Anxiety is a bully standing on my chest making it impossible for me to breathe.
My stomach churns with nausea and I can picture the stress damaging my body.
Anxiety and panic attacks have plagued me throughout my 35 years. When I was a child, my parents just thought Janice and I were ‘worriers’. But, by age eleven, my worry turned to physical panic attacks that would make me throw up. While at university, I was sometimes physically ill when the stress of exams and perfectionism took over.
However, I did enjoy relief from panic attacks for several years during my career as a software developer as I learned to conquer my perfectionism.
But, after giving birth to Julia, my panic attacks returned. Medication helped but did not control them completely. Birthing Sophia was even worse for my anxiety.
You’d think by now I would take my mental health seriously and take better care of myself. But as a crazy-busy work-at-home mom with a preschooler and a baby, I’ve taken advantage of my body and have worked too hard. I’ve pushed on with one more project, one more post, one more email. But two weeks ago my body shouted, “Stop.”
At 11 p.m. I stood at the kitchen sink, exhausted and nauseous. Suddenly, I gave in to a dangerous negative thought… “What if I can’t do it? I feel so sick. How am I going to…?” And like an electric current, panic shot up my spine and ignited my head with flaming heat.
I knew the signs. I knew it was coming. I lowered myself to the ground and, since my husband was asleep upstairs, I called my mom to come up from the office.
She called back that she was busy with an order and would come soon. I couldn’t reply.
Thankfully, she changed her mind and came up to see what I needed. All I could say was, “Get me a bucket.”
The next thing I heard was her voice saying, “Are you conscious?” I realized I was throwing up into a bucket she was holding with one hand as she held my head up with her other hand.
I hadn’t passed out for long – only for a couple of minutes at the most. That’s all it ever is. A shot of panic, an electric bolt of heat to my head, and I pass out. When I regain consciousness it’s always accompanied by vomiting. Then I feel a strange relief that it has passed. But I’m left with a sadness that, once again, I’ve lost my fight against anxiety.
So, for the last two weeks, I’ve taken some time to relax and focus on myself. I’ve even joined a yoga class! The nausea has subsided a little and I haven’t had any more full-on, pass-out and throw-up panic attacks… so far.
I know I must value myself. I must invest in my mind and my body – give them what they need to survive.
What about you? Have you ever had a panic attack or experienced extreme anxiety? What techniques have helped your deal with your anxiety?