I feel like telling the truth today. It is my Christmas gift to myself. I look at the picture above that was taken just a few days ago and think “what a big fat lie!” I look happy, even healthy. This photo was taken right before I went to the one and only Christmas party I was able to attend this holiday season despite having a Calendar full of gatherings.
You see, I suffer from Panic Disorder. There it is, the truth. I have lived in denial for too long. I put off telling friends and family for weeks while I suffered in silence. I mean, how could I tell them when I was still struggling to admit it to myself? Finally, once I was unable to drive and had anxiety anytime I left my house, I called my Step Mom and Dad and came clean. Aside from being embarrassed, I didn’t want to worry them. Also, being that the holiday season is so busy for everyone, I just didn’t want to burden them with my health issues. They were concerned and supportive. I also told all of my closest friends so they would understand why I kept canceling plans with them. They too were incredibly understanding. Having a strong support system is making this whole ordeal easier.
I have always suffered on and off from anxiety. I would have a horrible panic attack and then I would be fine for years. It wasn’t something I ever liked talking about. It made me feel weak. I also felt angry. I eat clean, exercise, and meditate regularly so why was this happening to me? I try to look back in life to figure out where it all started. As a child, I was very intense, perhaps even high strung. I wanted everything with an insatiable urgency whether it was love, food, or accolades. I have always been extreme. I think that is why I started practicing Yoga. I needed to find a healthy way to balance myself out. I don’t remember having panic attacks as a child but I do remember getting myself so worked up about something I would pass out. Later, in my 20’s, is when the panic attacks began.
I was 24 when my brother passed away. It was a horrible accident. It happened 3 days before his 21st birthday. My whole family was devastated. It was at this time the episodes began. I can remember they would come on suddenly. I would be driving and need to pull over. The attack felt what I would imagine a heart attack is like. My heart would start “fluttering.” I would alternate between feeling hot and cold. I would sweat profusely. I would feel the need to go to the bathroom and throw up at the same time. These episodes would often end with me fainting. Once I came to, I would just continue driving on to whatever destination I was heading to. I would pretend it never happened.
Years later, the attacks got worse. I remember once being at an airport in Paris. While standing in an airline security line an attack came on so swiftly I had to drop to the floor. I was so hot. I started taking off layers of clothes and my shoes because I felt I was hyperventilating. I just wanted to get home. When I was on the airplane, the attack reached it peak. I clutched my prayer beads with white knuckles and prayed for the best. To this day, that was the scariest flight I have ever taken.
I woke up today and felt like sharing my struggle. In part because I think being honest about it will help me heal. I also think there are many others out their that suffer from anxiety so if I can help even one person not feel so trapped, alone, or misunderstood, then writing these words are well worth it. My Christmas wish for you all is good health. Yes, we ALL struggle but by opening up and sharing our troubles, we find solace in knowing we are not alone.
All my love,