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Finding Treatment for My Unexpected Panic Attacks

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Out of nowhere, without warning — bam! You’re minding your own business, going about your day and suddenly you’re under attack. It’s terrifying, your heart races, throat closes-up, vision blurs. You think, “This must be it. I’m dying.”

I wasn’t dying. It was having a panic attack. It was my first and not my last. I had my first one while driving. I went from singing along to a song I loved on a beautiful sunny summer day to sweating profusely, hyperventilating, arms going numb and not being able to breathe. I pulled over. I waited. I tried taking deep yoga breaths. There I sat, hoping it would pass. It did.

But the thing about my panic attack is that from that point forward, the fear of another one consumed my mind. The moment I would feel a sensation that resembled the start of a panic attack, the attack would inevitably follow. This was suddenly my new life. I was consumed by fear. My anxiety felt like it was suffocating me and preventing me from living.

I decided to take steps to help myself, petrified of not being present, especially for myself and my family.

I was lost in my anxiety and needed a way out. I tried cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), yoga, mindfulness and medication. But what I found was that these only brought me temporary relief and still added to my stress, because each one required planning to find care for the kids and extra time allotted to add to my already packed schedule of responsibilities. The first medication I tried zapped me of my energy. I didn’t like it.

So, I landed where I never thought I’d be — taking daily medication. It’s what I needed to be present and function day-to-day without that heavy lump in my chest of worry. I was incredibly skeptical, fearful of the side effects, which did kick my ass the first week while my body adjusted. Then, it lifted. That dark cloud of anxiety was gone. Finally. Gone.

This was the best decision I have made for myself, for my loves ones, in a long time. I’ve freed myself from the self-loathing, from feeling like a failure for not being able to rely on my coping skills to find my way out. I was in denial, as someone who never had this problem until age 35, that this was me. But I chose not to give up on me.

I’m sharing this very personal experience for the person out there battling in silence. To the person smiling on the outside, smiling in all of their social media pictures but feeling fragile, agitated and broken on the inside. I am not in any way saying what worked for me is the fix for everyone. That it’ll fix everything. But maybe my story will make you pause for a moment to reach out for help if you need it, to try different options, to know you are worth it and to not give up on yourself.

That’s where I’m at. I’m back. I am here.

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Getty Images photo via SIphotography

Originally published: February 16, 2018
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