When anxiety turns into panic attacks
I had my first panic attack in a flower store in 1979. We were planning our wedding; and I felt hot, light-headed, had a racing heart, and my stomach was burning.
I thought, “I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE; I CAN’T BREATHE!”
Of course, while I was high tailing it out of the store, I’m pretty sure I was breathing. I didn’t know what happened and put it out of my mind.
Fast forward: got married, went on honeymoon, came back, and had my second panic attack – this time in a grocery.
Again, the symptoms started in my stomach. I began to hyperventilate; my chest was tight and legs felt wobbly. By the time I was outside the store, I was in a full-blown panic attack. I believed there was more air outside.
Once outside, I naturally started breathing deeper, calmed down, and went home. I had no idea what was happening, but I was shook up and scared. I was embarrassed to tell anyone and kept trying to function.
The next week I returned to the store; in the back of my mind was a thought, “What if that happens again?” Within a few minutes, I was anxious and left the store again.
I walked right into the panic attacks with my anxious, fearful thinking. The next logical step was to avoid places that made me anxious, and that list was growing. I just carried anxiety and panic everywhere I went, worrying about what was next.
Anxiety and panic weren’t funny back then.
I did all kinds of things to avoid getting anxious. I shopped in two aisles at a time; I didn’t ever walk to the back of the store; and I left lots of carts and ran from the store.
I got lots of exercise running out the doors; but the problem was none of that worked, and my anxiety continued to grow.
Finally, here is the good part: The anxiety solution
One day again in the store, I was determined to finish shopping. As the anxiety grew, I took a breath and said, “Fine, come get me; I can’t live like this.” I waited, I took a breath, and nothing happened.
I expected to have a full-blown panic attack and be taken to the hospital – maybe they would give me a cure. But that didn’t happen.
As I slowly walked all through the store, breathing, looking for anxiety, asking for it, nothing happened. The anxiety seemed to be hiding. I poked the anxiety, and nothing happened.
That is part of the paradox, our instincts tell us fight, flight, or freeze. The way out is to stand still, breathe, understand your anxiety, and learn to manage the symptoms. Over time I was able to calm down and break the vicious cycle – a vicious cycle I had accidentally created.
And you can recover from anxiety and panic, too.
You don’t have to spend years trying to recover. I have put together a program that works. I wish I had found someone who could help back then.
I want to share what I learned, so you don’t have to struggle.
About Anxiety Therapist Barbara Spaulding, LCSW in Her Own Words
Being a therapist and healer has been in me since I was 12 years old. I think I inherited it from my mother. She took in my friends when they needed comfort and lots of stray critters.
I learned early that we all have the capacity to heal, and sometimes we need a little help – sometimes a lot of help. We need to let go of the shame
I have been a professional counselor since 1989 and have worked in lots of areas. Anxiety has been a struggle for people in every area in which I have worked.
One of my missions became to teach what I had learned about anxiety recovery. I didn’t get help with mine; I felt ashamed at the time. I don’t want others to go through what I did. I always thought other people were having fun and living their life.
What was wrong with me? So, I hid what I was going through.
Over time I have come to believe that anxiety is a simple disorder – and yet complicated.
Personally, I have been married since 1980 to the same guy. I have two children and two dogs.