*This post might be considered triggering for some, so please read with caution
This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been wanting to share about this topic for a very long time, but I honestly was so nervous about sharing something so open and vulnerable with the world. I know that this is something a lot of other people suffer from as well, so I figured my story might help others in some way.
I suppose I should start at the beginning. I can remember suffering from panic attacks as far back as when I was 6 or 7 years old. I believe it all started when I acquired an immense fear of throwing up. Whenever I would get a stomach ache as a kid, I would immediately be thrown into a panic attack that would last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, sometimes even all night. At first, panic attacks would only hit me maybe once or twice a year. They never interfered with my life until I became a bit older.
I think it was around the end of middle school or the beginning of high school that I noticed panic attacks occurring more often. Random things would trigger an attack – being jolted awake by my loud alarm clock in the morning, finding out someone in one of my classes had the stomach flu, not being able to fall asleep without my tv on at night (that might sound weird, but when I was young I could not fall asleep without my tv on, and sometimes I got grounded from my electronics so it was something I had to deal with). I’d also have attacks whenever I got super excited or nervous about something. Apparently anticipation was not a friendly emotion for my mental state. Still, these attacks were never so bad that I felt I couldn’t live life normally, so I didn’t put much thought into them (plus, at the time, I didn’t even know that what I was dealing with was a disorder).
It was after high school that I started to have panic attacks so fierce that it felt disabling. Some of the attacks I experienced were so intense and mind-altering that it felt like I was going crazy and that nothing I could do would fix it. I felt trapped, doomed, and completely helpless. During this time, I developed a small coping mechanism that ended up becoming self-harm. Whenever these attacks would hit, I’d start furiously scratching at my forehead and face. It was like a nervous tick that I didn’t even realize I was doing. My mom would have to stop me every time, and I constantly had cuts and tiny scabs on my forehead from my fingernails.
In September 2013, I had the panic attack that would forever change my life. My mom and sister had gone to church for the morning session of the Designed For Life conference, but I had stayed behind to get a little extra sleep because I was dead tired from the full day before. I woke up, got dressed, had some breakfast, and then drove out to our church. I arrived a little early (the morning session was still in progress), so I sat in my car and kind of dozed off while I waited for them to get out. For some reason, in the middle of this little nap, I jolted awake and was in the middle of an incredibly intense attack. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or slow my thoughts down, and nothing I did was helping to calm me down. I completely freaked out, and knew that I had to get home immediately. I texted my mom to let her know what was going on and then got onto the freeway. I thought that the drive home would command enough focus that it would claim my attention, but what happened was the exact opposite. For the next 10 minutes, I furiously sped home, trying to not throw up or pass out at the wheel. To this day, I don’t remember that drive home. I don’t know how I managed to drive from Ozark to Springfield without getting into a wreck, but I thank God every day that He got me home safely.
Once I got home, I spent the next 10 hours suffering through the worst panic attack of my life. I was convinced I had caught the flu and was going to be sick, or that I had finally lost control of my mind and was going crazy. That evening, the panic attack started to fade and I was able to relax for the rest of the day. But I never forgot what that was like and how afraid I was. My mom had offered to take me to see a doctor numerous times, but I always declined because deep down I knew that if they told me they didn’t know what was wrong with me, I wouldn’t be able to handle it and I’d probably crumble. It had finally become too much for me, and I knew I needed to seek professional help.
I scheduled a doctor visit and my mom went with me for emotional support. I remember being on the verge of tears and just praying to God that they would be able to help me. Since I’ve dealt with this practically my entire life, it was all I knew and I couldn’t imagine anything different. The doctor I met with was super nice, and after a few minutes of questions she was able to determine that I was suffering from panic disorder and depression. She prescribed some medication to help regulate the chemicals in my brain, as well as medicine I can take if a really strong attack ever hits. I’ve been on this medication ever since, and I finally feel like there’s hope.
My life has completely changed since then. I feel happier, and more in control of my mental state. I still suffer from panic attacks from time to time, but I now know what they are and have the proper medication to help get through them. I’ve also started practicing breathing exercises, and things like aromatherapy and ASMR videos have really helped when I’m feeling anxious or stressed.
So, that’s my story. If there’s anything I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that bad things will pass (no matter how bad they seem) and there is always hope. Even if it seems like your situation is never going to get better, it will. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. There are professionals out there that can help you sort whatever you’re going through out. It’s their job to make your life better, so feel confident in reaching out to them.
Do you suffer from panic and anxiety? What’s your story?