This Isn’t An Ode To Panic Disorder…

I’ve hated you since I started experiencing panic attacks

No

Even before that

I hated you when I saw what you did to my father

How merciless you were

I hated how vulnerable you made him

I hated how scared you made me feel

When I started having my own panic attacks

I wasn’t unsure or surprised by your arrival

I was just upset

I was angry that I couldn’t fend you off

Especially after having seen first hand the damage you caused

I was frustrated

And you grew stronger

I had my very first panic attack waiting to board a plane

That sense of helplessness and feeling of being trapped

Allowed you to flourish

And you grew stronger

I got more frustrated

I became depressed

At what I perceived as my failure

Failure of what?

Outrun you of course

Break the pattern

And you grew stronger

Throughout the years and the numerous times you showed up

You stole bits and pieces from me

From my identity

From the experiences I stopped myself from having

I can’t count how many things I’ve missed out on because I was just too damn scared of you

And you grew stronger

I didn’t know that it was me who fed you

I didn’t know it was me that built you up

I vacillated between fighting you and being so terrified of you that I hid behind medications and isolation

I’m bone tired of fighting

I’m drained of the energy it takes to be afraid

I’ve been living with you my entire life in one form of another

You haven’t killed me

Yet

I was hurt because of you

The people around me were hurt because of you

But it was I, who allowed that to happen

Not you

You were never strong

It was always me that was strong

Always fighting against you

And

Hiding when self preservation took over

I used so much energy trying to not let you win

That I didn’t realize

I could end this epic battle

By waving a white flag

I spent so much time hating you

When I should have been understanding you

Because you were struggling like me

You were the outcome of the bad day, bad week, bad month that I’d had

You were what my body needed to expel to move on

I was too consumed by the symptoms you gave me

The shortness of breath, the stomach cramps, the heart palpitations, the depersonalization

To see that those symptoms came up because I dreaded your arrival

I’m sorry that I didn’t see you for what you really are

You’re me

And we’re in this together

So

If my body and mind feel like they need to have a panic attack…

Well I guess it’s ok

We will get through this

It’ll be uncomfortable

But it will pass

Just like it always has

And I promise to try not to be so hard on you

If you promise to do the same

Who knows?

Maybe one day

I’ll even write a poem about how grateful I am for your existence

I’d tell you not to hold your breath

But we both know I’d be lying

So I’ll just say this

I get it, Panic Disorder

I really do

I’m only sorry that it’s taken me so long

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‘Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional.’ Haruki Murakami

I need to stop resisting my panic attacks

I know this

From years of therapy and educating myself on panic disorder

I am fully aware that I am not in danger

I am aware that my feelings although unpleasant

Are temporary

And will pass

Yet

My natural instinct is to fight against the discomfort I feel when I experience a panic attack

Thus I remain stuck in the cycle of panic

I read something this morning that resonated with meArticle

The key take away from this article

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’

What does that mean?

It means that there is nothing we can do in life

To avoid pain, both physical and mental

What we can do, however, is decide what we are going to do with that pain

Do we accept the pain for what it is (unpleasant feelings)

Or do we fight against it?

Making the situation worse?

Drawing it out?

Allowing it to permeate every part of our lives?

The answer is clear

The real question is how do we accept what feels unnatural and foreign?

We have to go against our instincts

Instead of fleeing

Instead of fighting

Give yourself over to the feeling

Maybe even taunt it

Invite it into your life

This can be done through self talk

Or exposing yourself to anxiety inducing situations

I think both are helpful

I noticed during this last month

How negative my self talk is

When I need it to be the exact opposite

I’ll find myself thinking or saying aloud

‘ I can’t do this’

‘It’s too hard’

‘I’m weak’

How self defeating is that?

So I’m changing the narrative

‘I am able to do this’

‘Just because it feels unpleasant doesn’t mean I am in danger’

‘I accept what is happening right now’

The other part is inviting the uninvited visitor into your life

Come on in

Do your worst

It’s been a hard week, and maybe if a panic attack is hanging around

Let it out

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is

Without punishment

No criticism

Find a place that is comfortable

And let it roll through you like an ocean wave

You know that it will be uncomfortable but it will pass

Makes perfect sense, right?

Now

I just need to practice what I’ve gotten so good at preaching

I will not be a cautionary anecdote that psychotherapists use for future patients

There once was a woman named Angela

Who allowed panic disorder to rule her life

And became isolated and held hostage

Even though she had all the tools she needed

To live

Dear Anxiety,

You’re a thief

Always taking

Never giving

You’re deceitful

And dishonest

You’re a master manipulator

And you thrive on the fear you create

You’re a jealous thief

Stealing away happiness

And love

Even robbing old memories

Making them turn sour

You’re a callous thief

Full of pain you can’t wait to inflict on others

Desperate to infiltrate every last happy place

You’re a cruel thief

Taking away the innocence of childhoods

And destroying what should be carefree teenage years

Annihilating adulthood with haphazardly thrown bombs

You’re a cowardly thief

Preying on people in their weakest moments

Victimizing the same people over and over again

Taunting them repeatedly

You are words that haunt

You are living nightmares that plague

You’ve stolen so much

That all we can do is pull at our hair and cry in frustration

Shouting that turns into whispered pleas

To just leave us alone

Wondering what we need to do

What more we need to sacrifice

To satisfy you

Spending entire lives

Serving life sentences

Paying penance for what we can’t control

All because of you

You’re nothing but a thief…

‘The Two Most Important Days Are The Day You Are Born And The Day You Find Out Why.’ Mark Twain

I was thinking how these last few weeks (months?) have consisted of me trying not to feel sorry for myself

Yet I have been failing terribly at that

Then I got a call from a former client

Who had been out of touch for a long while and had me very worried for his well-being and safety

He’s doing great and is being taken care of for the first time in a long while

Which he deserves

He sounded so…healthy

You’re probably thinking ‘how can she tell that via phone?’

After spending inordinate amounts of time with my clients

I know them like the backs of my hands

I know their painful stories as much as I can recollect my own

I cherish their achievements probably more than I do my own

And I can tell when they’ve changed

So seldom do we hear about change for the better

But this is one of those stories

Gone was that drugged-out-to-escape-reality voice

Absent was that voice that carried so much self deprecation and sadness

Instead

I heard notes of pride, happiness and the thrill of looking forward to a promising future

All the things we hope that s young person can feel

I hung up with him, feeling lighter than I have in a long while

It got me to thinking why these last few months, out of all my 36 years, have been so difficult

So full of me trying and failing to not feel sorry for myself

Full of heartache and sadness

I stumbled into realizing that I feel lost

Feeling lost looks a lot like not knowing what your place is in the world, in your family, in your career and etc

The opposite of lost is of course ‘found’

Which is defined as:

to discover, especially where a thing or person is, either unexpectedly or by searching’

So that brings me to this…

Do you believe we all have a purpose?

And what is purpose anyway?

It is defined as:

the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.’

So my question really is, what are the reasons each of us are here?

I don’t think of this in terms of fantastic elements like destiny or fate

More so as each of us has the power within ourselves to reach our full potential

Which in turn then meets a ‘need’

This therein becomes our purpose

However, we often fall short of reaching our full potential

Which could be a result of a myriad of reasons (none of which are pertinent right now)

Over the last several months I have learned that I am a person who needs to have a purpose

In order to feel happy

It’s just the way it is

I can’t exist in life in any less of a way

Maybe it would make my life easier if I could

In fact, I’m sure of it

But nobody ever said it would be easy, right?

I’m pretty sure that me reaching my full potential has to do with helping others

Through work

Through sharing my experiences

The method isn’t important at this moment

I guess what is important right now

Is that I need to figure out what will allow me to feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose in life

While accepting that I do obviously have some limitations

Because at the end of the day

I just need to feel like all of this

All of the pain, sadness, difficulties

All of it

Wasn’t for nothing

You know?

Antidepressant Withdrawal

An update of sorts

Wednesday I dropped my Paxil again to 10mg

So far this has been the worst week of withdrawals

I expected this so I’m not terribly surprised

I’m just really over all of this

And want to not feel so shitty

But I am totally proud of myself for making it this far

I started taking Paxil at 18 years old and had the dosage upped over the years with it being at 40mg around the time I turned 27

It’s kinda crazy to think about how long I’ve been on Paxil

It’s been almost 20 years

Thinking back to the previous times I had tried to taper

It always seemed like such an daunting feat

One where I never thought I’d come near to accomplishing

I really can’t believe I’ve gone from 40mg to 10mg in such a short time

For anyone else out there struggling through something they never thought they could do

Look at yourself in the mirror

Stand tall

You’re a brave motherfucker

You got this

We

Got

This

✊🏼

‘…In A World Of Ordinary Mortals, You Are A Wonder Woman.’ Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman’s Mom)

Struggling to get through today

Hour by hour

Minute by minute

Each second more excruciating than the last

Skin crawling

Head pounding

Eyes straining

This is the part in the movie where the poor guy reaches for his drug of choice

Where the sad woman guzzles her beloved bottle

It’s the climax in a novel

Where emotions soar to dizzying heights

Where nothing can possibly survive at such intensity

Like a car reaching peak speed

Like an addict reaching the height of their high

The moment is suspended in time

When the audience knows a turning point is coming

Watching for the pivotal scene in which the hero sheds his old skin

Where the heroine finally emerges

That’s what happens in movies and books

In real time nothing is ever quite so profound

The moment goes on and on

Stretching uncomfortably long

The hero remains sheathed in weary skin

The heroine hides in her shadows

There’s no audience waiting with bated breath

Rooting for the breakthrough moment

Instead

There’s only a woman looking at herself through a mirror

Waiting

Watching

Begging for a glimpse of the heroine to change the narrative of this story

From another unhappy ending

To one in which she finally gains her superpowers

Project Take Down Paxil 👊

I feel like I should apologize for being MIA lately

But I’m not really sorry

Because it’s for a good reason

It’s for me

Last Wednesday I dropped my Paxil dosage from 40mg to 30mg

I won’t pretend I was totally cool with it

I had a lot of reservations

But I also really wanted to do it

There were some shitty days obviously

Two days when my anxiety spiked to an uncomfortable level and I needed to take more Ativan

Several days where I had dizzy spells that came and went

But I survived

I can tell the following things helped:

Writing affirmations daily

Trying to stay busy

Doing a lot of introspection over the root of my anxiety

Now today I went down to 20mg

Last nite I was really starting to psych myself out of doing this

I kept thinking ‘woah 20 is a big drop from 40’

Then J. reminded me that I was going from 40mg to 20mg

I’ve been on 30mg and am stable there

Now I’m dropping 10mg again

Which I successfully did last week

I needed to hear that

It helped ease my fear

I made him write it out so I could print it

I’ve already reread it a few times

Along with some other affirmations

I need to keep reminding myself that I’ve already dropped 10mg and while unpleasant

I survived it

I’m still safe

I’m still here

And most of all

If I did it once

I CAN most certainly do it again

Changing the narrative helps

Taking the unknown and making it something familiar

Removes the fear

For anyone else out there struggling with anxiety

If I’ve got this

You’ve got this

Hard and uncomfortable as it is

We have what makes people into warriors

I’m going to remember all of the difficult things I’ve been through in my life

I’m scrappy

I am a fighter

Think of everything you’ve survived

I hope you keep fighting

Because I will too

That’s what warriors do