In August 2017, I experience my first panic attack. I have suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember but never thought much about what triggered it since, unfortunately, anxiety was such a part of my daily life that I learned to just mask most of my fears with smiles.
Unfortunately, I watched Ton suffer from anxiety and depression, and I always appreciated his understanding. I felt like this time, I could not talk to him about it because my anxiety started to skyrocket as he started to struggle with falls and the constant confusion of doctors not having answers.
By August 2017, I thought I had gone through a horrible year already, and I still did not even receive the news that my dad’s troubles were that of a terminal disease. In January, we started the year by finding that 4 months into the second pregnancy, we had lost the baby and had a partial molar pregnancy, which required a 6-month hiatus on trying again. Since we had at least 6-months before attempting to add to our family again, we would move out of our 900-square-foot house and move further north to give us more bang for our buck. While we knew it was the right move for our family (and ultimately has been the biggest blessing), moving further from my dad when he was starting to fall apart was not easy.
By August, I could not hold it in anymore. We were now 2 months into living in our new home, Ton was starting to get more comfortable with a cane, and suddenly, I could not do something that I had never thought about doing before… I could not breathe.
I have heard about panic attacks, watched them on TV, and joked that something dramatic was going to cause me one, but I never experienced one. I was, sitting on the floor, overheating and starting to panic as a rush of emotions swarmed over me.
I remembered an anxiety technique that I learned in college. The 5,4,3,2,1 technique.
Say 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Thankfully, I saw my PCP and started seeing a psychologist shortly after my first panic attack. We discussed my family history, my lifelong struggles with anxiety, and everything that was happening in my life, and decided that medication was the right choice for me at that time. I am extremely thankful that I had established a medication routine and routine checkups when I had that attack because little did I know that August 2017 was nothing yet.
In December 2017, I went to a painting event where I picked to paint the mantra BREATHE on a piece of wood, and since that day, it has been in my bathroom and is a daily reminder as I get ready to breathe. Before my first panic attack, I would have thought that mantra was silly; who does not know how to breathe? Who needs to be reminded to breathe? But then I did. I needed a reminder to breathe in a moment of pure panic.
Since that day, I have also treated myself to a MantraBand bracelet with BREATHE written boldly across my wrist. Sometimes we all need a minute’s reminder, and I enjoy having something to
wear that I can see when that moment strikes. Sometimes we all need to take a minute and reminder ourselves that it will be okay. As John Lennon once said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it is not the end”.
Please know if you suffer from mental illness, you are not alone! If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, please call 1-800-950-NAMI for information and resources.