I remember the night I had my very first panic attack. I can still picture it so clear in my mind, and can basically do that with every other panic attack I've had since then.
I was 14/15 years old and my family had just moved to an apartment because our new home was being built. It was our first night in that two bedroom apartment, and I wasn't too happy that I had to share a room with my two brothers. My friend Heather was with me and we decided to watch a new Jennifer Lopez movie called 'Enough'. It's about a girl who is being beaten and terrorized by a boyfriend/husband...sounds amazing right?
My friend Heather and I. She's so beautiful!!
Perfect movie for a 14 year old girl.
After the movie, we went to bed. It was a dark, quiet new place. The movie was pretty 'anxiety' ridden, which I think was what triggered it.
I started to feel I couldn't breath, like I couldn't catch my breath. My heart was racing, and every time I would try to take a deep breath, I couldn't. (You guys...I can't even write this without FEELING these emotions.)
I went to my parents room and told them I was having trouble breathing. After a few minutes my dad decided to take me to the emergency room. I remember walking back into my room and whispering to my friend, "Hey, my dad is going to take me to the emergency room because I'm having trouble breathing."
I don't remember much except for sitting in the ER with a paper bag because my dad thought it would help as I breathed in and out through it...and then I remember the doctor telling me it was just a panic attack...something I had never heard of.
After that, everything changed. I couldn't sit in class without freaking out. I would get up and go to the bathroom multiple times. I starting skip class and sometimes skipping school. I remember telling a teacher that she couldn't call on me in class because I would get a FULL blown panic attack if I was asked to read...I remember going to class with a senior friend of mine and sitting in her science class. The teacher bent down and talked to me and told me I could stay as long as I wanted and he understood. I remember thinking how much comfort that gave me.. that someone understood and told me it was ok.
It wasn't until one day I woke up and realized I would never be able to leave and go to college if this didn't stop. And seriously that day, I didn't get another panic attack for YEARS. (If only I was young and naive today like I was back then!)
I ended up doing a study abroad in Central America, attended college thousands of miles a way, and drove multiple times alone for hours to and from different states all after I told myself anxiety would not control my life...
I did however drop a Spanish honors class in college because we had to read spinach aloud....haha!
As the years followed, certain things made me anxious, but never took control of my life. I didn't let things that made me nervous bother me. I had confidence that things were no big deal and I paid little to no attention to the anxiety that did creep up..
Skip to the summer of 2016 when I attended a Youtube conference by myself. I was in traffic all morning and was semi nervous to do such a big thing alone. I walked into the conference center and got on this mile long escalator when it happened. I felt like I couldn't breath. I was trapped on this escalator with thousands of people everywhere.
I was alone.
I was freaking out.
I walked and pushed people out of the way to the top, just so I could turn around and go to the bottom. I walked a mile to my car, trying my best to keep my composure. When it got to my car, I lost it. It all came coming back, and being alone surrounded by thousands of people...doing this whole blog/youtube thing alone...It triggered me.
After that I tried to go back to the convention but I couldn't. I made my mom come with my kids and wait at a mall near by so I could try and attend. I took my oldest daughter with me just so I could sit through one class. I remember my left arm going numb because I was freaking out inside SO bad. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could.
After that I couldn't do anything. I couldn't go to the grocery store or target without having a panic attack in the checkout line. I dreaded picking the girls up from school because I would have an anxiety attack having to walk all the way in to get my daughter, worried I would pass out and embarrass myself and her. I was afraid to leave my house, go out with friends, live my life....
Then my heart started having the worst palpitations. (It's a natural side affect to anxiety.)
I remember my heart palpitating so bad as I pulled up to my daughters school. I called my dad hysterical telling him I was going to die. My 5 and 2 year old were in the back, and my 5 year old came and hugged me in the car. My dad stayed on the phone with me as I walked in to get my daughter. (I had to park far away and walk a ways to get her...)
Anxiety was and IS the worst.
Anxiety feels like tunnel vision. It's like your are SO scared, your body is in flight mode and your adrenaline has reached it's highest peak. It's one of the scariest feelings in the least scariest scenario. It's bizarre...
Anyways...skip to today.
I've learned a lot about myself. I'm way stronger than I was two year ago, but I do have my days where I'm weak. I have to remind myself that it's ok to be weak. It's ok if I don't feel up to doing something, but I also know when I have to push myself. I know so much more about myself and what I need to do to be confident in my abilities...But sometimes those things are the HARDEST things to do. Sometimes it's so hard to tell myself to go do something. But I really try and tell myself to do it. Because if I don't, then I am 10 steps back after taking 5 steps forward.
-How I have, and how I am, overcoming my anxiety.-
My third daughter is quite the girl and we've had our fair share of challenges with her. From her lack of sleep, to her severe lack of eating...Then this past year after dealing with some behavioral issues, we decided to put her into a preschool where they can help her work on certain behaviors. All of this alone has been quite the challenge for me as a mother, and probably one of the reasons my anxiety has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. Every time I would go somewhere or do something, my daughter would really struggle. Immediately I felt, and was a lot of times judged. I was already anxious to go get my daughter from school because every time my baby would scream bloody murder and I would have to walk a half mile with her completely melting down. It was humiliating. On top of it all my husband was working 12+ hours a day 5 days a week, plus a half of Saturday and some Sunday. I was completely mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
Part of healing, especially when dealing with a child whose needs are quite demanding, has been to take care of myself. It hasn't been easy. I don't mean relaxing at the end of the night with a bath and a good Netflix binge. I mean leaving my house and going somewhere alone or with friends. Saying yes more to those type of situations that are SO hard for me, that I know will give me anxiety. Even if it means my palms are sweaty and I can't sit still, I always try and go. (Because eventually I WILL calm down.) It was also really hard putting my husband in charge and leaving the house, even though I do feel an enormous amount guilt because he just worked 13 hours that day.
Also saying no to my daughter, or my other kids, and being ok with it. Not feeling guilty about hiring a babysitter every week so I can do date night...Things like that. Things that are not easy for me to do, but doing them always makes me feel better.
I'm also really trying to make time for myself. More exercise, that's a tough one for me because I legit can't deal, I hate exercise haha! But making time for me to be healthy, it's so important. Otherwise if I've taken care of kids ALONE from 6-8 at night, then I go to bed late, and well eventually I've snowballed myself into a gallon of Ben and Jerry's tonight dough. (Which by the way I feel is totally healthy and acceptable every once in a while.) But most likely the next day, and the groundhog days of motherhood that follow, will cause my anxiety to creep back.
Lastly, less phone time. BIG ONE. Social media is good and evil. If you are struggling, the last thing you should do is look on Instagram for inspiration. It it no way will make you feel calm, I can do this, I'm amazing, and I'm strong. It will however make you feel more anxious, weak, insecure, less than, and like 'everybody has their shit together but me' type of attitude.
Going there, even when I absolutely do not want to.
Some times the hardest thing for me is to go to the grocery store that's 5 minutes away. Already my nerves start to build up just thinking about it. It could be because every time I go to the store, and I'm already on edge, my daughter will most likely throw a huge tantrum. Which doesn't make it easier. But if something scares me, I do it anyways. I'm not always good at this, but I've been so much better these past couple months. If I'm afraid to go to the store, I go. Every night by myself. I buy one thing, or more the next night. But I go. I (you) have to train your body to know that you are not in a harmful or dangerous situation. And going and doing even when you don't want to is KEY.
Something I did differently a few months ago was tell my closest friends about my anxiety. Shame and embarrassment is something that gives me anxiety, about anxiety. Makes total sense right haha?! But just knowing that I could openly talk about it with my friends made it not so scary, and I knew that if I ever had a panic attack with any of them I could tell them. It was comforting. But I've never had to because It made anxiety much less threatening when I talked about it.
Also having that someone you can call and talk to when things get rough. It's not easy to open up with someone when you are afraid to admit a weakness. Afraid to admit you might be crazy, even though dealing with this in no way makes you crazy at all. But if you deal with it all on your own, it's so much harder to overcome. Talk to someone. Anyone. A family member, friend, partner...whatever. Just casually bring it up that you have anxiety, and get more comfortable talking about it as time goes on. You won't believe how many people have experienced or are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks. TRUST ME...And you won't feel so alone. I know it's hard. It's probably the hardest thing to talk about...But you can do it. I promise.
The Book that changed my life.
One of my biggest turning points in my anxiety was reading this book: (Click book for link.)
It was like reading my inner most thoughts. It answered every one of my fears and questions, but also told me how I can control the anxiety and even overcome it. That's what we all want right? I call it my Anxiety Bible because whenever I feel myself starting to have a rough week, I go back and read on things I'm struggling with and I almost immediately feel so much better off.
If you are struggling with anxiety you MUST read this book. It saved me.
Last but definitely not least is my Faith. I know we all come from different background, religions, and beliefs. So whatever your lifestyle is, this may not be for you. But my faith, and my Anxiety Bible lol, are probably one of the two things that had the most impact on helping me with my anxiety. I'm a Mormon, and I relied a lot on prayer and scripture. I prayed daily to have strength to overcome this. For faith that I could do small and simple things that seemed so hard. I read my scriptures nightly and relied on my Heavenly Father. I became so much stronger I know because of this. Again, we all believe and live differently, but I really feel that relying on a greater being of some sort...it really does help.
No special occasion, we always dress fancy and match at the same time. It's how we roll.
You can be stronger, I have so much faith in this!
Something so comforting to me is when someone believes in me. When someone assures me that everything will be ok and that I can do this even when something is telling me I can't. But I promise you that you can. As someone who has and does struggle, I know that there is and will always be the light at the end of the tunnel. That we are SO much stronger than we let ourselves be.
And lastly...Tonight Dough Ben & Jerry's really does calm all anxiety.