Have you ever had a panic attack? Can you remember having the first one? Or your worst one?? Let me tell you about my experiences.
I always thought I was as tough as nails, after being tested many times. Perhaps I was tested one too many times, however, when out of the blue and well into my thirties, I had my first panic attack. I had no idea what was happening. I thought I was having a heart attack!
Looking back, I can see there were probably a few times where I had a more generalised anxiety before then, but I’d always shrugged it off and blamed it on something else. I don’t think I even knew what anxiety was, certainly not a panic attack. It wasn’t something that people spoke about and there was a certain stigma about ‘not being quite right’ so I kept it to myself.
After another five years of having panic attacks creep up on me for no apparent reason, I finally had one that lasted the entire distance of a 3 hour road trip. Can you imagine? I know that anyone who has ever experienced one will be reading that in horror.
At first I pulled over and settled down but then every time I merged back into traffic, it would start again, more terrifying than before. The best thing I could do was just keep pressing on and get home. All I could do was keep looking for road signs that would tell me the distance to go and then counting down on the odometer. “150 to go….130 to go….100 to go”….all the way home until I finally fell through my front door.
Being a single parent, it was ridiculous to think that I wouldn’t be able to drive myself or my family any extended distance again, so that was the day that I decided “never again!” and started researching like a boss, learning the tools and techniques to take control of my anxiety.
Now, just to clarify – there was absolutely no rational reason for me to experience anxiety behind the wheel. I have never (touch wood) been involved in an accident and I have driven numerous long-distance road trips. In fact, I actually towed a caravan around Australia single-handedly.
However, as we now know, there is absolutely nothing rational or logical about anxiety. Sure, there can be some known triggers, but quite often it sneaks up on you and hits you completely unaware.
In fact, the events themselves can then become triggers. If you’ve experienced a panic attack in a certain circumstance, being in that same circumstance is enough to trigger another panic attack.
Sometimes the fear of having a panic attack is enough to trigger another panic attack! Am I right?
Since that dreaded road trip, I have learnt so much, both formally and informally. I have finally taken control of my anxiety and stress and overwhelm. In fact, it all seems like such a distant memory that it’s hard to believe I put up with it for so long.
To be clear, I don’t believe that anyone is every truly cured from anxiety and panic attacks but we can sure as hell learn how to manage them. Knowing your triggers and how to overcome them is important, but so is doing the ongoing preventative maintenance to ensure that they’re gone for good. Too often I see people getting a little bit of relief from their anxiety and then becoming complacent, letting the maintenance go, only to have anxiety rear its ugly head again.
The first step is deciding that you really want to do it, and committing to that decision. The strategies and techniques that I use with clients have a snowball effect – every small win you have against your anxiety builds your confidence to tackle more. Pretty soon, when you lose your fear of panic attacks, they start to slink away…like most bullies!
If you want to conquer your anxiety once and for all, be sure to get in touch with me to discuss a personalised management plan.