My Struggle

June 19, 2012

I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I want to write this post. I’m terrified. I’ve heard so many people say that they don’t like reading posts that aren’t 100% positive, so if you’re that person… please click the red ‘X’ in the top right corner. I’m about to get REAL.

When I was twelve years old, it happened for the first time. I was sitting in my church’s Wednesday night youth service. The youth pastor said he wanted to talk about something that God had laid on his heart– death. This scared the ever-living daylights out of me because it was something I had been thinking about as well. I’d never had a family member pass away so it wasn’t something I thought about often, but for some reason it had been on my mind. All of a sudden, my entire body went numb. I felt cramped, and I needed to get somewhere else… and fast.

I got up, casually walked to the bathroom, and locked myself in a stall. I had no clue what was going on, but I just felt very… aware of myself and my surroundings. My chest got tight and it felt like I was in a state of panic, but for no reason. I stayed there for (what I felt was) way too long and instead of going back into the classroom, I went into the office and called my dad to come pick me up.

I felt so embarrassed by what had happened that I never again went to that church. I didn’t want anyone to ask why I left because I no idea what to tell them. All I knew was that I got very “scared” all of a sudden. I tried to explain it to my dad, but he just didn’t understand what I was afraid of. I didn’t realize that I had my first panic attack at age 12.

Over the years, I had them on and off. I would get that same tight feeling in my chest and start crying. I would start thinking about how one day, I wouldn’t be alive anymore. It sounds morbid and totally unusual for a teenager to think that way. I had no clue what was happening.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school in my psychology class did I realize that it might be a panic attack. Our teacher started describing the symptoms and I met every one: numbness, sense or fear of dying, tunnel vision, heavy breathing, a strong urge to flee or escape. For the past 6 years, I’ve struggled with the fact that I might have panic disorder. I have never seen a doctor for it due to reasons that I’d rather not discuss here, but it’s come to the point now where I have to do something about it.

A few days ago when I was driving home from work, all of a sudden I felt completely out of control of my body. All of those old symptoms came back… as I was going 70 mph on the freeway. I got terrified. Over the past two days, I’ve had panic attacks on and off, with one lasting even a few hours.

I’ve had friends who have experienced one or two panic attacks in their lives, but none so often as me. If you know someone in your life experiencing this, please comfort them as much as you can if they ever experience this around you. All they need to know is that everything will be okay.

The main point in writing this post is just to see if there are others out there struggling with this same issue.

Are you one of them?

  • You are so brave for putting this out there, girl! My brother gets these panic attacks now & again & we have realized all we can do is be there for him! If you ever need anything, I'm here for you!

  • Whitney,

    It takes courage to write a post like this. I always try to keep my blog a positive place, and not really write about negative things, but that's not because I'm trying to make it seem like my life is perfect. It's not. And occasionally I'll write a post about my struggles. It's always nice to see when people put heartfelt posts like this up, even though you are going through a difficult time. I don't know what you're going through, as I've never had a panic attack, but my thoughts are with you and I hope you're having a better day.

    Lauren
    http://laurensweetnothings.blogspot.com/

  • I'm so glad you posted this. I would never wish you'd only posted something positive instead. Real is always better. I've had panic attacks. Usually I can't pinpoint a thought that is causing them, but I'm anxious about something or other and then all of a sudden I'm having one. A trigger for me, if I'm already anxious, is warm or stagnant air. Also, if I've had one recently and am already thinking about it, worrying if I'll have another, I'll most likely have another.

    I don't have any helpful advice. But I did want to thank you for posting something real instead of putting on a face for your readers, and to let you know you're not alone. :) Thanks love.

  • I'm totally one of them! I have severe anxiety for many years of my life but have not had a panic attack for a good 2 years. I really recognize the symptoms early now and stop them before they begin. Most of the time I can stop them from excusing myself from wherever I am and going to lie down to think about things logically for a while. Sometimes I have to go to sleep…but those things work for me so I respect that need.

  • You are not alone my dear. I suffer from OCD and anxiety. Sometimes my anxiety overtakes me and its hard to explain it but over the years I have gotten used to using various coping mechanisms. Props to your for your honesty. The more people talk about issues like this, the more support others suffering will have.

  • This post is so real and I'm really proud of you for putting yourself out there. Not all posts need to be happy and fluffy. Real life isn't hearts and rainbows. I've had a few panic attacks, like 2 maybe 3 and I know how scary they can be. Let me know if you ever just need to talk!

  • I'm proud of you, mamas. I know this is something you've been struggling with for years and as I've told you before, it's nothing to be ashamed of :) SO many people – myself included – suffer from some sort of anxiety or panic attack disorder. WAY more than people admit. You're braver than them and I think this was awesome!

  • Wow Whitney, you are so very brave for sharing this. I suffer from major anxiety and this happens to me on occasion. If you ever need someone to talk to I'm here!

    xo Shane

  • Thank you for being REAL!!! I love that you are being authentic in the blogging community! I'm sorry that you have struggled with this and I hope that you get a chance to speak with others who have similar issue so that you realize you are NOT alone in these symptoms, as well as finding a practitioner who specializes in this. I'm a Behavioral neuroscientist and would be delighted to help you find someone who fits you best, if that is every something you decide to do. Until then, hang in there girl because you ARE awesome!

  • Oh girl I feel you. Will be sending you an email asap! :)

  • you are def not alone girly! … i'm always here.

  • Cheers to you for posting this, Whit. I used to have them all the time, to the point of passing out. (And passing out in SoHo in NYC when you're by yourself walking through Halloween festivities is a scary thing. God bless good men in NYC who stop to help a 22-year-old instead of stealing her purse!)

  • I'm with you, Whitney. I was always a kinda nervous kid, but when my mom was diagnosed with cancer a couple years ago, I started having panic attacks ALL THE TIME. It got to the point where I was afraid to leave the house because I didn't want to have a panic attack in class or in a public place. I did see a doctor, who prescribed Xanax – I rarely take it (it stops panic attacks cold, but it kinda makes me feel weird), but just knowing that I have it if I need it makes me feel more confident. I also saw a counselor who recommended certain breathing techniques and non-medical coping techniques that have been very helpful. I'd be happy to share them with you if you're interested! I certainly haven't "overcome" panic attacks – I still have them every now and then – but I feel like I know how to manage them now.

  • I can't say that I've ever experienced those feelings, but I definitely support your decision to do something about them. Education can only help you! I really hope this is something that improves for you over time, and I'm glad to see so many wonderful things have happened in your life despite this obstacle you've had to overcome. Best wishes!

  • Whitney, I can honestly tell you that when I read this, I knew exactly what you were talking about! I've had horrible panic attacks since my freshman year of high school, and some of them are completely debilitating. I used to have to take medication, but it made me feel weird. It took quite a few years to learn how to control them, but it is still a struggle! If you ever need someone to talk to, I understand what you're going through completely. I am so impressed that you had the courage to write this post.

  • I've dealt with occasional panic attacks for the past 10 years. When my grandfather died suddenly in 2006, I started having them more frequently. Thankfully, I haven't had one in a year or two. I know that feeling all too well. I never went to a doctor about it either because I never thought they were severe enough. Just know that you're not alone! Thanks so much for posting this! It's nice to know there are others out there who have gone through the same things.

  • Kim

    First of all, I love when bloggers get real. We read blogs because we connect with the person behind them. And that means the whole package!! Life isn't all sunshine everyday, so good for you for getting real on here. I honestly love it. I feel for you with your symptoms and what you go through it is tough, and although I don't experience panic attacks I have anxiety and they definitely relate. You are not alone! So never think that you are. And thanks so much for sharing a personal part of your life with your readers! I am a new follower here and I love how genuine your blog is!

  • you are SO brave to put this out there, and I hope that you found writing this post cathartic. you're definitely not alone. It sounds like you have a complicated relationship with doctors, but I really do suggest you see someone who might be able to give you the tools to deal with your panic attacks. I had one – my first and, so far, my only – earlier this year and ended up going to the hospital because I didn't know what was happening to me and was scared out of my mind. they talked me through coping mechanisms to get me through any possible future attacks. I'd be happy to talk more with you privately if you want!

  • Girl, you are definitely not alone. I have pretty bad anxiety and I also have panic attacks. I'm here for you if you ever need to talk to someone who understands.

  • You aren't alone. I struggle with depression, and though I've never had a panic attack, I'm all too aware of anxiety. It's horrible.
    Thank you for sharing and for putting your heart out there. It takes a lot of courage.
    PS I write about my depression on my blog too, if you are…interested? I guess no one's really interested in that. But I do.

  • Thank you for sharing. That was very brave of you. I also suffer from panic disorder and constantly have anxiety. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis, and something that others do not understand. Just know… you are not alone.

  • Girl… you are so strong and oh so brave for confiding in us. I personally can't relate, but just know that I am here for you. I'm here via twitter, blog, email, WHATEVA.

    This is a reason I love blogging. It's real.

  • Whitney, you are absolutely not alone here. I've written on this subject on my blog as well.

    I have had consistent panic attacks for a couple of years now. I didn't realize how bad they were until I moved last year, and started having them on the freeway. That is the scariest place to have one, in my opinion.

    I finally got on a daily regime for six months to "re-set" my body and started going to a counselor. I keep a fast acting anti-anxiety prescription in my purse at all times now. It almost acts as a placebo effect. The counselor helped a TON to show me who to recognize a panic attack, and resist it.

    When my boyfriend didn't understand what it was he told me, "It's all in your head." I told him, "I understand that, but it doesn't make it any less real." It is so scary when your body starts reacting in a way you don't understand. Don't lose hope. You can overcome a lifetime of this anxiety. Feel free to email me any time threeyearsdown [at] gmail [dot] com or check out my blog posts on anxiety (This is where it got my attention the most: http://www.threeyearsdown.com/2011/05/anxiety.html )

  • I have panic attacks. I take a pill everyday to try and keep them away. I thought I was dying the first time I had one. They've literally put me on the floor before. I've been in therapy and I take meds, but it's something you always have to be aware of.

    I think it was good you put this out there. It's important for people to understand what we are going through so they can be understanding and helpful when we need them

  • Whitney you are awesome and amazing for posting about this. Panic attacks are the worst. I have had a few in my life. For me, it is anxiety that gets me. Talking about it is definitely the best thing. I wish you success!

  • Anonymous

    I am! Thank you for sharing <3
    – Kat

  • Thanks for sharing this with me after my post today. I definitely know what they feel like and it is scary!