“What if all that keeps you trapped in that invisible boxing ring is the belief that you have to keep fighting in order to win?… What will happen to your opponent if he suddenly has nobody who will fight him?” Courtney Perry

Once upon a time

I started having panic attacks

I hated them so vehemently

That I swore to fight them at all costs

I swore to do whatever I had to to to win this battle

So I trained

And so I won many battles

But eventually I grew tired

I grew tired of always fighting

Being on guard 24/7 was crippling

And life was becoming one giant battlefield

One day

The panic attacks came back

They had grown stronger than before

I shrank my world to fit in my condo

Hoping if I stayed off the battlefield

The panic attacks would see I was no longer in the fight

They’d turn around and walk away

And leave me alone

Instead, they found me there

In my safe place

Banging on my doors and windows

Rattling me to my very core

I was so afraid

I hid in the darkness and shrank into the corner

Days passed this way

I could hear them getting louder and louder

And just when my door sounded like it was going to break apart

And my mind was going to snap into a million pieces

I sprang to my feet

I frantically threw open the front door

And yelled for them to fucking do their worst

I screamed that I wasn’t afraid of them

I didn’t like them

They knew that

I never would

But I had grown so tired of living in a constant state of fear

That I realized I’d rather come face to face with them

And if they destroyed me

Well

Then at least it would be over

The funny thing was

That when I opened the door

No one was there

The hall was eerily silent

I was stunned

I looked around

Sure that they were just hiding

To catch me at my most vulnerable

I looked in corners and under crawl spaces

Still I was alone

I was bewildered and shaken

I sank to my knees in the quiet hallway

And I started to cry

Big fat tears rolled down my face

I wasn’t crying because I was afraid

Not this time

This time was different

I was crying because all of this time

All of these years

I had expended so much energy and strength

I had used up so much of myself

When all I had ever needed to do

Was to open that fucking door

—–

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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

‘But It Is One Thing To Read About Dragons And Another To Meet them.’ Ursula K. Le Guin

I have Panic Disorder What is Panic Disorder?

From my very first panic attack to my most recent this morning

They all share the same premise

My fear is that I’m going to go crazy

Which to me looks like

Being stuck in a permanent state of panic attack

Where my breath is not deep enough

Everything sounds too far away

I feel nauseous and queasy

My mind is racing

My heart beating too fast

My tears won’t stop coming

I feel afraid

I feel discouraged

And I feel like it’s all never going to end

I know people say shit like this all the time

But I truly wouldn’t wish this on anyone

It’s such an overwhelming feeling and sensation

That it just takes over every part of your life

Life becomes all about navigating panic attacks

What can I do to avoid them?

What triggers them?

What makes me feel better when I have one?

When will they stop?

Why me?

I won’t lie

I get really stuck in the last two

I’ve been thinking the same thing since I was 18

What the fuck did I do so badly that I had to get stuck with this?

Negotiating on what I can do better to make them stop

Its actually kinda funny that between MS and Panic attacks

I’d actually rather have MS

I’ve never thought about that before

Even writing it out sounds preposterous

But it’s the truth

MS with all its pain, difficulties, uncertainties and tribulations

I’d rather be stuck with you

Then experience even one more panic attack

I’m sure to people who’ve had the good fortune to never have had a panic attack

That sounds silly

But here’s the thing

While MS certainly fucks with your vision, your mobility and so much more

It does not trick you into believing your worst nightmare

It doesn’t dupe you into thinking you’re dying

It simply is what it is

Your immune system attacking your myelin

It’s as scientific as it is shitty

It’s not curable but it’s explainable (altho the exact reason why it occurs is still a mystery)

Panic disorder on the other hand

Is a lying, manipulative, twisted motherfucker

Who will do whatever it takes to fuck with you

Yeah maybe that’s giving it too much power

But how can I not when it’s been responsible for so much negativity in my life?

In my own father’s life?

Growing up I saw the hold it had on my dad

I saw how much he tried to resist it

How he couldn’t

How he still can’t

Sure people tell me I’m not like him

My doctor included

But we have this huge struggle in common

The one he couldn’t defeat

The one that feels like it’s defeating me

The one that feels like it has a chokehold on us

Maybe our stories are linked

If he defeats it

Then I can too

Or maybe one has no bearing on the other

But I promise

If I can slay this dragon

It’ll be for us both

‘…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

The Odds

I find myself thinking in terms of:

When I get better

For example

When I get better, I’ll change my Paxil

Or

When I get better, I won’t feel so down

Or

When I get better, I’ll finish my degree

The list goes on and on

Sometimes it’s things exciting like travel

More often than not

It’s simple things

Like

When I get better, I’ll go for walks with Joey and my dogs

Ultimately

It always ends with me waiting for a time when I’ll feel better

Always waiting for a time that may never come

Then I think to myself

What if this is as good as it gets?

I mean

Really

And what if it is?

Does that mean I throw in the towel?

Give up

Admit defeat

And then what?

So I started thinking tonight…

And bear with me

This is wild

….

What if I just stop waiting?

…..

Dun dun dun

What if I stop waiting for a future that might never come?

What if I just start living like this is as good as its ever gonna get?

There is something so incredibly freeing about that

It’s difficult when the people around you encourage you to think of how much better things can get

As well intentioned as it is

It just doesn’t help

I’m so fucking sick and tired of waiting

I’m so tired of hoping

Fuck waiting and hoping and wishing

Maybe it’s time that I just start living

For today

I mean…Yeah maybe things will get better

But I just don’t want to waste my time waiting for something that is only possible (What is possible )

I like the odds of probable (What is probable)

It is probable (because there is evidence to support it) that tomorrow I will wake up

And feel as shitty as I do right now

But instead of going back to bed and waiting for a better day

I’ll just keep going

I’ll step out into the world and I’ll still feel shitty

But at least I will have fucking done something

And maybe for this to stick

I’ll have to keep reminding myself every day

That my life deserves a fighting chance

Doesn’t it?

That in order to really live

I need to remove both feet from inside of the grave

Any other way

And it’s just not probable

Radical Self Acceptance

(This was from my MS support group I chaired last week)

Fighting reality only creates suffering. While pain is inevitable in life, suffering is optional. “And suffering is what happens when we refuse to accept the pain in our lives,”

Close your eyes and think about being diagnosed with MS

Think about the difficulties you encountered

Think about the hurt, pain and suffering you’ve experienced because of it

Think about all the medications and treatments you’ve tried

Think about how many times you’ve gotten your hope up for some miracle cure only to be let down

Think about all the time you’ve been angry, depressed or lost because of having MS

Now open your eyes.

Look around

You still have MS

So does everyone else in this room

Nothing has changed

simply because you deny it exists.

It is still there, waiting for you to deal with it.

“When you open yourself up to accepting the present moment precisely as it is, with no judgments, you are free to look at all of those puzzle pieces of the present moment and start to piece them together. “

What if instead of having all of that, you simply decided to radically accept your reality that is having MS?

Acceptance isn’t giving up

It isn’t resigning yourself to the illness

It is simply accepting that whatever is happening is happening

Acceptance is about letting go of the person you thought you were and the life you thought you had and making the most of the one you actually have

Some helpful strategies to practice radical self acceptance:

Acknowledge and learn how to cope with negative thoughts and feelings

Rewrite your story

Find activities that you enjoy

Spend time with the people you love and that make you happy

Note:

I’m not even close to being there yet…but I want to be