"A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying." -The Mayo Clinic
If someone would have told me years ago that I would suffer from panic attacks I would have thought them to be crazy. Me, suffer from panic attacks? No way! I was too well-rounded, too positive of a person and way too strong of a character to fall victim of what was in my mind a malady for the "weak."
I was always very goal oriented. I worked extremely hard in everything I did. If I set my mind to something, nothing could have stopped me from achieving it. My friends would often ask me for advice because I was always so positive, so organized and just so happy with life. I do not fit the mould of a person who would suffer from panic attacks. Or so I thought...
The first time I had a panic attack was in 2004. It hit me like a punch in the face. I was cleaning up the house when all of a sudden I started having difficulty breathing. My heart was pounding so hard that it literally felt like it would come right out of my chest. I was nauseous and my legs were no longer able to support me. I crawled into bed and stayed that way for the remainder of the day. I remember looking around the room and everything seemed foreign to me. It didn't feel like this was my house. My things didn't feel or seem like they belonged to me. But the scariest of all was this feeling of spiralling out of control and not having a grip with reality. I knew I was losing touch and that scared me to death. The more scared I became, the more severe the panic attack became.
I remember looking at my children and not really knowing what I needed to do. Therapy, yes my son needs to go to therapy but where? How do I get him to therapy? What am I supposed to do at therapy? Why is he going to therapy again? Oh yes, autism, my son has autism. OH MY GOD, my son is autistic! All these thoughts were racing through my mind simultaneously. I had been bringing my son to therapy for at least five years and yet I couldn't recall nor understand what I was supposed to do. Something had control of my mind and my body. I was prisoner within myself.
It took me a few days to start to feel "normal" again. However, this frightening experienced left me doubting everything. I no longer knew what normal was. I no longer trusted myself, my judgements or my thoughts. I second guessed everything. I basically went from a confident woman to an insecure girl trying to manage a marriage and two kids, one being autistic.
Panic attacks can affect anyone. They don't discriminate. It's not because you are weak that you have a panic attack. It's because of stressors in your life, situations and circumstance that have suddenly taken over your emotional and logical state of mind and have somewhat paralyzed you with fear.
I knew I needed help and so I went and see a psychiatrist with high hopes that he could help me deal with my panic attacks and finally go back to the person I once was.
There was one thing that scared me though; I had this overwhelming fear that the psychiatrist would think that I was insane and have me locked up in the hospital and that I would lose my children to the state. Crazy thought but that truly was my thought process back then. So I never really opened up about my issues and therefore, continued having panic attacks.
Until the day I met an Giovanna D'Aprano. She is a psycho spiritual practitioner. Giovanna introduced me to many things. She introduced me to Chakra. She taught me deep breathing and the proper way to meditate. She gave me instructions on how to change negative thoughts quickly into positive ones. She gave me many skills and tools that I was able to apply to my daily lifestyle. When I felt the onset of an attack, I was able to apply these skills and slowly, my attacks were under control.
But the one thing Giovanna brought back into my life, the most precious gift I could ever hope for, was my self-confidence. I was now once again able to conquer whatever I set my mind to. I no longer second guess my decisions and I'm back to being the positive, motivational person I once was. In fact, I'm better now because of this experience. Once you hit rock bottom, the only way left to go is up!
So there is no shame in talking about depression or panic attacks or any other form of mental illness. Life is tough and sometimes our "blues" tend to linger on a little longer and deeper than usual. If you feel you need help then please allow yourself to get the help you need. You deserve only the best and there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help. You are so worth it!
Follow Linda Mastroianni on Twitter: www.twitter.com/speaking_autism