Why is my heart beating so fast? The pain in my chest is radiating towards my shoulder and up my neck. The sensation of what seems like cold blood travels up to my face. I feel a terrible urge to run, as if in doing so I could leave the symptoms behind. The feeling of desperation is so intense I feel like I’m gonna pass out. Reality seems unreal, and I feel like I’m gonna lose my mind. Other than the glazed look in my eyes, I look fine. I’m not hurt, I’m not sick and I haven’t experienced something traumatic. Still, my body is in full flight or fight mode.
I’ve experienced this before. I’m aware that it’s not a heart attack and that my life is not in danger. I know what it is. Yet, that fact, doesn’t make me feel any less scared. I’m experiencing a panic attack. This one is the worse yet. I pace our living room floor in search of relief, repeating to myself that everything is okay. When the feeling loses intensity, I pause, but as soon as I stop moving it comes back with a vengeance. I continue walking around in circles until the early hours of the morning. Exhausted, I make my way to bed, and tell my husband what happened. He doesn’t make a fuss (which I’m so grateful for), but asks’ if I’m okay. I assure him I am, and fall asleep.
I’ve lived with anxiety since I was very young. I didn’t know it at the time. I just thought of myself as extremely nervous and shy. I always felt safest and relaxed when I was alone and either reading, or listening to music. My social skills were almost non existent, and because of this my teachers loved me and my family considered me a good girl. I was a quiet, attentive, and hard working student. Learning was an outlet for me. It didn’t require me to be social, athletic or popular.
I thought I’d left that part of me behind when I married. As if marriage had given me super powers! But marriage required me to gain a whole new set of skills I didn’t have and then some! This made for some very interesting and turbulent years in my life, a girl with bad communication skills, and an anxious disposition. Little did I know how much this, and what I carried from my childhood, was chipping away at my ability to remain in this reality.
I began to breakdown.
I use the term breakdown because that’s how each panic attack felt. I wasn’t dying, my heart was still beating, but my mind became lost and disoriented. I had to bring it back and assure it that everything was okay, because I wasn’t in a dangerous situation. I was running from psychological, not physical danger. My brain was trying to protect itself from what I was putting it through each day: mental torture.
When things are left unresolved they go around in your head day after day. They rob you of peace. Without peace to calm you, your body is always on high alert. That alert brings with it fear. When there are layers of unresolved issues it’s difficult to know what you’re trying to protect yourself from. So you never relax! Not even when things around you are fine. For all you know, danger could be around the next corner, and you’re always anticipating the next “punch” from a panic attack. I didn’t know what was setting them off, and that disconnection within me made things worse.
This past year, I began linking my panic attacks to memories; ones I thought I’d left buried in the past. The reality though, is that I had only been suppressing them, which required an incredible amount of energy on my part to do so. I now had to face each one of those painful memories if I wanted some peace in my life. Instead of denying and repressing them, I began to vent, either by writing or talking to someone I trusted. I also allowed myself to mourn. Pain signals something is damaged, and mourning allows you to comfort yourself and seek it from others if needed. If the memory brought up anger, I didn’t channel it towards myself anymore. Now I channeled it toward the person who hurt me, and let it go. I gave myself the needed consolation and encouragement, and then gave that memory a proper burial.
Doing this continues to help me rid myself of fear. Fear of being hurt again, not by others, but by my own self. Because every time I had a flashback I was putting myself through the experience all over again. My anxiety was always either high or higher. I didn’t think I had the strength to break the cycle because I was beyond exhausted! It was like asking someone who just finished running a marathon to run another one! (And my family knows how much I dislike running!)
I’m not cured of anxiety. I may continue working on it for many years to come, or I may beat it sooner than I think! I don’t know. One thing I’m sure of; I’m not gonna worry about the amount of time it takes. It’s worth all the time and hard work I’m putting in to become whole again.
Love you guys ; )