Conquering Panic Attacks: A Journey to Regaining Control of My Life
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Today I am going to be talking about Panic Attacks and how I regained control of my life.
I remember my first panic attack like it was yesterday, so vividly I recall every mental and physical feeling because it was the first time I felt like I was going to die. I was 17 at a friend’s birthday, and I hadn’t been there long, so I hadn’t drunk anything yet. I know 17 is technically under the legal age to drink alcohol, but that’s just what teenagers do. Drink, have fun but don’t have panic attacks, or so I thought.
It hit like a bullet to the chest, my heart rate increasing, my hands sweating, pupils dilating. It was instantaneous. My mind raced, ‘what was happening to me?’ the fear was overwhelming. ‘Was I having a heart attack?’ I automatically thought, ‘Had I been spiked?’. No, I couldn’t have. I hadn’t drunk anything yet. Feeling as though I was about to pass out, I ran out of the pub to the shop across the street. It was an obvious fight or flight scenario, but at the time, these terms didn’t exist to me. I hadn’t even heard of anxiety or panic attacks.
I managed to get home, and my parents asked me why I was already back. I was trying to think of an excuse, but my mind felt like a switch cutting in and out. My brain and body were so deep in overdrive that I could barely speak. I went to my room and tried to sleep it off, but it was impossible… I spent some time pacing the room before calling my mother upstairs. Telling her what I felt, she understood what was going on because of her experiences. Embarrassed, I asked her to sit on the end of my bed for a while, and she did. No words were spoken for some time. I eventually burned myself out before eventually falling asleep.
And so it began, a random Saturday night that would impact the rest of my life.
So, how do we come back from a place where anxiety and panic attacks control our lives, taking away our day-to-day joy and pulling us into the depth of such despair?
If you’ve ever experienced panic attacks, chances are, with a quick Google search, you’ve heard of the concept that is ‘exposure therapy’. To oversimplify, it is to find the root source of your anxiety that triggers your panic attacks. To some of the fortunate ones, you will know what your triggers are, possibly common phobias, i.e., planes, snakes, open water etc. But for others, it may be hidden within the subconscious mind in the traumas we have experienced, and to unlock these, I always recommend speaking to a professional. Seeking out professional help was one of the greatest steps I have ever taken.
Beginning to challenge yourself to face your ‘triggers’ can be very daunting and incredibly difficult. Personally, beginning therapy became a trigger of my panic attacks which is incredibly normal because it is the fear of the unknown. But as you can see by my example, you can find yourself in this ‘panic paradox’ when the thing that may help you can be the cause of what burdens you.
Let me break down ‘daily resilience’ and how it could benefit you, like it has me with an analogy of building blocks.
It starts with setting small, achievable, yet still challenging goals. This could be something like getting up early, before your normal routine and going for a walk.
For some people, this may seem effortless. The sun is shining, and birds are singing. The morning is yours.
Now do it on days you don’t want to. You didn’t sleep great. It’s cold and raining, but you do it anyway.
I can promise you there will be days when you don’t want to do it, no matter what it is in life and how much you love it, but this is how we begin to build resilience because, with anxiety and panic disorder, there will always be challenging days.
BRICK BY BRICK
You’ve played with the ‘LEGO BLOCKS’, you’ve gotten a taste of what it takes to hold yourself accountable and begun to build resilience. The foundations have been set. Now we begin to build ‘BRICK BY BRICK’.
Habits are the bricks that I build my life around. Creating strong and healthy habits is a crucial component of a flourishing life and positive mindset.
Let’s talk about your ‘why?’. This is a massive component in taking back ownership of your life, it will be the driving factor on the days when you just don’t want to, the backbone of how you will build your habits.
When you’ve had a long day full of ups and downs, you’re on the couch, and the idea of crawling through hot coals seems more appealing than going for that walk you promised yourself you would do. Keep reminding yourself of your ‘Why?’. Because you want to take back your happiness? That joy you’ve been robbed of. You don’t need to tell me or explain it to anyone it is personal; it is yours.
A lot of the time, I find we know what would help us, but we won’t do it. But we have to keep in mind that just as a house is built brick by brick, so is our self-esteem and our resilience. Each day presents us with a myriad of challenges, from the weights we lift in the gym to the pages we turn in a book and the tasks we complete at work. Every small achievement, every hurdle overcome, adds another brick to the fortress of our self-worth. With each brick laid, our foundation becomes sturdier, our walls higher, and our confidence unshakeable. So, embrace every challenge, for it's an opportunity to add another brick to the magnificent structure that is your self-esteem. Step by step, brick by brick, we build ourselves into the best versions we can be.
You’ve arrived. You’ve worked on yourself, suffered and endured. Building strong habits, showing resilience and accountability, I AM CAPABLE. Challenging what it is that strikes the most fear with you, that causes you to feel that fight or flight panic is to be treated no differently than the morning you didn’t want to go for that walk.
Remind yourself of your ‘Why?’
As you face the dreaded fear, closing in uncertainty and lack of control. Take your mind back to a time when you showed up for you! When your ‘why?’ outweighed the ‘can’t. In the grip of fear and doubt, recall that moment you defied the odds. Your inner strength, once unyielding, awaits your call. Harness that power, reignite your passion, and seize control. You've weathered storms before; now, command your journey ahead.
You are capable. You are powerful.
All the best,
*images sourced through Google and Canva.