Photo 84Louise

Let’s discuss panic and anxiety disorder.  I had my first panic attack when I had two toddlers a year apart, and my mother-in-law had just visited for a month.  I was minding my own business when suddenly I couldn’t breathe, and my face and limbs got all prickly and numb, but my heart was hammering.  It felt like I was being forced into a deep hole from which there was no return. Panic.

Contrary to what it feels like, a panic attack is when you’re taking in too much oxygen rather than suffocating.  The way to make it go away is to breathe into a pillow or jam your mouth and nose into a paper bag.  Or take a tranquilizer, which no person experiencing her first panic attack ever has on hand.  Even knowing this information, the second panic attack feels no better than the first.  It always feels like you’re going to die.

Anxiety is more generalized, but can keep you under the covers some days and can lead to depression, because it’s really tiresome to be anxious all the time.  And the thing is if you don’t take it by the horns, it’s worse.  You have to do your life’s work despite the anxiety and panic. Bummer.

Here are some helps not in any particular order:  1) Decide to be imperfect.  2) Stop worrying about what other people think about you. 3) Exercise, exercise, exercise.  (I hate this one the most).  7) Find someone to talk to.  If your husband isn’t good at this, then find a girlfriend.  Find a good therapist.  (Not all therapists are equal—shop around)  5) Pray for guidance. Be specific.  6) Don’t be afraid of medication.  This scares young people, but women of a certain age know that medication is a gift from God.   It’s a gift. Insulin is a gift; so are serotonin inhibitors. 4) Don’t repeatedly thank your husband for “putting up with you.”  He’s probably got some other kind of anxiety disorder like obsessive/compulsive disorder and is driving you out of your mind.  8) Take care of yourself.  It’s not selfish. It’s good sense.  (Oprah is right about this).  9) Turn dark thoughts into positive affirmations.  10) There is no ten.  11) Face your chemistry. Anxiety and panic disorders are chemical disorders and run in families. 15) Stop talking about having a nervous breakdown. There is no such thing as a nervous breakdown, especially now days with excellent meds. 20) Pretend you’re a cat and find a square of sunshine.

Finally, you’re not going mad (despite your husband or mother-in-law). It’s really hard to go mad.  Try hallucinating.  Try hearing voices. It’s really hard to do. (Although I often hear muffled radio voices late at night. Sometimes I go downstairs to see if the radio is on. Sometimes, I just raise my head off the pillow. I don’t know what it means, and I don’t care).