Panic with Purpose

I did it…I finally published my blog! Geez Louise, that took forever.

If you are checking it out for the first time, I apologize for my lack of technical knowledge. I’ve been really trying to perfect my layout, website function, staying up way too late watching WordPress tutorials, blah blah blah. But my friend Kristen (who has been helping me navigate this blog world per her blog, Junk Drawer Diaries) reminded me to drop my perfectionist tendencies and just do it already.

“The message is the most important part.”

Yes!!!! Sometimes you just need someone else to remind you of what you already know.

I mentioned panic with purpose on my Facebook post, and I just wanted to elaborate. For those of you who have panic disorder, it is not only terrifying, life-altering and miserable, but the panic attacks seem to serve no purpose whatsoever. Which is absolutely maddening. But I don’t believe that anymore. Now I panic with purpose.

Here’s a brief neurological explanation of a panic attack. So most of you are familiar with the fight or flight response. So, if there is a tiger chasing you, your brain sends signals to your nervous system to either fight or flee from the event. Your adrenaline gets going, your heartbeat and breath quicken, your body tingles, your senses become more acute. When you have panic disorder, your fight or flight response is a bit off. It can be triggered by a traumatic event, or in my case comes out of the blue, usually during a period of life change (positive or negative). My first panic attack happened in the bedding department at Macy’s. No tigers to be found.

Anyway, you pretty much feel like you are dying or going crazy, without a clear reason.  You tend to avoid places in which you have panicked before, which starts a lifestyle of avoidance, and avoidance only fuels the disorder. Phobias can develop over time. Pretty soon your kids are wondering why you had to turn around while in line for the Gran Fiesta Tour with Donald Duck at Epcot so you could escape the fear of a dark confined space and just sit on a bench and take a Xanax since you nearly panicked just anticipating that nightmare. Trust me people, this is no way to live.

Through exposure therapy, every time I panic, I see it as an opportunity to learn. It is a time to practice, to manage, to heal. It doesn’t feel like it at the time, of course. But the more I chip away at this monster of fear the more progress I am making. I am truly panicking with purpose, and that purpose is to eventually not panic.

This is a slow, grueling process. But I’ve already gained so much ground. Short-term struggle for long-term gain. There are so many days where I’m not up for it- the practice of exposure therapy. But the show must go on. 12 years of letting fear run my life is just too long.

My other purpose is just as motivating as recovery, and that’s the purpose of helping others. If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s my empathetic heart. I know how awful this journey can be. If I can help one person get through it, my heart will be happy. I believe in others more than myself sometimes, and this is half the reason I am blogging in the first place. To connect with others who need to be understood, who feel isolated and alone. It took years for me to accept this disorder and I remember feeling like no one understood what I was going through. The loneliness is unbearable.

So, I choose to panic with purpose from now on. No more wasting energy and anger. It does not serve me anymore. The more I learn to let it go, to lean into the panic, the more progress I make. My purpose is now crystal clear. It’s a scary and vulnerable place, but I’m staying in line for this ride.