I have panic attacks.

I had my first panic attack when I was 5. I have felt shame and embarrassment my entire life because of them. So now 40 years later I am done feeling shame. Having a panic attack in public sucks. I have had people give me dirty looks, look at me like I am crazy and basically treat me really crappy. I have also had strangers hold my hand and give me hugs. I have received unspoken glances of “I understand.” Having panic may not look like anything to someone that has never experienced it but if you have had panic attacks you know what it is when someone is acting just a little bit off.

 I had a panic attack on a bus once. I was in the middle of the bus and I stood up to get off but no one was moving. I was trapped in a sea of people. I started to shake and I couldn’t breathe. The lady sitting next to me tried to help and asked the lady in front of us to let me through and the lady said “No, she can wait like everybody else.” I was so embarrassed and horrified. I sat down, still panicking with my heart racing and cried. That is just one story of many that I have but I remember once I got off of that bus I felt so relieved but so awful about myself. I went and stood alone for a few minutes and just prayed asking God to please make me like everyone else. Please make it go away. I just wanted to be normal.

I have seen therapists, doctors and tried numerous medications. I still have panic attacks. My panic attacks are very situational. I know what will cause them. I used to have them come out of the blue but that rarely happens anymore.

I have many theories why this is part of my life and I am not going to talk about those now but I do know that because of my panic attacks I am much more compassionate than I would be if I didn’t have them. I certainly don’t think I am living as full of a life as I could if I didn’t have them but I am living a life and it’s a good one. I am happy and I love deeply.

My panic disorder does not define me. I am still a functioning adult. I don’t always feel comfortable in social situations but I do the best I can. There are lots of things I would like to do but sometimes I can’t. I am no longer beating myself up for that. It’s ok. I am not giving up but I am going to step back and stop trying so hard. Trying to be “normal”. Trying to be “adventurous”. Trying, trying, trying….

I am just fine, right now, in this moment and in the next. There is a lot of stigma about anxiety and panic disorders. I bought into every bit of it. I have lived my whole life that way. I just don’t want to anymore. I want to enjoy my life.

If you know or love someone that has problems with anxiety please be gentle with them. Let them know that their anxiety is a just a very small part of who they are and that they are beautifully made exactly as they are. There is nothing wrong with them.

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