Why my panic attacks & anxiety disorder became a blessing.

By:  guestwriter

Panic Attacks & Anxiety Disorder.

If you’ve entered the world of panic attacks, buckle up buckaroo! And sit tight for the most excruciating rollercoasting time of your life! You’ve suddenly been dealt the shittiest cards on the deck and you’ll get a crash course of your mind and body! But rest assured, this will transform into an unimaginable blessing for you.

What are panic attacks?

Panic attacks are shortness of breath, tightening of your chest, your blood rushes through your veins from your legs to your torso and the adrenaline glands in your body goes on overtime. You feel like a sudden wave comes crashing over you and you’re struggling to breath. Your thoughts speed up and your mind has just entered the freeway, and you can’t hold on to the vessel that is you anymore. Thoughts and fear that is irrational suddenly becomes a believable fear that you eats you up. You’re in full panic mode, you’ve entered fight or flight mode without a danger present. This just makes you even more scared shitless. After a while, you start to believe that you’re actually dying and losing your mind and go through the 7 stages of grief. This will go on for 20-40 minutes depending on the severity of your panic attack, and by the way you will also experience time dilation during this and feel like the attack has been going on for half a day. What a treat!

My story:

What lead up to the moment of frequent panic attacks, in hindsight I can see that I was an unaware control freak, I needed to know who, what, where, and always have a safety net. If I were to hang with friends I needed to know what we were going to do, who was there, where we were going to hang and so forth. Dealing with uncomfortable situations I had 5-8 different scenarios lined up in my head to predict the outcome, and 5-8 solutions to deal with the outcome. Most of these scenarios were negative, but somehow I always managed to hit it within the ballpark. This was my way of life, I needed to know the end result, and how I could change the outcome to my liking.

I didn’t know myself, and sort of just drifted along in life. The turning point in my life was when my group of friends and me sort of grew up, we started having mature conversations filled with encouraging, helpful words. We were done with the bullshit and started to talk about the ups and downs of life, and the things that mattered. At the same time, we discovered meditation and divulged our self into our minds. We became pioneers into the vastness of our own minds. After a while I discovered that I’ve been lying to myself, hidden behind the social norm, what I thought to be expected from me as a man, a son, a brother, a friend, a member of society and so on. I was acting as someone I thought I should be. I had shut down my emotions, my will, my identity. While clearing up these issues I went deeper, and tried to find reasons and memories to explain why I became so anxious, and shut in as I were.

At a point, it seemed as though the wall I had put up and stowed away, with all the things I didn’t like behind, it came crashing down. Everything came at once! It was overwhelming, it seemed as though my ego had died, and the real me suddenly came alive. Now I had to learn to deal with the things previously hidden behind my wall. And there was a lot, most of the biggest fears I didn’t even know about.

At first I was afraid of everything, and I mean everything, I had developed frequent panic attacks, and as a bonus I got the fears Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia. Fear of being in public places with large groups of people, and being in small rooms with the door shut. Even a ride in my car was excruciating. I was afraid of my friends, my family, my life.

The road to recovery:

I had been fighting the fear with sheer brute mental force, and it always sent me down the rabbit hole. This wasn’t working, I had to try to work with the anxiety, let go of my desire to control it, read up on it, and lose my fear of it.

When I started to talk to my friends and family about it, things got better. I had lost the shame feeling of having it, I had to open up, tell my story to people, find strength and courage to challenge the fears head on. This ended most of my panic attacks, but with the panic attacks, came avoidance. Fear of the expectation of panic attacks, this was actually worse than the panic attacks later on. Suddenly I couldn’t drink coffee, or smoke cigarettes, I couldn’t sit in the middle row at gatherings, I had to have safety nets. I had to sit near the exit, have my distractions nearby in fear of the next attack. With the safety nets I acknowledged that my fears had grounds to be there.

I was feeding my anxiety and it was all consuming. I understood an important lesson, that misery loves company. You have a choice, although it may be the hardest choice at the time, to face your fears. Challenge it head on and don’t let fear run your life anymore. No more safety nets, if I was going to have a panic attack, fine! Let it run through my body, it’s just a bad chemical process, at least I won’t give my anxiety my fear, I would go couragesly into panic attacks. Accepting that things in life are out of my control, I could only manage my expectations and my perspective on it. Ever since I started accepting, I haven’t had any full blown panic attacks for a couple of months now, I just getting tiny fraction of a hint that there are other areas that I need to challenge to get rid of my trigger points. Whatever issue you’re having, you need to accept both the desirable and the undesirable outcome.

Challenging these fears are difficult, I’ve pushed myself to endure the panic attacks and not run out of the situation, at least not before I had peaked and my panic attack was on it’s way down. It sometimes feels like you’re taking two steps forward, and one step back. Progress is at least progress, and you’re one step closer to your goal. For each time you challenge the panic, habituation happens.

Habituation is a form of learning in which an organism decreases or ceases to respond to a stimulation after repeated presentations. Essentially, the organism learns to stop responding to a stimulus which is no longer biologically relevant.

My process dealing with the aftermath of thoughts that came with the anxiety was to

  1. Identify anxiety/fears.
  2. Accept and acknowledge that it most likely is an irrational fear and say to yourself come what may.
  3. Pat yourself on the back, you are awesome! You can do this.
  4. Let go and change your focus. The thoughts you’re having are hard to push away, just tell yourself that you’ve given it enough thought and would like to think about… music, people, or whatever of your choosing. Don’t say you’re going to stop thinking about whatever you’re thinking, if you do you’ll just go around in cycles. Rather give an alternative of thoughts you would rather have. Energy cannot disappear, only transform.

Some of these things you’ll read and just store in your mind right away, but only truly understand it’s meaning after a while.

The goods!

After the panic attacks, I’ve become a more open person, I express myself, I dare to be me, I dare to be different. I can now tell people that I care for that I love them. I feel emotions differently now than before, more intensively. I dare to think about difficult things, and do something about it. The contrast between now and before this all happened, would be hard to describe, life has taken a turn for the better. My perception of life has a positive outlook, and I can see that the panic attacks were a blessing in disguise. Although it took me a while to see it, and to understand why I had to go through it, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.

I still have some challenges in front of me, some unresolved issues, but with the teachings I got, I’m fairly sure that the worst is behind me, and I see what happened as a rite of passage.

People have different triggers, the anxiety revolves around your personality, kinks and baggage. It may be different issues taking a toll on you, but I believe anxiety is focus on lack of control of present and future, and that people with anxiety share some similar traits.

I hope my story can prove to be some help and guidance if you’re going through something similar.

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