Panic attacks… Anxiety… Depression..
You may have experienced one, you may have experienced them all.
You may have a loved one who is in the thick of the battle.
Or, you may be one of the lucky ones who has avoided them completely.
Whichever category you are in, we should all be willing & open to talking about them.
There is power in communication & creating community.
There is no shame in transparency
You do not have to feel the weight of vulnerability when talking about these three big issues.
Yes, going into depth or opening up about these hidden areas of our lives can be difficult, and yes, it can & does make us feel vulnerable to those around us. But it doesn’t have to stop you.
Because that is where we lose out, where the anxiety wins & we feel defeated.
When we feel like we cannot talk to anyone, either because of what we think others may think of us, or mostly, what we fear we may think of ourselves.
So today, I am going to open up, because I want YOU to know…
If I can, so can you!
You are stronger than you think my friend.
Plus, life is too short & too wonderful to spend it in chains.
And if anyone begins to turn into ‘Judgy McJudgy’….. stop!
Exit out of this post, and we’ll see you next week!
I still remember my first ever experience with anxiety.
It crept in at a very early age.
I don’t think we truly realised what it was until a little later down the track, but it was definitely sneaking in there.
A lot of the memories from that time are slightly blurred due to the fact that I have an absolutely horrid memory and I was quite young, but I remember the feeling’s associated like it was yesterday.
I was 8 years old.
I was an only child & my parents were my world.
We were as close as you could possibly get.
I remember some days I wouldn’t want to go to school because it meant I would miss them too much.
Mmhhmm #onlychildlife and proud of it!
Ever since I can remember, if I was to feel stressed, emotional, deal with conflict or have to endure through a hard time in my life, I would ALWAYS become physically sick.
It was as if everything I was to feel in my mental state would be shown in the physical.
So I came down with a bad case of the flu.
At the time, my dad had been recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis & didn’t have a very strong immune system due to the heavy medication he had to be on.
So of course, he picked up my cold.
Unfortunately due to the state of his immune system, it quickly turned into Pneumonia.
As an 8 year old kid, all I knew about Pneumonia was that it had the potential to kill you.
So naturally in my head I went straight to the worse case scenario (human nature right?) and thought my dad was going to die.
And then, there it was, it hit me like a tonne of bricks, my first experience of anxiety.
If dad were to die, it would be ALL my fault.
The feeling filled my entire body.
I had the cold, I gave it to dad.
I went into a tailspin.
Up until this point, I don’t think my parents had realised how much my emotional state affected my physical body.
But we sure found out, because all of the sudden…
I completely lost my ability to read.
I still remember what the pages looked like & the confusion I felt.
The letters would raise off the page & all of the words would mix together as I would try & blink really hard to re-focus, but nothing helped.
It didn’t matter if the book had one sentence per page, or a hundred, I just could not read it.
All of the sudden I just couldn’t comprehend things I had been fine with for years.
So we went to see the optometrist, then the eye specialist & before I knew it, I was booked in for an MRI scan so they could have a look at my brain.
Once they showed me the machine I would be going into (I’m still scared of them to this day) it compounded everything, I was petrified. I did not want to go in that thing.
I would sit at home trying so hard to ‘fix’ my eyes by practicing reading, only to end up feeling frustrated, defeated & with a monster of a headache.
It did turn out in the end to be a stress related case of ‘clinical blindness’ which they told me is unfortunately the way my body symptomises high stress or anxiety.
To add to things, night time became a nightmare.
I developed a fear & nervousness to sleep in my room because I was by myself.
At the time, being by my myself, meant that I was no longer safe. I needed to know my parents were around.
It was all related, the inability to sleep, the inability to read, it all stemmed from this awful anxious feeling I was carrying around with me.
Isn’t it crazy that not long after this, my dad had made a full recovery. He was perfectly fine.
But I was still stuck in this horrid state?
I was not getting any better & the positive outcomes I was worried wouldn’t come, that did, didn’t help me feel better?
Nothing I was anxious about happened but I was still worried? Why?
Obviously at 8 years old, I din’t really understand why.
But my parents did everything they could to re-assure my weary mind.
The eventual outcome?
The morning of my booked MRI, my parents had my whole church & family praying for us.
And by the grace & miracle of God, I woke up that morning, sat down riddled with anxiety to try & read this silly book, to realise I COULD. It was incredible, I was healed!
And I still remember the book, good ol’ Mr. Clackity Clane!
I remember reading it through tears of relief, my mum cuddling me & crying in thanks to God.
I could read, I could see, I was free.
So that was that.
4 years later
I was 12.
And I had an awful couple of weeks.
The short story is, three things happened that eventuated in another episode.
1. My grandpa (my hero) passed away
2. My best friend’s stepmother took her own life
3. My dancing partner dropped me, mid lift, from his shoulder (he was 6′) 2 days out from a major dance event I’d been working really hard for. I wound up in hospital having torn every ligament & tendon in my right foot and knee, crutches for 8 weeks plus no dancing for 8 months. Which for my 12 year old self, meant my life was truly over.
Can you guess what creeped in?
I stopped sleeping, finding my only sense of comfort by making a bed on my parents floor, sleeping there every night for months, just to get some rest.
I would never go to school camps because I couldn’t deal with being away from home for that long, I couldn’t go to sleepovers at friends places or be at events without a parent there.
I had glasses prescribed to help me with my ‘clinically blind’ episodes.
I just wasn’t great.
Don’t get me wrong, I was happy, enjoying life, really I was fine. And if you weren’t in my family, you may not have even known the struggles I was experiencing. But they were so real.
I ended up seeing a sleep therapist for relaxation/meditation techniques (seriously, if you have any of what I did, go see one, they will change your life and I still use the techniques to this day)
With all of these things happening, my mum devoted much of her time to prayer, my parents loved me through it (they never told me I was silly) cared for me & took me to any specialist that could help.
Even through all the people judging them & telling them to just discipline me out of it or the like.
I’m so glad they trusted their gut, their instincts as the people who knew me best and knew that what I was experiencing was very real, not me being misbehaved.
And eventually, I came out of it.
Between that time & now, of course there has been many times where I have experienced these episodes again, or slight symptoms of it all.
And there was a span of time in my life as a teenager where I experienced it much worse, had a very dark season (story for another day) & again in my early adulthood where I have gone through trial in this area again.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that have to try to understand my body, my mind, the fact that there may be more times when it visits again.
But I know now that it is not real, it does not have to be my reality & it certainly will not be my forever.
I know that I have to make choices to fight it, not let it defeat me.
Even just recently, I have had conflict in my life where I have felt consumed with anxiety, found myself struggling with panic attacks so severe.
But they are fleeting & for that, I am thankful.
But I wanted to share with you (those that are still here!) a few tips that help me through.
Because I used to research like crazy to find ways I could help improve my ability to cope, so I hope these things help you or that you can pass them onto a loved one who might be needing some extra support.
That is it. You need Him, in your life, first & foremost.
Sometimes it’s all you need & the rest happens from there.
Just pray, through it, after it, to get rid of it.
But if this is not for you, that’s okay, keep reading!
Breathing in the nose & out the mouth.
Sounds simple, but if you’ve experienced a panic attack, you know it is HARD to do.
But after 3 deep breaths of in the nose, out the mouth, I instantly feel my body calming down, which stops the fear from taking over the mind & you can begin to navigate your way out.
My husband is a pro at handling my panic attacks now (after 8 years together) so he knows that one of the most important things he can do for me is to remind me of everything I can be thankful for.
When we were engaged he would ask me to think of our wedding day, when we were pregnant he would ask me to think of who our baby will be and now that we have our girl, he encourages me to think of her.
And if you’ve seen her, you’ll know why this one always works!
If you are constantly on the go, it ain’t going to work!
Everyone is busy, if you are battling anxiety & saying you don’t have time to rest, you need to MAKE time.
I know it’s hard, I know it’s not possible all the time, but it is possible.
And it’s worth your mind’s sanity so seriously, prioritise it!
Confronting the hard parts
This is a new one I’ve learnt recently.
We can’t continue to push away our thoughts that are causing our anxiety to rise.
Sometimes we think it’s easier to ‘deal with them later’ or ‘bury them’ but it needs to come out.
Trust me, working through the hard thoughts & reasons you are struggling with anxiety isn’t fun at all, but it’s so necessary. I strongly urge it to be with a professional because well, they know what they’re doing & they are non bias so you have complete freedom of speech. But if you’re not there yet, confide in a loved one, make sure they know how hard it is for you but trust them with your heart & let your mind rest in that safe place.
The relief, the peace, the stability & the strength you will find from slowly chipping away at it, is really quite beautiful to experience.
All of the sudden you will realise that you are finally working at the long term reality of getting rid of ALL anxiety in your world. Not just dealing with it.
If you are reading this as someone with anxiety – you are stronger than your battle, time to stand up & fight.
If you are reading this as someone who has a loved one struggling – be there for them, love them, let them know they’re not alone and be present in their world.
If you are reading this as someone with no experience of any of it – good on you for reading to the end!
Catch you next week beautiful people.