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Put an End to Anxiety & Panic Disorder

June 02, 202310 min read

Don’t enjoy reading long blogs? Let Speechify read it to you.

My journey with anxiety and panic disorder started when I was 15 years old.

I was out with some family members, and I tried weed for the first time.

I can’t remember the day in detail, as it has been a while. But, I do know that at the height of the situation, I thought I was going to die.

Shortly after taking my first hit of the blunt, my heart and mind began to race. I was hyper aware of how my thought-process was “off”/delayed, but I was able to notice it. I noticed I was repeating myself a lot, which I notice and pointed out, and they noticed, too. I didn't have any speech impediment until then that I can recall, but ever since that day I often stammer when I speak.

I was blacking out, and seeing dark, shadowy entities. I was extremely paranoid and terrified of what was happening to me.

I grew up around smokers and had never seen anyone react in an adverse way. Everyone was always chill, relaxed, and appeared to be throughly enjoying their experience. So, I was expecting something far different than what I got.

Afterwards, I thought maybe the weed had been laced with something, as we had gotten it from my cousin's friend already rolled, but I was the only one having a bad time. Well, actually, everybody was probably having a bad time after I started freaking out, but not due to the weed.

I also had to consider that the people I was smoking with were regular smokers, as well. So, their tolerance was obviously higher than mine, as well.

Anyway, I kept asking them to take me to the hospital, but of course, no one was willing to take me for fear of their own consequences. So, here I am, helpless, freaking out not knowing what’s happening to me and thinking that I was surely going to die.

I started feeling like I was lifting out of my body, and started bidding everybody farewell because I was for certain this was the end.

When the high finally came down, I went home confused about what had happened to me, and afraid something was now wrong with me, and that I might die from this unnamed condition. And if I did die or faint or whatever, no one would be there to help me or take me to the hospital.

I could induce what I now know as a panic attack by thought alone.

I was convinced something was wrong with my heart and/or brain. Although, I was a teenager, I was very afraid of dying from a heart attack, aneurysm, or I would embarass myself by fainting in public.

Looking back I can see how illogical a lot of my thinking was, and how powerful thoughts are.

I had weird experiences where I wasn't sure if I was in a dream or reality.

I thought I was going crazy. So, I hid all that I was experiencing from everybody, including my mother and the other people in my household. How could I tell my mom I was smoking weed and now I think I’m going to die?

No one I knew had ever said they experienced anything like this. I was the odd one. So, I kept it to myself for fear of looking weird or stupid.

I was so afraid of feeling the feelings of panic that I went through every moment of the day trying to suppress those feelings that were always right there, ready to unleash their fury on me.

It was exhausting!

I dealt with and hid this for years. I eventually started to talk about it, and still no one could relate to what I was experiencing. So, I continued suffering in silence because I didn’t have a name for what I was experiencing.

One time, I had an "episode" at school and was rushed to the hospital because my heart was racing. The school nurse had asked if I had a heart murmur? Which she probably thought I had because my heart was beating so fast that it started to skip beats.

I ended up having a heart ultrasound which showed everything was normal with my heart physically. They gave me a heart beat tracker device so when I noticed these "episodes", I could push a button and it would record my heart beat patterns so the doctor could see. Again, nothing showed abnormal.

And still, not even the doctors said, ‘oh, you might be experiencing anxiety or panic disorder.’ So, still no answers.

At the height of my 7 year experience with anxiety and depression, I began to become depressed and agoraphobic. I didn’t like leaving my house because it was my safe space, and I knew that if I passed out (which I never did, but was always feard I would) or had a panic attack, I wouldn’t be in public and embarass myself.

I remember once, I had left my house and had to turn around and go back home because the panic got more intense the further I got away from my house.

"I was a prisoner in my own body."

Finally, I had had enough! I began feeling like I could not spend the rest of my life going through this.

I wouldn’t consider myself suicidal, but I was at a place where I could see how someone could get to that space, where they couldn't fathom living in this misery that has no forseeable end...forever.

I had recently found out I was pregnant, and I knew I could not continue to live like this. Something needed to change drastically for myself and this child. I didn't want my baby to continue absorbing all this fear, anxiety, cortisol, etc. constantly circulating through my system.

Not long after making the decision to seek help, I saw an infomercial about a program that helped people like me overcome anxiety, depression, and panic disorder without medication, which was more my speed. I didn't want to be taking medication while pregnant.

Disclaimer: There is nothing wrong with medication if that’s what you need, but I realized my issue was my own catastrophic thoughts not anything that was off biologically, etc.

I ended up purchasing a program for $500 with money I didn’t have. I put it on a credit card because I was desperate, and knew this was the help that I needed.

Back then, the program came on VHS and cassette tapes.

"It changed my life!"

The testimonials from people that overcame their anxiety, panic, and depression, gave me hope for myself.

They shared stories and some of the irrational fears that were similar to mine.

One lady shared about how she had starting becoming a hypochondriac, as well as, how she had become afraid of planes flying overhead for fear they would fall out of the sky.

Just typing that out sounds so silly now, but at the height of my fear and anxiety, I shared the same fear and it felt very real to me at the time, no matter how unlikely, illogial, or far-fetched my imaginings became.

I needed to be saved from my thoughts.

The main ideas taught from this program that had the most impact on my recovery were…

Learn how to coach myself through an anxious episode instead of allowing my catastrophizing thoughts to spiral out of control.

I learned to stop negative thoughts in their tracks

using an imagined stop sign, and how to recognize what my mind was doing and simply change the story. Rationalize with myself in the completely opposite direction of where my mind was trying to make me go.

I learned I am my own safe space.

There was a point where I was afraid to leave my home without my cell phone for fear of having a panic attack and not having a way to call someone to “help me”/distract me from my own thoughts. Then I learned to be my own safe space, I didn’t have to rush home to feel ok because I WAS home, and now I knew how to talk myself down from the ledge.

I learned to not fear my panic attacks,

and to realize they are only sensations. I learned how to observe my body in the mist of panic, and how to quietly sit with myself and what was happening inside.

I learned how to use my breath to calm my body,

and that the sensations will eventually go away. I also learned that nobody has ever died from a panic attack, which was a big fear.

I’m not even sure it’s true that nobody has ever died, and I won’t be looking it up. I'm going to keep that as my truth.

The information within this program helped me so much, that I never actually completed the program. I stopped having anxiety and panic attacks about halfway through the program, but I still have it tucked way in the back of my closet just in case someone I love needs this help. We’d just have to find a VCR and cassette tape player!

I love that I am now able to help others who struggle with this with the tools I've learned from this program and my own mind training work.

Since, overcoming anxiety and panic disorder, I rarely experience either. A few years ago, it came back for about a week. I'm not even sure what sparked it.

But it reminded me that...

  • it's still a part of me. Some personality types are more suseptible to anxiety than others.

  • I must continue to be aware of my thoughts, and

  • to have compassion for those that still struggle.

  • The experience was just as unpleasant, but it was much shorter lived because of the coping skills I had gained. Plus, this time I knew it would pass.

Over the years I have heard many more stories of people's struggles with anxiety and its impact on their lives.

If you find yourself dealing with anxiety and/or panic disorder…

  • Talk to someone (family, friend, therapist, etc.) you trust about what you're going through. Keeping it botted up only adds to your stress levels. If you don’t have someone right away, start keeping a journal.

  • Pay attention to your inner dialog that may be triggering your attacks.

**Panic or anxiety is not always the result of what your telling yourself, some people wake from their sleep in the mist of panic due to other issues, but often our thoughts ARE the instigator.

  • Learn coping skills you can use during like breathwork, and shifting negative thoughts.

  • Learn to manage your stress levels with healthy stress management skills like exercise.

  • Release any shame around the disorder. You are not broken or weird, and it doesn’t matter what others think or say if you faint (which you probably won’t. I never did. Although, I was so afraid I was going to pass out while driving or in a crowded place. I would pull over when I needed to and breathe myself through.)

  • Be gentle with yourself.

  • Know that it won’t last forever.

After coming out on the other side of anxiety and panic, I realized that my 7 year experience was somewhat of a blessing for me.

If it weren’t for my struggles with anxiety and panic disorder, I may have never…

  • Considered the effect my diet was having on my mental and physical health. That was something I never really questioned until this time.

  • Been introduced to the world of alternative approaches to health/alternative medicines like herbal remedies and energy medicine.

  • Known how powerful my mind is and how I can influence my mind intentionally in order to have experiences of my design.

  • Built the confidence to be different and do differently from the majority and be okay with possible judgment from others. Which probably wasn’t the case, but if it were, I was ok with it.

All of the lessons learned from my experience, I still carry today as they are lessons that shaped me into adulthood, and shaped who I am today. I am thankful for having had the experience AND overcoming it.

As always, thank you for holding space for me, and allowing me to share my story.

Until next time,

Shonnea

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