I’m no genius but I can tell you what’s helped me the most:
- The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. – This is the book that helped me figure out what in the H-E-Double hockey sticks was going on with my body. It’s the book that made me feel less alone and made me realize that I was absolutely NOT going crazy. It’s got worksheets to help you process your anxiety and panic, plus great tips for relaxation, exercise, and lifestyle changes that can stop panic before it feels overwhelming. BUY THIS BOOK (if you’re anxious, I mean– if you’re not anxious then go buy a scary teen novel about vampires).
- Anxiety, Phobias, & Panic: A Step-by-Step Program for Regaining Control of Your Life by Reneau Z. Peurifoy, M.A., M.F.T. – I like this one because it gives specific examples and more ideas for warding off anxiety before it become panic. It talks a lot about how we misread cues from our bodies (rapid heartbeat, indigestion, etc.) which triggers a panic response in our brains. Very interesting stuff.
- Cutting caffeine. Coffee makes me feel jittery and upsets my stomach a bit– TOTALLY worth it on most days but when I’m struggling with panic, it can really throw my body into a not great place so I switch to black tea. It’s still delicious and queens drink it so it’s fancy.
- Talking to a professional. And I do mean a professional therapist– not a professional wrestler.
- Exercise. I’m the worst at exercise but I like yoga so there’s that. Also, working out means you have to buy workout clothes so shopping will happen. #iwin.
- Positive self talk (rather than catastrophic thoughts) when experiencing panic or anxiety. Hippy stuff. (The Workbook mentioned above is really helpful for this!)
- Deep breathing for relaxation. More hippy stuff.
- Essential Oils. Seriously hippy dippy stuff.
I used to take medication but haven’t in years. I really didn’t need it anymore and it made me feel a little bit blah and weird. There’s no shame in taking meds, though. If I decide to go down that road again then yay me. Honestly though, even with medication, the tools listed above were more helpful than anything else. Find what works for you. Talk to someone. Read a book. Drink some tea. Your life doesn’t have to look like this forever. The end.
Anyone else out there experienced anxiety and panic issues? What helped you the most?