I write a lot on this blog about organization tips, goal planning, and self-care. What I don’t write a lot about is why these topics are so important to me. Today, I’m getting a little personal. Let me share with you the why behind my inspiration and motivation for creating this blog.
You see, for most of my adult life, I’ve suffered from anxiety, mild depression, and panic attacks. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or depression, you know how debilitating and lonely these disorders can be in your life.
The first time I acknowledged something was seriously wrong with the way I was feeling was in my late 20’s.
This was supposed to be the prime of my life. I’d just graduated law school, I was studying for the bar exam, and I was engaged to be married.
I had my whole life ahead of me.
I knew that I had so much to be happy about, but I didn’t feel happy. Instead, I felt anxious, worried, and scared most of the time.
Now, let’s be real, there was a lot going on in my life. Any person in my shoes would have felt some level of anxiety with so much change happening in her life.
But there was a turning point for me.
There were too many signs that the anxiety I felt was no longer the normal, everyday sort of stress.
It had moved passed that threshold into the not-so-normal, I can’t manage my life, type of stress that required professional intervention.
My First Panic Attack
Let me tell you how I came to this conclusion.
For who knows how many days in a row, I was again sitting in Starbucks with my latte and my books studying for the bar exam.
I had just had a conversation with a man visiting from Canada who happened to be a judge.
We spoke for a while and he made it a point to tell me that even though being a lawyer was a noble thing, I shouldn’t allow the law to stifle my creativity or sense of self. He said being a lawyer was a stressful job, and that I should always be mindful of that fact.
Looking back, I realize how prescient this conversation was considering what happened next.
It was just a few minutes later that I felt my heart rate increase dramatically. Within seconds, my mind was racing. I was certain I was having a heart attack. Everything started going black. My body temperature increased. I just knew that I was going to die in Starbucks surrounded by strangers.
I kept telling myself to breathe. Just breathe.
And then before I knew it, it was over.
I had no idea what had just happened to me.
I quickly packed up my things and walked as fast as I could to the safety of my car. As soon as I got in my car, buckets of tears started to flow.
I was scared and clueless. Once I regained enough control of myself to talk, I called my mom.
This was my first panic attack. But it wasn’t my last one.
My doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder and wrote me a prescription for an anti-depressant and an anti-anxiety medicine.
I felt defeated. I had always felt so in control of myself. How could this have happened?
I tried to convince myself that this was a single episode of mental illness brought about by all of the stress in my life.
But he told me something that day that I’ve repeated to myself often. He said “There will always be a lot of stress in your life. It’s the way your mind and body react to that stress that determines whether or not you need help.”
He was right.
My life has most definitely not gotten less stressful over the years.
Since that time I’ve had multiple miscarriages, a difficult pregnancy, a child with behavioral issues, multiple deaths of loved ones, and this most recent stressor of unexpectedly having to move out of my home for 3 months. Not to mention the day-to-day stress of running a household, two businesses, and caring for my two children, along with my husband.
Life has not been easy. I don’t think it’s supposed to be.
Dealing With Anxiety
Managing anxiety and panic attacks have become the new normal for my life.
I’ve had multiple panic attacks since that first one at Starbucks. But I’ve noticed that they are less frequent when I have a better grip on my emotional and physical health.
A big part of the way I deal with this ongoing anxiety is to be better organized, make time to do things that relax and rejuvenate me, and to consciously practice gratitude so that I can make sure that my focus is on all that is good in my life.
That’s why I started this blog. Writing and creating help center me and keep me thoughtfully in control of my life.
But this blog has become so much more. It allows me to share my story so that I can inspire and empower others to overcome the overwhelm we all experience in our day-to-day lives.
Even though not all of my readers have reached the level of stress or depression that requires a diagnosis. I know that overwhelm can be reduced when we’re better organized and have a clear plan for where we want our lives to go.
There is so much going on in each of our lives. Being intentional with our time and resources is something we all struggle with. But life management is a skill we can learn.
My Most Recent Panic Attack
Part of my life management plan is managing anxiety.
Some days are better than others. Some seasons are great, some are not.
In fact, my inspiration for today’s post came about because I had my most recent attack this week.
This last one came on a Monday morning at home surrounded by unpacked boxes.
It was the first day of school for my son, our first week back at home after a summer of home renovations, the day before my period, and the day of the solar eclipse.
Did the attack come about because of one or a combination of these factors? Maybe.
All I know is that I immediately knew I was about to have an attack when my heart rate started speeding up.
5 Ways To Find Relief When Experiencing A Panic Attack
As a veteran of panic attacks, I’ve discovered some techniques to help me through those few but intense moments of fear and panic.
Here are 5 ways I find relief when experiencing a panic attack.
- Take Deep Breaths: I intuitively did this the first time I had an attack. But it’s always the first thing I do when I feel my heart racing. Remind yourself to keep taking deep breaths until the attack subsides.
- Count: Another way I’ve found relief during an attack is to count. Try counting to 20. I’ve found that the attack is usually over before I reach 20.
- Memorize A Calming Verse or Quote: My favorite verse about anxiety comes from Philippians 4:6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Make time to memorize a calming verse or quote to repeat to yourself during an attack.
- Move: Whenever I feel the familiar feelings of an attack, I get up and start moving. I don’t know why but moving helps reduce the intensity of the attack for me.
- Remind Yourself That It’s Temporary: Panic attacks last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. But then they are gone. Remind yourself of this fact when it’s happening. It helps.
When To Get Help
I have to admit that I’m not the best at seeking help when I need it. Admitting that I can’t control my emotions or mental state sometimes makes me feel like a failure.
But I’m a mom now. And my kids deserve a healthy mom. So, when I see that anxiety is not allowing me to be the me that my kids need, I know it’s time for a change.
For me, that often means staying healthy by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and having a morning and evening routine. But sometimes it means asking for help from others like my husband or my doctor, depending on the situation.
If you think you might need help, do me a favor and please talk to your doctor or someone who can help. You do not have to suffer alone. And, if you have children, do it for them.
Do you suffer from depression, anxiety, or panic attacks? If you have any coping tips, I’d love for you to share them in the comments section below.
With Gratitude and Joy,