Panic attacks are like being on a rollercoaster ride at the point when the rollercoaster is dropping from its highest point, at its fastest speed. The fall is (seemingly) endless. Unlike at amusement parks where there’s laughter and screams of excitement, panic attacks are filled with dread, terror and (sometimes) screams of desperation. Panic mania is not fun. I hope that one day I can get off the ride of terror once and for all.
Close to an hour ago, I experienced another one of these horrid attacks. Sometimes, I think I experience them for hours and days at a time. Like little earth tremors that are constant over a period of time before the massive earthquake begins, the panic attacks that I so frequently suffer from torment me until they force me to the brink of utter insanity! I feel like I’m dying. I feel like my mind is collapsing in on my soul and suffocating the breath out of my body. I feel like alarms are going off inside of me and I need to run away but I’m physically trapped. (I’m physically trapped inside my chaotic mental state.) I feel like screaming but the scream is on mute. My shrieks are confined to a controlled room in my mind, made up of walls padded with a thick and dense silence.
The havoc that these panic attacks wreak on me is completely overwhelming! I sob, weep and whimper as they sap my energy, absorbing any power I have to resist them.
I’ve been suffering from and wrestling with severe panic attacks for about eight (8) years now. A part of me would say that it hasn’t gotten any easier over the years but another part of me must confess that, that’s not entirely true. The breathing exercises don’t work. The positive affirmations spoken out loud don’t work. Listening to calming music doesn’t work. Walking doesn’t work. Intentionally utilizing the five (5) senses barely work. Nothing seemed to work.
Tonight, as I burst into tears provoked by the onset of another panic attack, I searched within myself for a way of escape. Telling myself — again — that everything is okay didn’t help. Telling myself that I’m safe and that I’m not going to die didn’t help either. But, to my relief, something new came to mind — give a personal report on what’s going on in my life right now. So, I spoke aloud many of the current truths about my (present) life. (I’m sober now. I’m not homeless anymore. I have an entire house that is mine. My vehicle is paid off and I have the title to it. I’m in college. I have a 4.0 GPA. I’m working on building my business. I have a reliable source of income to pay all of my bills and finance my business.) Suddenly, I began to experience a sense of…
Before I really knew it, I had a joy so deep inside of me that I began to sing. And, the more I sung, I started to clap my hands and smile with happiness. What I now realize is that none of the other methods worked because they were the wrong suggestions for the type of panic attacks I’m currently battling against. I was afraid and anxious and worried and desperate because I’m still in fight and survival mode from a past life that doesn’t even exist anymore! In my mind, I’m still living in defense mode as though I’m still battling drugs and alcohol. Or as though I’m still sleeping on the streets of San Bernardino and L.A. county, California. I’m still living in defense mode as though I’m still in an abusive, toxic marriage. Or as though all the things that happened to me as a child are still happening to me now. Telling myself that I’m okay, that everything is okay, that I’m safe and that I’m going to make it wasn’t enough to help me come out of the panic attack. Because I needed to know WHY these things were true. I am okay, everything is okay, I am safe and I’m going to make it BECAUSE I’m sober, I’m not homeless anymore, I have an entire house that’s mine, my vehicle is paid off and the title is in my name, I’m in college, I have a 4.0 GPA, I’m working on building my business and I have a reliable source of income to pay all of my bills and finance my business. I have a new life; a second chance at life. All along, what I needed was this validation of self. I needed to hear that I’m not wasting my life away and that I am a productive member of society. I needed to hear, in a descriptive way, that I am doing good now and that I do have value. Although knowing all of this isn’t a promise to me that I won’t ever have to experience another panic mania episode, it’s a starting point to a better quality of mental health and self-acceptance.