Yesterday, I shared with all of you my story, or rather my Daddy’s story and explained that, over time, I’ve been able to determine this was the event that triggered my panic attacks. Now, personally I feel that an event that occurred almost 25 years ago should NOT affect me anymore, but the truth of the matter is it does. It was a major life event. MAJOR. One I can’t make go away simply because I want it to. How great would that be? The ability to just make things un-happen? It’s like unseeing what you’ve seen – it can’t be done. So where does that leave me? It leaves me with the knowledge I need to possibly begin to heal and if I can’t completely heal which is a fact I’m willing to admit, then it at least leaves me with a starting place to help control my anxiety and panic attacks. I can live with that.
I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that my particular disorder had a name. It is PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yes, this is what you hear of about our military men and women who’ve fought in a war for our country. They come home and are left with memories, fear, flashbacks, nightmares. To give you a medical definition: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an extreme anxiety disorder that can occur in the aftermath of a traumatic or life-threatening event. PTSD can be thought of as a panic attack that rarely, if ever, lets up. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks or nightmares about what happened, hypervigilance, startling easily, withdrawing from others, and avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for our soldiers and am by NO means comparing my situation to theirs as what they experienced is far worse, but nonetheless I suffer in the same manner. I should probably mention here that my Daddy was a soldier who fought in the Korean war. His war stories are some of the most frightening I’ve ever heard so I can’t help but wonder what he must go through…he’s been in a war and had a wife try to murder him. I can’t get my head around it. Anyway, a major traumatic life event is the cause of my problem. What does this mean for me specifically? It means I hate to be alone, I hate being out at night alone and I avoid it as much as humanly possible. I hate being in the car and driving by myself. These things scare me and at any time can cause an attack. The truth of the matter is though, I can’t avoid these things all of the time. I have to drive myself to work, I must run errands where I’m often by myself, sometimes going out at night can’t be avoided. I’ll tell you something else, too. It pisses me the hell off. I used to LOVE going out at night! It was not uncommon for me to just get in my car at night and drive for hours because I enjoyed the night time. I’m nocturnal by nature and the night time is my time, so to speak. (Isn’t there a song about that? I love the night life, I’ve got to boogie?) I want to be awake and doing things at night or at least my body does although my brain doesn’t. Because of this disorder, I’ve had to shut all of that down or maybe I didn’t HAVE to but I did and the fear pisses me off. I’m guessing if any of you suffer from panic attacks they probably piss you off, too. No doubt.
You might, if you suffer from anxiety/panic attacks, be asking yourself what can I do to help myself? Maybe you’re in the same boat I am and don’t currently have medical insurance so prescription meds aren’t available. Or maybe you don’t want to rely on meds to get through it. Understandable as a lot of people don’t have insurance or want to rely on pills. Take comfort in knowing there are things you CAN do to help yourself.
First, it is vitally important you work at figuring out the reason for the panic attacks. There are different types of anxiety. I’ll list them in my blog but do your own research. I’ve found a couple of links – here and here – that are helpful and will explain the various types.
Types of anxiety:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Attacks (Panic Disorder)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (I’ve got a little of this, as well)
Phobia (Got this, too)
Social Anxiety Disorder
PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
TAKE TIME TO FIGURE OUT WHERE YOURS COMES FROM. I can’t stress enough how important this is! Keep a journal and write down when you have attacks, the times you feel anxious, what you were doing when the attacks occurred. You might feel the “why” doesn’t matter, that only the “what can I do to stop it” matters. Trust me…the “why” does matter. It’s that part that will help you to know how to begin to get some healing.
Like I’ve said before, it did take me years to figure out where mine were coming from. I didn’t keep a journal and was lucky enough (I guess it was luck) to just have this huge Moment of Clarity where it hit me what the problem was. Don’t wait for the moment if you don’t have to. The longer you wait, the more you feel out of control and that is the key to all of this: GETTING BACK IN CONTROL.
I personally love meds and I’m not ashamed or afraid to rely on them to help me. I took Prozac and Xanax for years and they worked. But like I said, I don’t have insurance right now so I am looking at other ways to help myself. I’ve discovered that Valerian Root works well to help curb a panic attack or at the very least take the edge off of one. If you’ve never tried Valerian Root before let me warn you now – it stinks! It literally smells like shit so don’t let that throw you off. Just take a deep breath before you put it in your mouth and swallow quickly! But for me, it works. I’ve done research on it and can’t find anything that says an OD is possible although I’ve read where taking mass quantities of it can make you vomit. So be careful with it, start off slow, and gradually figure out what it takes to help. It’s pretty cheap and I’ve found it at Walmart and every drugstore I’ve ever been in so it’s not difficult to come by. I’ve found a list of other homeopathic options but PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV!
Besides taking any pills or supplements, what else can you do?
You can talk to someone. It’s hard to do, I know but please try to find someone you are 100% sure you can rely on, explain to that person what you are going through, and do not be afraid to tell them how they can help and what you need. It might just be a matter of arranging it so if you are having an attack you can call this person and have them talk you through it. That works because I’ve done it several times.
Learn to relax and meditate when an attack comes on. Close your eyes and focus on controlling your breathing. Teach yourself muscle relaxation – you know that thing where you start with your toes and focus on relaxing each muscle in your body. This takes practice so if you don’t get it the first time – that’s okay. Keep working at it. Just the act of practicing will help you.
Get in the habit of writing down things you tend to worry about. Sometimes just getting stuff out of our heads can be a big help in reducing anxiety and stress. It’s the main reason I blog and you all have to suffer through my ramblings! Just write it all out! If you don’t like to write, get yourself a tape recorder and do it that way. Sometimes saying our worries out loud is even better than writing them down.
Remind yourself that it WILL pass and you are NOT in danger. Say that repeatedly if you must but don’t let that thought escape you.
Eat healthy, exercise, lay off the caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. Ok, CONFESSION TIME: I suck at these things which is why my ass is so big and I’ve been a smoker for way too many years. No pressure, start slowly, change what you can when you can. I gave up drinking Coke over 2 months ago. This was a BIG nasty habit of mine and I drank several a day. I still drink coffee (take away my coffee and shit is gonna get real up in here!) but I don’t drink it all day like I used to. Only in the mornings now! Baby steps, right? It’s all about the baby steps.
And last but probably most important is to learn to accept that shit happens. Bad things are going to happen. It’s just a part of life. Things will suck from time to time but if we spend all of our time worrying about what MIGHT happen, we aren’t really living are we?
As for me, I’m a work in progress. It may be that my panic attacks never go away. If they don’t, that’s okay because I’m finally beginning to feel a bit more confident about getting back some of my control when they do happen. Mine are MUCH worse at night and if I’m being honest, there have been nights where I’ve just laid in bed, suffering through them, waiting to die. This keeps me awake because I become too afraid to go to sleep. I can be overly paranoid about making sure doors are locked (I sometimes get up several times to be sure things are locked) and I hear every single odd noise that goes on outside my window. I’ll catch myself and then I’ll do what I need to do to try and relax.
The thing about anxiety and panic is to know that you are strong enough to get control back in your life. You may not feel like it, but you really are. We all are. It’s true we can’t control every single thing that happens in life but we can control how we feel, how we react, what and how we think. Those things belong only to ourselves.