Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

I guess I spent many years of my life suffering from anxiety, with quite a few panic attacks along the way. Not knowing about anxiety, what it is, nor what panic attacks are, I thought that I was just a nervous wreck. Once I was diagnosed with anxiety, and learned about it and about panic attacks, I had to look back at my life and see where these had happened, and the situations that caused them. This opened up the door for even more healing in my life, by working through these situations.

Here I am now, almost free of anxiety, with my last panic attack over 4 years ago, and I can still remember the fear that encased me during them. I see this happen to others, and know that what helped me was to begin to understand why they happened, and I want to talk about this, to bring it out into the open so that we can look at them with new eyes, and hopefully, heal them from within.

I guess we are going back to the Healing Blog Articles with this one, and I'm okay with that, for this is something that needs to be talked about. I am by no means a professional, a psychoanalyst, a counselor, so this is not scientifically proven medical fact that we will be discussing here. It is, instead, my own experience and the lessons I learned from it all. I would also like to invite you to share your experiences and what you have learned about it. Let us shine a light here, together, and find some answers for us all.

Growing up, I suffered stomach problems, for as far back as I can remember. Pain, upset stomach, and it would send me to my room, keep me out of school, I would hide with my pain, and when I did, I received the nurturing I needed so badly. I do believe it was the only time I ever received nurturing, so perhaps sometimes it was just a ploy to be nurtured. Yet, perhaps I also felt the tension in the house, the arguments that happened after we kids went to bed. Maybe my empathy and intuition picked up on it all, or on the negative energy that had to be prevalent in our home.

There was also the abuse. From my first memories, there was the abuse, mental and emotional. Being forced to eat my words instead of expressing them, I am sure caused me a lot of the stomach problems. Looking at it now from this perspective, I know that when, in the recent past, I was forced to eat my words out of fear, I felt anxiety. When I pushed through the fear to speak my Truth, I felt high anxiety. Due to early programming, I didn't feel like I was allowed to speak my Truth, as if my Truth, my words, my opinion didn't matter, nor did my feelings - feelings? I was allowed to have feelings about things? No no no! Never!

I was raised by one who also ate their feelings, never expressing them. So who was I to have feelings? It has occurred to me over the last few days, that the sins of our fathers (and mothers) really are ours too. The physical, mental, and emotional result of my parent not being able to express themselves, is my physical, mental and emotional pain, as well. It became issues that I had to recover from, learn from, heal from, even when I had not suffered the issues that caused these physical/emotional/mental symptoms to develop. Stomach pain and anxiety among them. But I digress. We are here to talk about panic attacks and anxiety today, not my childhood.

Later, the stepfather, the physical abuse, the controlling behavior. After this I learned to be in fear when being screamed at, when another was asserting themselves over me. This carried over into the adult years, and became something I had to heal from - still am healing from, if truth be told. It's really difficult when someone is screaming in your face, putting you down, or using you to build themselves up, to be true to yourself, if you have been conditioned to not speak up on your own behalf. There is a fear you must push through, you have to find your voice again. I've done a lot of work with my Throat Chakra, pushing through blockages there, yet that was not the whole enchilada. Abuse also attacks your Solar Plexus Chakra, affecting your belief in yourself, your self-esteem, your sense of worthiness, even your sense of belonging in this world, your right be belong, your right to be you.

Then we move down even further, to our Sacral Chakra, and how it is affected by abuse, especially by sexual abuse, but also it is hampered when we are not allowed to express ourselves creatively, when we are not allowed to express our passion. Or passions. We are here to do the work we enjoy doing, not to be forced into doing things we do not enjoy! And when we must stifle our creative urges, or even our sexual ones, we are in Truth stifling our passions. When we are not allowed to speak up and speak out about things that really matter to us, again, we are stifling our passion. Even not expressing our anger, is a way of stifling our passion, our belief in ourselves.

And down further we must delve, to the level of the Earth, our Root Chakra, which is responsible for our sense of security, which, if we've been abused, we do not have. Do you feel secure in your own skin? In your sacred space? In your home? In the world? At this point, we might want to look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid. Click on it to enlarge it so that you can read the details!

We need to take care of the things at the bottom of the pyramid, before we feel safe and secure in moving upwards to higher levels in the pyramid, and addressing those things. Our Safety is only preceded by our physiological needs - eating, sleeping, etc. When we have those things in place, we move to the level of safety. If we don't feel safe in our own home, we can not progress any further, and when we are being abused, we do not feel safe, therefore, we cannot realize our full potential. So our goal is to make ourselves feel safe. Once we have achieved that, we can then work on our self-esteem issues that developed due to abuse. And then on our self-love issues in the Heart Chakra, and then on to the Throat Chakra and beyond. We can work on each Chakra and opening them fully, in turn. Notice how the Chakra colors correspond to the levels of the Pyramid:

But enough about the science of it all. Let's talk about how it feels!

A sense of nervousness that expresses itself as a physical symptom - shaking like a leaf, or feeling like it, at least. That flutter of butterflies in our stomach when someone addresses us, especially an authority figure. At times, being too nervous to respond. Or, when something happens to us, let's say a minor car accident, we become extremely paranoid, shaking like a leaf, enveloped in fear. Why? Are we afraid of being yelled at? Told that it is our "fault"? I have found that even when there is no one in my life to yell at me, I still held on to that fear. Why? It was programmed into me. Sure, I'm an adult and can make my own choices, my own decisions, but knowing that does not ease the sense of fear that I did something wrong. And that is the key, I was always afraid of "doing something wrong". Wrong by whose standards? It certainly wasn't my own! Just exactly whose voice was it in my head telling me that I was a screw-up? Aha! I had to learn to exorcise that voice. And, speaking of which, it is very difficult to listen to your own intuition, your own inner voice, if you are still hearing your abuser in your head. But that is what brainwashing does to you, it takes you out of who you are, and turns you into who they program you to be. "You will never succeed at anything" because they never did. And how long did you let that hold you back in life? At some point, you have to realize the damage that has been done to you, and seek help. You have to know you are worthy and that you survived it all for a reason, and get help getting it out of your head - and your body. Just as a kidnap victim or former cult member would seek help coming out of the brainwashing that had been used on them, so, too, must a survivor of abuse, for this is brainwashing at its deepest level when it begins in your formative years of childhood, by those you were taught to obey and respect from birth.

Ah, back to the anxiety this all causes! To live in fear every day of your life until you finally escape them. And then perhaps to find another controlling person to install in your life to replace them. Because by this point, you don't know how to act all by yourself, you need someone to control you, or you feel unease. If we don't pick a lover who does this for us, we might pick a friend, or even a boss. This keeps happening again and again, because we become addicted to being controlled, to being told what to do, and to that nervousness that keeps us aware... sadly aware and on edge all the time. Adrenaline seeking, we must be on edge to be comfortable. We live on the the edge, the edge of society, the edge of life and death, and we begin liking the adventure, the ride. It keeps our emotions primed, always at the edge of tears or laughter, madness or sanity, our obsessive love for another becomes a substitute for the love of the parent who abused us. And, in turn, their love for us feeds us what we never got from that parent, what we think of as true love, is just another form of disciplinarian.

If anxiety is the moment to moment nervousness, that sense of living on the edge that we must live with every moment of every day, then what is the panic attack, or are we living in a constant state of panic attack? Does it ever get worse? Does it ever ease off? Does it fluctuate at all? I don't know about you, but for me, I think the only time it ever did was when I went out on my own into nature. A day spent at the zoo, in the mountains, hiking, sitting by a body of water for a time, these were the only times it wasn't so bad. When was it worse? When the abuser came home from work, or from anywhere, actually, and as I sat there waiting on them, or went home knowing they were there, the anxiety increased. I tried to subvert my feelings of having done something wrong, because I knew that I would be accused of it the moment I saw them. What had I done that day? What would I need to explain? And that is how I lived on the edge. Learning that I did not need to explain myself to anyone, was a true turning point in my life. I and I alone am responsible for what I do - or don't do, or do wrong... it's all about me, and if I accept responsibility for all that I do (or don't do, or say, or think), then I am being true to myself, and allowing myself to act by my own standards.

Back then I went to work, I got away from it every day, only to find more abuse there on the job. It seems if you do not learn your lesson and get ALL of the abuse out of your life, you will be forced to repeat the lesson, over and over again until you finally get it, and get out, rescuing yourself once and for all. Until you do, you suffer that anxiety, that on-the-edge feeling, all the time. Your body feels it constantly. That is what anxiety is, it is always fearing what is coming, what is going to happen. Fear of the future? No, not really, in that space you cannot think that far ahead, you are too afraid of your immediate future, the next hour, the next day, and that is as far ahead as you can think.

Fear, held within, becomes anxiety.
Anger, held within, becomes anxiety.
Holding our voice, our words, within us, can also become anxiety.
Holding anything within you can become disease. Worry held within becomes stomach problems, while grief held within harms the lungs. Emotions held within can cause heart problems.
To not be able to express oneself, in any of these ways, eventually breaks down the entire system, and something has to crash to get our attention. Panic Attacks are one form of this crash, health problems are others....

Are you still with me here? Do you still want me to talk about Panic Attacks or are you tired of listening to me ramble? Shall we continue?

Panic Attacks:
For me, panic attacks were my body's way of responding to a frightening situation, one in which I was not in control. When I felt my life was at risk, and another was telling me what to do, I was having a panic attack. I knew I needed to be in control of myself - my actions and reactions, my words and thoughts, even my own safety. Riding in a car one day, the driver almost running up on a curb and taking out a street sign. I began having a panic attack. He was in control of a 2000 lb vehicle that can become a deadly weapon in the wrong hands, and I was along for the ride. I was in a precarious position, and I knew it. In fact, we were on the way to the hospital for him to have surgery, and, truth be told, I was very worried about what could happen in the surgery. I believe that began the anxiety that day, and the almost accident caused me to go into a full blown panic attack. Having him tell me to stop it, did not help matters - as I am sure you know, if you too suffer from panic attacks. In fear for his life, and then in fear for my own, and having absolutely no control over any of it. That describes that panic attack's purpose. My body reacted by pushing out the anxiety in any way that it could - ergo, a panic attack.

Another time, on a plane sitting on the airport tarmac for quite a while, and not knowing why. Finally we are told to leave the plane in an orderly fashion, taking nothing with us, not getting into the overhead compartments, to just quickly leave as there had been a bomb threat. And what happens but the guy in front of us decides to take his luggage out of the overhead compartment, blocking everyone behind him, including me. I panicked. I told him off, my voice broke, I screamed at him... and I remember very little of it all. Next thing I know, I am in the airport again. He impeded my personal safety and I had a panic attack.

So you see why I think that a panic attack is our body's way of responding when we are suddenly thrust into a situation that is beyond our control, a situation that is life or death, or at least, appears to be at the time.

Maybe I've had other panic attacks, I don't remember. I didn't learn what they were until I began my healing process, about 10 years ago. I am quite sure I had them before that! I've been nervous all of my life. My doctor told me it was anxiety. He gave me pills. Once I learned what it was, it was much easier for me to heal myself, to learn to release the anxiety, and therefore stop having the panic attacks which are a build up of anxiety.

How do you learn not to have anxiety? By teaching yourself to speak up on your own behalf, by pushing through the fear that blocks you from doing things for yourself.

We do not have control over anything in life except our actions and reactions, our words and thoughts. We can't control others who block our paths in a moment of danger - but we can choose to speak out against them. We can choose to get out of the car and get some fresh air. We can choose to release our anxiety in physical ways - running, walking, exercising, yoga, breath work, and visualizations all come to mind. Working with your Chakras helps a lot, learning about each one and how yours are functioning, i.e. are they open, over active, under active, balanced?

Go here and take the Chakra Test:
Eclectic Energies Chakra Test

It will tell you where you need to do some work, and the site also has pages talking about each Chakra, and Mudras to help to open and balance them. It's an excellent site, and it's information helped me a lot in the early years of learning about my Chakras.

In the end, however, I had to do the work. I had to heal myself by seeking healing from counselors who guided me until I learned to do my own work, my own healing. The more I did, the less anxiety I had. I learned that I am worthy, I am free to be me, and I have learned, most importantly, to love and respect myself and my decisions. I am responsible for me and me alone, and no one else is or ever was, truly. It's my life, my choices that matter now. I choose to be happy. I choose to be free. I choose to honor myself in every way. I choose abundance. I choose love. I choose to share these insights with others, in the hopes that they will help, and that others will choose to pass on their knowledge, as well.

We cannot get where we are going as a society, if we stay locked inside our shells. It is time to open up, and to begin communicating about the things that matter, even if it's personal, especially when it's personal, so that we can learn that we are not alone. And we aren't. Others suffer in their own ways, just as we suffer. When we learn to talk about it, we free not only ourselves, but inspire others to do the same. We inspire openness, we inspire change, we inspire courage. We truly are here to help each other, to love each other, and to be the best we can be at being ourselves, our truest selves.

I could go on, but I won't. I've said enough. I thank you for listening. I thank you for sharing anything you can, here in the comments. I will keep them private if you ask me to.

I will come back and do another blog on the Chakras and how we can work with them -  and with other tools - to heal these issues within ourselves, in the next week or two. For now, my message is that knowledge and understanding can help us to begin to heal.

Be kind to yourself and gentle with yourself.
Be true to you!
So much love going out to you,
In gratitude,

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