Updated: Apr 20, 2019
Most of you who meet me today would have NO idea that i used to suffer from DEBILITATING anxiety and panic attacks.
It began in grade 7 or 8, and was likely a result of bullying… and looking back, it wasn’t just that I was on the receiving end of some nasty ‘mean girl’ behaviours, but I also saw others getting the same, and at times, even worse treatment. I also put a TREMENDOUS amount of pressure on myself to excel at EVERYTHING.
When it first began, it was always in the mornings. I remember being in the shower, and suddenly feeling my blood run cold, despite being under a stream of hot water. This got SO bad that on one occasion I fell out, and had to be rescued, wet and stark naked, by my Dad. And we all know how self conscious an adolescent girl is… this was the stuff of nightmares, and yet, I clearly remember thinking I was actually dying, and was so focused on that, I wasn’t even vaguely embarrassed.
My parents took me to the doctor, and hypoglycemia was the initial diagnosis. I was told to eat a few soda crackers before getting out of bed in the morning, so that my blood sugar would stabilize. Imagine our surprise when this didn’t change a damn thing!
Eventually, they settled on anxiety. At that time, no medication was offered, (which is a stark contrast to current times!) but I was basically sent home with the knowledge that there was nothing ‘actually’ wrong with me, and that it was all in my head. I had a VERY difficult time correlating the SEVERE physical responses my body was having to being JUST anxiety, however, I had not choice but to accept it, and no tools to learn how to combat, or overcome it.
This seemed to eventually ebb and flow, in times of lesser stress, my mornings were spent singinging enthusiastically into my hair brush, and other days, I laid on the cold floor thinking I’d stay there forever. I don’t ever really remember feeling any stigma, or shame...no one outside of our family knew about what was going on, and my parents were awesome… concerned, of course, but they never told me to ‘suck it up’, they just tried their best to support me, and make things better. (WITHOUT any help from the medical community….le sigh)
As the roller coaster of life took another exciting dip and twist, I became a Mama at 17, and a single one at that. I was out on my own, with my son, juggling work, and school, with no time for the luxury of anxiety...and i don’t say that lightly….I say it to reflect the fact that I believe I was in full on ‘cavewoman survival’ mode to make sure I kept the tiny human alive. In those early years, the attacks all but disappeared….never reaching debilitating levels any time I was alone, at least not that I can remember. I have no idea why things didn’t get WORSE during this time in my life, which I can only describe as mentally (and oftimes physically) gruelling, but I am forever grateful that I was able to navigate through this valley without also having to deal with these episodes.
Fast forward to moving in with my current partner, my son was 4, and we had settled into a routine, and were coming together as a family. Perhaps it was because I finally felt like I could exhale, ever so slightly, but my old friend came back, with a vengeance. And this time, there were meds. I was prescribed Ativan and Xanax ‘as needed’ for panic attacks. They worked….sort of. They DID stop the overwhelming feeling that I was about to die, but this came at the cost of my entire day, as taking even half of one pill would render me unconscious for HOURS. I can remember feeling the weight of judgement all around me as I fell behind at school, and scrambled to get caught up after missing so many classes. This only served to amplify the stress and was a catalyst for even worse attacks, and of course, a massive blow to my self esteem. Oh yes… THIS time… I not only had meds… I had SHAME...and I had it in SPADES!!
I remember one day hearing my now husband talking to his mother on the phone, and her inquiring about me being home from work/school ‘AGAIN’ and I felt SO much shame. Yes..I was home for the day...AGAIN. And it didn’t feel like there was a damn thing I could do about it.
NOT to vilify my MIL!! I imagine the worry and uncertainty she felt from her perspective as the mother of a boy who was not only dating a ‘girl with a kid’, but one who couldn't seem to get her shit together. AND I wasn’t able to articulate what the hell was happening to me...so it probably seemed like I was just a generally lazy, unmotivated person. Let me clarify… not only did I find it difficult to fully explain WHAT was happening (particularly since I didn’t have a compelling reason as to WHY) but I was TERRIFIED that even talking about it would precipitate another episode!! Can anyone relate to this??! Because I had a few years where I was mainly ‘in the clear’ it felt like even discussing the topic would make it worse!! Kinda like Beetlejuice.
Now...I wish I could tell you that I started using magic beans, or even Essential Oils and ‘cured’ myself. But that isn’t what happened. To be honest, I don’t really remember any one thing in particular that caused the attacks to stop...but they just sort of waned...and I did my damndest to never speak, or even think about any of it, lest it bring on more of the same. Eventually, they just stopped. Instead of having 2-3 per week, they started to spread out, until I would go a month or more without even a suggestion of a fluttering heart. My circumstances had largely stayed the same, we were still young, broke, and struggling, but very much in love…and they just kind of ‘petered out’
I remember finding an old bottle of Ativan one day at the back of the bathroom cupboard, and realizing it had been over a year since I’d taken the last one. I dropped that bottle like it was on fire, and shut the cupboard door, not willing to tempt fate by throwing it out.
As time went on, my stress levels rose and fell, as life swirled around us. Buying a house, planning our wedding, and having another baby all passed through without so much as a glimpse of that dreaded weight on my chest. My first ‘baby’ turned into a teenager, and we had more stress than a human knew what to do with, and still, no blips. I watched friends struggle through their own battles, and at the MOST, the very most I would volunteer would be to say ‘i used to have panic attacks’
Looking back, I feel so selfish for having never shared this. But I also understand that this was purely out of self preservation, and not out of shame, or a lack of willingness to help.
I was terrified that I would bring on another attack even if I spoke about it…. If I called it back into my memory. Like summoning an angry ghost with a Ouija board.
As the years passed, I felt more and more ‘safe’ and less worried that I’d conjure it up again….but since I had invested so much energy in trying to forget, or pretend it never happened, it kind of edited itself out of my day to day thoughts. When people would bring up the topic, as is a frequent discussion in my Oil Education Classes, and 1:1 consultations, I would focus on THEM...never sharing anything from my past, or personal experience.
In the weeks leading up to my recent trip overseas, and the decision to leave my STABLE, comfortable and secure 9-5 job and take a leap of faith… I felt the corners of my mind start to darken.
I felt the flutters of my heart starting to beat out of control.
I closed my eyes and prayed that it wouldn't come back.
Instead of relief, I felt that old familiar 5 tonne weight take its place on my chest.
Ok. I said. Here we go.
I recognized it.
I spoke to my anxiety, sometimes OUT LOUD!
I acknowledged all of the MASSIVE changes I was making
I took more deep breaths than I thought possible
I pressed the soles of my feet flat into the floor
I pressed the palms of my hands flat onto my thighs
I painted myself with Frankincense, Balance, Bergamot, Wild Orange and Cedarwood
I put Copaiba under my tounge like it was my JOB!
I spoke gently to my heart
I told those around me what was happening when it was present, not with a desire to seek help, or even understanding, but just to shine a light on this, rather than letting it grow in those dark corners.
The ride to the airport for this trip was nearly unbearable. I was so physically uncomfortable that I had to keep shifting around in my seat, closing my eyes, and sighing, great, deep sighs. (much to the chagrin of my amazing chauffeur, Chad!) I worried this would reach fever pitch as we approached the airport. I had to contend with the bustle of the airport, and then HOURS alone, waiting for my flight. ALONE. I had flashes of pictures of me with my head between my legs in a cold departure terminal, and worse, visions of me losing control of myself on the plane during the 15 hour leg to Taiwan. Full disclosure: I was travelling with a 2 yr old bottle of Ativan that had been prescribed to help us sleep on our trip to Thailand in 2016, so I was somewhat confident that I could avoid being tasered by an Air Marshall - YES, that was an ACTUAL part of a vision I had!! Horrors!!!
I kept acknowledging, breathing, grounding and oiling.
I kept addressing the visions, and doubts that kept creeping in.
I see you.
I feel you.
I AM STILL HERE.
As we pulled up the the departures area, I closed my eyes, planted my feet and hands, and took one last big ass breath. Then, I opened my car door. I grabbed my bags, kissed my man, and put one foot in front of the other towards the sliding doors.
With EVERY step, the weight started to shift, and eventually, as I approached the ticket counter, and handed over my passport...it was gone.
The gratitude I feel for being able to get through this experience is beyond words. I believe it was a combination of ALL the tools I employed, as well as some answered prayers that made it possible…. And I don’t profess to have any magic answers for others.. But I think it’s time I broke my silence, as well as gave up my fear of relapse.
Please note that I am not all ‘anti-pharma’ all the time...if this is something you are walking through, and you need that assist, then it is an empowering decision to make to take back your own health! But PLEASE consider incorporating some or all of these other amazing tools into you repertoire alongside pharmaceuticals and of course, professional counselling...I TRULY believe they will bring you back to ‘you’ faster, and in a more holistic manner.
For me, if it comes back…. I can’t say ‘I’m not afraid’ I am fact, VERY afraid to walk through this valley again, but I know that if I must….I will not walk alone.
I have tools. I am armed with knowledge, support, breath and a shit load of oils!! I have my voice, which is my most powerful weapon...to declare that my power is just that. MINE!!
For anyone who is struggling….I see you...and I am sending you out a MASSIVE hug, and wrapping support around you to know that you are not alone, and that there is a huge community out there that want to help. PLEASE reach out if you are feeling the darkness creep in. Don’t suffer in silence...sharing may not make it better in the moment, but at least you won’t be alone! <3
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