In this week’s episode of “This is Us” on NBC, Randall experienced a panic attack. For those who have experienced a panic attack or several, they know how horrifying they are. Just typing this I have a sense of dread looming over me.
I’ve never spoken publicly about this. Only my closest friends and family know about my past. At one point in my life, I had the worst year of my life. After being in an abusive work relationship, I developed PTSD. As a result, I suffered panic attacks on a daily basis, most of the time at my desk at work. It didn’t take much either. Sometimes I would just be sitting there and it would strike. I would go for a walk and try to distract myself to get it to past. I would call my Mom in tears begging for it to go away. I called my doctor begging for help. They just wouldn’t stop. After 6 months of non-stop panic attacks, I woke up in the middle of the night having the worst one yet. I honestly thought I was having a heart attack. I got out of bed and fainted, hitting my head. My now husband helped me up and I fainted again. He called 911 and I was rushed to the hospital for a panic attack and a concussion.
After the attack, I had to take xanax every day (for 3 months) just to let my body have a break from how extreme my stress levels were. I absolutely hated that I needed medicine but my body needed the break. I developed a numbness around my eye, my bodies way of showing its stress. Some people’s body display stress with gray hair, some people have a heart attack, my body had a numbness feeling on my face. I started seeing a psychologist for help. THe numbness drove me insane. I saw specialists and doctors galore to make sure something else wasn’t going on. I was still suffering from panic attacks. They would happen at work, at a bar with friends, getting manicures, laying on the couch watching tv. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone because people would think I was crazy, that I was incapable of doing my job, or they just didn’t understand why I couldn’t just get over it.
The problem with panic attacks is you don’t know what triggers them. They come out of the complete blue. You could feel fine then, boom, you feel like the world is collapsing and you are struggling to live.
It took me 3 years to get over my panic attacks. I learned how to recognize the feeling of an attack, to focus my breathing and distract myself to fight the attack. Charlie is actually my therapy pet. He is one of the main reasons I got better.
I was so afraid getting pregnant would retrigger my attacks. So many unknowns and weird feelings in my body. But I focused on the positive, went for walks, and thought about my baby’s future life.
As she was born, the cord was wrapped around her neck and her heart was stopping. The doctor called for the NICU team and started talking about emergency procedures. In the past, my anxiety would have taken over and we both would have been in extreme trouble. However, I put myself in the most zen state of my life and focused on the task at hand. I wanted my baby and I alive. We were not going to the OR. I needed to push her out with everything I had. I honestly handled it like a rowing race in my mind (sickening, I know). She came out (in 12 minutes!) and wasn’t breathing. The NICU team couldn’t get her to breathe, and my sister stepped in (a NICU nurse professionally) and got her to breathe. 💕
My daughter’s delivery was the biggest test of my life. I have never felt so in control of mind and body. I don’t know if I will ever have that feeling again, but I know it is possible to achieve. I’m not 100% better. I’ve had 2 small attacks since she has been born. I focus on my daughter when they happen because I know I need to be strong and brave for her.
I know talking about panic attacks openly is rare and I know many people struggle. I know there may be people close to me who have attacks too, and I hope they read this and know I’m always here if they need someone to talk to. If you need help, get the help before it’s too late. Find a friend or family member you can vent to, cry to, laugh with. It’s not an easy road, and it is always changing but you CAN be in control. Sending loads of hugs and support to all those who know the pain 💕