Conquering Panic Attacks and Reinventing Myself
My life has been, what many might call, a chaotic one.
I’ve backpacked solo around the world several times over. I’ve lived in more cities than I can count and switched careers more times than I care to admit. I’ve jumped from cliffs, swam with sharks, and played with tigers. I’ve even had to deliver CPR to a stranger once (and I am NOT a medical professional!).
But nothing – NOTHING – I’ve experienced has ever come as close to being as terrifying as my first panic attack.
My first panic attack occurred when I was about 15 or 16 years old. Around this age I started experiencing occasional, random, harmless heart palpitations; perhaps I was drinking too much caffeine, or perhaps I was just growing up. Either way, one day in my parents’ bedroom I became just a little bit too aware of my own (what I perceived to be) irregular heartbeat. Something just felt off:
- What was that weird feeling in miy chest?
- Did my heart just skip a beat?
- Why is it suddenly so hard to breathe?
- Oh my god, I’m going to die.
One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was lying on the couch, hyperventilating like a fish out of water, begging my parents to call an ambulance. I was 100 percent convinced I was going to die.
I later learned that this was a panic attack. My first of many to soon follow.
Anxiety, being what anxiety is, worked its way into my brain and convinced me that I was always going to feel this way. I quickly developed a fear of panic attacks, creating a vicious cycle that bred additional, recurring panic attacks. If I had a panic attack in a certain situation (public speaking, driving, going on a date, etc.), my fear would extend to those situations and create a new phobia.
Because of my anxiety and panic disorder, I felt I missed out on some great experiences of adolescence. To remedy this, I decided to study psychology in college to better understand my anxiety disorder. Through education, experience, and utilizing powerful resources such as those found on the ADAA website, I was able to overcome my panic attacks entirely.
Mental health issues can be debilitating and isolating; you may feel like you’re alone in this, but you’re not. If someone like me can overcome panic disorder and anxiety, so can you.
My top recommendations for anyone dealing with anxiety:
1. Learn About and Understand Your Anxiety
2. Utilize Preventative Measures (Exercise, Meditation, Yoga, Healthy Diet)
3. Learn Coping Mechanisms to Stop Panic Attacks (Breathwork, Mindfulness, Tense-and-Relax)
4. Exposure Therapy (Confront Your Fears and Reclaim Your Comfort Zone)
To learn more about my story or for help with your own panic attacks and anxiety, check out my website: DontPanicDoThis.com