on anxiety and panic attacks

“Anxiety is a sly parasite. It creeps slowly into your mind, until one day, it takes over completely. Then you find yourself alone and scared to go anywhere because you may have another panic attack. You fear you may not be able to control it. You fear the unknown.” – Silent All These Years, T.A. Massa

In my new novel, Silent All These Years, my main character Melanie suffers from a crippling anxiety and panic disorder. Her panic and anxiety is so strong, she can barley live a normal life and she could panic at any minute.

I wanted to give my main character anxiety mostly because I wanted to talk about it.

I wanted to shed light on a subject that most of us women face, but rarely give any light.

I have suffered with anxiety mostly since becoming a mother eleven years ago, although it took me years to figure out it was called anxiety.

Here is what happened:

I’ve always been a worrier, but once I became a mother and stress of raising children starting building up, a feeling of anxiousness developed and it felt different than just worry, it felt more urgent.

I would stress about everything – the kid’s health, my health, my husband’s health, money, what we were eating, if the kids were developing on schedule, the to-do list, living up to a Pinterest board life, cleaning, forgetting pajama day at school – everything became life or death.

The more these uneasy feelings grew and became a everyday part of my life, and the more I ignored them, the more my body reacted.

At first I didn’t know what was happening to my body. I had a bad cramp in my stomach every day, all day. It felt like a punch in the gut. A constant wringing of my intestines. A gripping of my stomach that caused severe pain.

I went to doctors, had Ultra-sounds, a CT scan. Everything was normal, but the pain didn’t go away.

I learned to live with it, and eventually, after lots of Google research, I started to understand that the pain in my stomach was a physical symptom of anxiety.

I didn’t even know that was possible! How can anxiety give you physical pain?? I thought anxiety was just in my head. Nope!

Once I learned what was causing my stomach pain, and I was able to name it anxiety, I got a little better at controlling it.

After that, every time my stomach hurt from anxiety I would do something to make it go away. I would drink wine, work excessively, organize the house, move, ignore it…I hope you see this was leading to a disaster!

I was in no way dealing with my anxiety. I was hiding from it, and this went on for years.

Then, tragedy struck. My Dad got diagnosed with cancer and then we lost him two years ago.

What happens when something so large occurs that you can’t hide from it, you can’t stuff it down to an already full stomach? You guessed it — it comes OUT.

Introducing – Panic Attacks

Yes, as if the constant gut pain anxiety wasn’t bad enough, I started having panic attacks. If you have never had one of these, or maybe you have but you didn’t know what it was called, these attacks feel like you are dying.

My first panic attack I told my husband I was having a heart attack and I needed to go to the emergency room. I was dizzy, I was about to faint, I couldn’t stand up, the room was spinning, and I swore I was going to DROP DEAD.

Greg raced me to the emergency room and I spent $2000 for the doctor and nurses to tell me I was fine. It was only an anxiety attack. Nothing more.

Since that first attack, I have had countless more, but they all look a little different.

One attack I was in the car and I lost all control of my temper. I pulled over and started screaming and kicking, and cussing and punching, and hyperventilating.

I’ve had a few like this where everything I’ve held down comes screaming out with no control.

Here is what I describe in my novel of what having a panic attack can feel like:

“My body crashes to the floor as the panic attack takes over. My gut clenches in pain. Tremors begin in my arms and legs. Tears stream like fountains down my face. Gasping, gasping, gasping, I can’t catch a breath. I feel like I’m dying. Any minute, I could pass out, and I may never wake up. I claw at the carpet, reaching for anything that may keep me alive.

I finally suck in a huge breath of air and then exhale it by screaming as loudly as I can. Kicking my legs on the ground, turning over and over, I scream out all of my demons. The noise released is enough to scare anyone who may be listening through my walls.”

Okay, so I know that was a little dramatic but I’ve legit had these attacks before.

Now that I know what they are, I know the warning signs and I can stop them. I know when I start to loose the feeling in my fingers, when I get dizzy and the room starts to spin, when I feel like I am going to blackout, I am about to panic.

With help from my Doctor, she has prescribed something I can take to prevent the attack. If I take my medicine and I lie down until the feeling goes away, I can prevent the full attack. I can’t walk, I can’t stand up, or I fall over. Usually my husband is there to help me and we work through it together. He knows how to calm me down, by confirming that it is just anxiety, I’m not dying, there is no reason to panic.

Now that I have had these attacks, I worry even more about having more attacks, which can lead to more anxiety, which can lead to not going out of the house. This can be so tragic!

I fight my anxiety daily by not ever letting it win. I do everything as I normally would, and I face my fears every day, but this is a conscience choice, and it is something I live with every second of every day of my life.

“If only this anxiety didn’t dictate all of my thoughts morning until night, a constant reminder to be afraid, to not get too comfortable because danger is always there, waiting, ready to strike at any moment.” – Silent All These Years, T.A. Massa

With help from my therapist (which I HIGHLY recommend going to) I have been able to deal with my emotions, fears, and feelings, in a WAY more healthy manner. I am no longer hiding from my anxiety, but instead leaning into it. I am writing about it, sharing it, feeling it. Even as I write this, my stomach is so tight it hurts, but I know with meditation, breathing, resting, writing, ect…all of these things will help me way more than drinking wine, working harder, and hiding.

I know I can control my anxiety now, and so can you!

You are not alone. You are not the first woman to stuff your feelings down so deep until they explode in a rage of panic. I promise! There is nothing wrong with you.

I know other women who have reached out to me that live with anxiety just like this, just like me. It breaks my heart to think of women out there who are suffering with this horrible anxiety alone. 

Don’t do what I did and let your anxiety take over your life. Deal with it now in a healthy way. I am here for you and I hope you can learn from my story. If you are already experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety get help now. If you are having panic attacks, take a good look at how you are handling your stress. Talk to your therapist, your doctor, talk to me. Talk to anyone that you can about what you are feeling.

If you want to talk to me, I am totally here for you! Please comment below or email me. I want to talk about this and I want us to help each other through it. That’s what friends are for!

xoxo, Tiffani

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