As I stated in my opening comment. I am not a professional hiding under some pen name. Like the Joes I am the average K not any “special” K. (smirk)
Dealing and overcoming anxiety and panic.
It all started for me in the mid 1990’s. My father who I had adored my entire life suffered a heart attack and was gone. He was my childhood idol. He certainly wasn’t perfect, known to drink, he was a “functioning” alcoholic. He worked at a local tool and grind machine shop during the week and played his beloved music on the weekends. Music was his passion. It truly needs to be noted he totally adored my mother.
To me, he was my best friend and confidant. I never heard him yell except to call me in for dinner. A quiet man. Where as my mother was quite the opposite. Not a drinker, a professional woman, that outside the house was quite a charmer but inside seemed to think it was her obligation to belittle her children with her sharp tongue. Nothing like hearing ” You will never accomplish anything! I was a tomboy and we had the biggest lot in the neighborhood. Growing up with a group of guys, we played soccer, football and baseball, to this day the current owners are still struggling to make grass grow on what was Home plate and First base in our beloved field. Mom’s reaction to all this great outdoor fun. “You are a Slut!” I was 12 the first time she said that to me. I literally didn’t know what the word meant. In later years, one of my childhood friends said to me, “You know K, watching you grow up was like watching the movie “Mommie Dearest”. My older brother and I used to make a joke that perhaps if mom took a drink now and then, her panties wouldn’t be quite so tight. Shame on us- but we did what we needed to, to find humor in a not so funny situation. Thus, having become legally blind in her early retirement years, after my dad passed, she became part of my responsibility.
The professionals believe it was dad’s passing and the lack of a buffer between my mother and I- that created my panic trigger. I started having dizzy spells, felt like I was going to pass out. The room would become dark, I would get the shakes, have a hard time swallowing, my heart felt like it was trying to beat out of my chest. There were times my colleagues would find me curled up in the fetal position, on the floor, in the corner of the ladies room. It wasn’t pretty! I felt totally and utterly out of control. Yes, I am sure you guessed it! I was being introduced to my first panic attacks. In the 1990s when this took place Xanax was handed out like candy. The label stated- Take as needed. It definitely helped me overcome. The trouble didn’t come until I decided it was time to get off that nasty stuff in 2005. It was then I had some major work and one of hell of a challenge to overcome. How to deal with the panic and anxiety without my crutch. It became so bad that just the thought that I needed to go into the grocery store was too much to handle. Things were coming to a head.
Melody Beattie, “The Language of Letting Go”, was my bible in those days. I had also had 10 years to study how a panic attack works, read a lot about facing my fears, the fight or flight syndrome etc. Being a control freak I had the yearn to learn! I was going to beat this! Like a Hoover, I literally sucked up all the information I could. Yet, nothing seemed to work. I was getting frustrated.
It was my understanding that the more panic attacks you have, the more the body learns to react that way. Thus, I thought it must be a learned response. Okay so here is where my mind ran with this information.
The most well known experiment on classic conditioning (a learned response)- is Pavlov’s dog- In case you don’t recall what that is- Google it in Wikipedia. I needed to force myself to start to unlearn to react with a panic attack. Literally, change the habit.
1) I needed to face my fears.
2) I needed something to re-enforce the positive each time I succeeded.
It was about that time that Staples came out with their, “That was Easy” button. Oh my God, the look on my therapist’s face when I told him what I was planning, was literally priceless. Based on the premise of Pavlov’s dog (See I got back to the dog eventually), I started to face my fears one little step at a time. I put the Staples button in my car. I would drive to the grocery store, take a deep breath, grab my list of “one” item, go inside and purchase it. When I got back to the car, I would take a deep cleansing breath and HIT THE BUTTON.
“THAT WAS EASY!”
It sounds totally ridiculous. But I kept at it. Each time adding a few more items to my list and repeating the steps above…With my reinforcement of THAT WAS EASY, over time I literally beat my fear of grocery shopping! To this day, if I have a minor relapse before going into a large shopping mall. I think back, breathe, forge ahead and when I return to my car… Literally say to myself those seemingly simple 3 little words.
I truly believe it is the “Sticktoitiveness” that makes us winners!
Okay, I shared something that worked for me. I would love to hear of any tried and true panic busters that have worked for you. I look forward to your input. And bring on the smart comments about my button experiment I will relish them.
“Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”
– Dennis P. Kimbro