If you suffer from panic attacks or have suffered from an anxiety disorder, you are not alone. I wanted to share my story as this is one of the most difficult experiences that I have ever gone through in my life. About seven years ago, I experienced my first panic attack. My then boyfriend (now husband) and I were going to move to Florida. He had just received a job offer for a position in Florida with a very reputable company. I was so happy for him, but was scared of the huge change. Everyone I knew, my family and friends, my life, my job was in New Jersey. About a year before that, I had lost my father to a heart attack, which was devastating to me. I worried about leaving my mom, was going to miss my sister and my friends, and had to give up a great job.
This was supposed to be an exciting time for us. However, it was very overwhelming for me. About a month and a half before our big move, my boyfriend had to leave for training in Florida for a month. The day that he left was the first day of my panic attack. I will never forget it. I was in bed for the night, trying to sleep, and I felt that every time I would close my eyes, it felt as if I was holding my breath or that I would stop breathing. I was so scared of falling asleep because I was scared that I would suffocate! At the time, I was living with my mom. That night, I went to her bedroom and cried, and I remember my mom comforting me and trying to massage my back to get me to relax. Finally, I was able to sleep in hour increments, but kept waking up throughout the night.
I started to worry that something was seriously wrong with me. I would go on WebMD, type in all my symptoms and scare the crap out of myself. I thought I had all types of illnesses. For weeks, I would go to my doctor’s at least once a week. They ran full blood work, did a chest X-ray, and I even got a mammogram. I was twenty-five years old at the time. After the results came back normal, I was still convinced something was wrong. My doctor recommended that I talk to a therapist. I did take my doctor’s advice and went to therapy, but after a few sessions, I was moving to Florida, so the therapy was short-lived.
Then the day came that I had my all-time worst panic attack. I was driving to my now in-laws’ house from a friend’s house. The night before, my coworkers had rented a limo and took me out to New York City as a farewell party before I moved to Florida. It was a great night. By then, I was on an anti-depressant and on an anti-anxiety medication to help with my panic attacks. On my way to my in-laws’, I was driving on a busy highway and started to feel nervous. The feeling started to increase and I had to pull over on the side of the road. My hands and arms began to feel numb. My chest felt heavy and I was short of breath. I thought I was having a heart attack! It was awful! I called my boyfriend and told him to call an ambulance and that I was dying! The ambulance came but I managed to calm down after taking my Ativan. My boyfriend came to get me and I had to leave my car at the side of the road. It was awful. That was December 13, 2003. My boyfriend proposed later that day. I was so happy about being engaged to him, but overwhelmed because of the horrors that I experienced earlier that day.
My condition began to worsen. I had a hard time driving to work the last few weeks before I was leaving. I felt panicky in the car, and actually had to talk to someone on the phone while I was in the car to keep me calm. I was in a constant feeling of anxiety. It actually got to the point that I was becoming agoraphobic and did not want to leave the comfort of my mom’s house. Friends wanted to go out and spend time with me before I moved. I couldn’t leave the house or I would get severe anxiety. My friends would come over instead, since I could not go out. I was so thankful for my friends and family who supported me and gave me a shoulder to cry on. I was so frustrated and angry that I felt this way.
When we moved to Florida, I was a wreck. I did not leave the apartment for weeks. I would go outside in our screened in porch and smoke cigarettes all day. I cried and cried. I felt so lonely. I had no job, no friends or family near us, and my fiancé was at work.
After seeing a doctor and getting on a medication that worked well for me, I started to fight it. I went on anxiety forums and talked to other people who were going through the same thing. I knew that I could not live like this. I was feeling so bad about myself because of the constant state of fear and anxiety that I was in. I began to take small steps like driving to our mailbox. That was a huge step for me to even do that. Then, I would drive to the bookstore that was literally down the street and fight my way through the anxiety of being in a store, by myself and doing the drive back and forth. The biggest step for me was going grocery shopping again by myself.
I began to get better. I found a great job down in Florida, and started to feel normal again. I was able to go out and enjoy life again.
Fast-forwarding a few years later …
One morning, I woke up and could not breathe. I had stopped taking my medication as I felt that I did not need it anymore. I started to get nervous, thinking that there was something wrong with me. My now husband took me to the emergency clinic, and I got a checked out and was fine. Needless to say, I got back on my Zoloft.
My point of sharing this experience is to let you know that you are not alone. If you suffer from panic attacks, you can get through it. There were a lot of tragedies (loss of my father and sister), major changes, and stressful moments that happened in my life over the last few years which were contributing factors to my anxiety.
I am in no way saying that everyone who suffers from this should go on medication. There are other treatments to help with anxiety if you do not want to take medication. However, for me, the combination and medication and fighting my way through it helped me to get through my anxiety. I am still taking a very low dose of Zoloft, and I have been fine.
I could go into more detail about my experience, but I wanted to just touch on a few of my experiences. If you ever need advice and are suffering from panic attacks, I am more than happy to provide encouragement and advice. If you are suffering from panic attacks, stay strong. You can and will get through it.