Monday, September 21, 2009

Surprise: Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Today's assignment

This experience, which rocked my world, left me with several fears both logical (fear of the dark Outside, or being alone in the dark Anywhere) and irrational (fear of bees, inability to shower unless someone else was home, inability to sleep without someone in the same room).

Bees. Really? Yes, really. I had this irrational conspiracy theory that they were all out to get me and it was years before I could enjoy a meal out of doors. Bees, wasps, and hornets are everywhere. One theory was that I found them so terrifying because they were something out of my control, small though they were. These fears were always intensified exponentially when I was pregnant. Once I left my shopping cart next to the car, and ran screaming and ducking, arms flailing madly, through the parking lot dodging a bee that had me in its sights. So embarrassing - especially because my baby was still in the cart- and completely out of control.

When I was pregnant with Michelle, my panic attacks got so bad that I couldn't get to sleep unless Mr. O was still awake, laying pressed up behind me, and the hall light was on. Towards the end of that pregnancy the very real feeling of impending death/evil nearly drove me mad. I couldn't even be alone upstairs and I practically stuck like glue to him that last month.

As soon as the sun went down and my children were tucked in bed, I would wait while my gut would tighten, and I'd wonder if that night would bring the dreaded anxiety. Often, my heart would race as if I'd just taken a leap off a cliff and discovered my chute wouldn't open, fairly hammering out of my chest. At the same time it would feel as if all the air had suddenly been sucked from the room leaving a vacuum in my lungs and a heavy pressure on my rib cage. I would tremble violently as fear overtook me. My brain utterly deserted me. I knew that what I was feeling was coming from my own mind but I felt completely powerless to stop it.

I spent many nights sitting on the cool, hard tile of our master bath, my back pressed to the wall, facing the closed door with the light on, and my scriptures open in my lap. I sobbed uncontrollably; I was so very afraid. I don't think Mr. O understood it, but he was very patient and very kind.

It's been 19 years this Fall since that dreadful evening and finally, I've come to terms with most of those fears. I can shoo away a wasp as if it were a stray strand of hair, I can shower without checking the locks first, and I can usually sleep when circumstances cause Mr. O to be away (and may I add, I don't even have to have every light in the house ablaze). I can even be outside at night or in the pre-dawn hours ALL BY MYSELF.

I have taken up running and I love to go when the stars are still out - the fact that I can go out and do this amazes me, even stuns me. As little as two years ago, I would never have thought it possible for me to walk around my block alone - let alone keep going for eight miles. These simple, yet astonishing to me, pleasures are tender mercies from God and I am so very grateful.

*If panic attacks have taken hold of your life, you can overcome them. It may be one of the hardest battles you fight, but it can be won. Medication works for many people, but in my case it turned me into a robot who still couldn't sleep at night. I was fortunate to find a book on Panic Disorders that helped me work through my worst issues and the rest have slowly (and I do mean slowly) slid away over time. Take hope, it is possible.


Kristina P. said...

I have mild anxiety, and saw a therapist a few years ago, which totally helped.

This summer, I had three panic attacks. Never had one in my life, and didn't even realize what they were until weeks later.

I stopped drinking Diet Coke because caffeine and anxiety are very much interconnected. And I also found a great book that has helped tremendously. My panic attacks happened when I felt trapped, once in a live theater, and once in a car. I was in a situation today, in a drive thru with no escape on either side, which would have sent me into a panic 2 months ago, but I wasn't even remotely anxious today.

Travelin'Oma said...

This is a great post. I'm going to link to it later on.

I relate to what you say—bees, showering when nobody's home, etc. I've never related them to panic attacks (which I also have) and it hasn't occurred to me that the reason I might be better about these issues is that I now take an antidepressant. So interesting.

compulsive writer said...

Great post--thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth-W said...

Did you see a relationship between pregnancy and a worsening of symptoms? (Hormonal stuff?)
Will you tell what book you liked? I'm always looking for resources.

Nancy Face said...

Someone who I love dearly suffers from panic attacks. It's wonderful that you have been able to progress so very far, and that you are letting others know that there is hope.

Mrs. Organic said...

Oh yes - pregnancy never brought me morning sickness but my nights were a living hell. I also had a certain recurring nightmare that seemed to heighten the symptoms. I'll try to find the book (it was completely cheesy but did the trick for me).

Loralee and the gang... said...

I'm glad that you are doing better! It must have been a terrifying time in your life.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtfull post on overcoming fear .It should be very much helpfull.

Karim - Creating Power

Anonymous said...

Wow way to go. I had no idea things got so rough. Sorry you had to go through that but you have always been super tough. You look great and are a good example to me. I love how you stick to something and finish it. loves kel

Kimberly said...

My best friend suffers from panic attacks of a severity that have had her hospitalized. The last few years have been trying ones for me and I've had my taste of panic attacks and anxiety as well, but I'm grateful because it helps me understand and support her. I love your message of hope in this post.

Emma J said...

I've been walking by morning starlight these past three weeks - something I would never have done as a younger woman - there is something freeing, isn't there? I wish I could give this gift to our daughters somehow - a world safe enough for walks by starlight.

andrea said...

I've never suffered from anxiety attacks, and feel so blessed not to have. I'm glad that you are feeling better too!