Long after surviving a traumatic young life as a runaway, Rita’s panic attacks and fear set in, threatening to take over forever.
But she knew she could trust herself to simply not give up. So she kept going until she found treatment that worked for her.
“There was a time when basic things—like driving, climbing a flight of stairs, taking a shower, or going through the checkout line at the grocery store—landed me somewhere between mortal unease and full-throttle terror.”
A single panic attack that struck out of the blue led to another and another and another, along with the pounding heart, tunnel vision, shaking hands, and inexplicable fear for her life that made it feel like there was no safe place in the world — even in her sleep. Her panic would stop at nothing.
Becoming Barely Functional
Within weeks she went from a fully functional adult with a family and career to a trembling wreck who could barely function. Without success, she tried many kinds of treatments for her panic attacks. But as they worsened, she began to think she was hopeless, and that she would have to accept her new life. “Except,” she says, “it wasn’t a life at all.” As she continued to search for ways to ease her panic, the attacks continued to besiege her.
Belief in Herself
But then something happened during her search: She started to believe in herself—just a little, but it was enough. Even if she “failed” at a therapy that works on most people, she knew would find something that was right for her. And she found strength in knowing that she could trust herself to simply not give up. So she kept going. It wasn’t easy, but eventually a therapist identified her panic disorder as part of PTSD stemming from her traumatic childhood. Within weeks, the fear that had been consuming her life slowly began to recede.
Today she is no longer stricken with panic attacks. But more deeply than that, she says, “I’m grateful for the experience of my panic, because it taught me that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to panic and anxiety. Instead, we all have our own unique questions to ask, and our own unique paths to the answers.”
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Rita Zoey Chin is the author of Let the Tornado Come, the critically acclaimed memoir about her young life as a runaway, her journey through panic disorder as an adult, and the unexpected relationship with a horse who teaches her about fear. Rita lives in the Boston area, where she teaches at Grub Street, mentors at-risk teenagers, and surrounds herself with animals.