Almost 5 months ago, I was rushed to the emergency room because of what I thought was a heart attack. My heart was beating through my chest, my arms and legs were numb, and my mind was racing with thoughts that I was dying. It was by far one of the scariest moments of my life. After doing some tests, the doctor told me that my heart was fine and what possibly could’ve happened was a bad reaction to my ADHD medication. I was relieved that it was nothing too serious. So the next day, I went back to living my life.
But a few weeks ago, it happened again. This time it was much worse. For the second time in a few months, my wife had to rush me to the ER. Along with the symptoms I’d already experienced, now my throat was closing shut, I was extremely pale, and I had a pain in my chest that I’d never felt before. Because I hadn’t taken my medication for more than a month prior to this, I knew that something more serious was going on. Once again, I feared the worst.
After doing another EKG test, my doctor said my heart was fine. Going through my symptoms again, she told me it sounds like what I’m experiencing are panic attacks. She said I should do more yoga and to make sure I’m exercising and staying hydrated. Then she
said goodbye and went off to her next patient. Meanwhile, there I was walking out of her office wondering what the hell was going on.
Even though my heart was fine, I left the hospital that day with a ton of questions and a whole lot of fear. Panic attacks? What if it happens again? Was this something I’d live with forever? How do I make it stop? This was something I didn’t understand and the fact that I wasn’t in control of it made things even worse. But then a friend told me that, “even though we don’t have the ability to control what happens to us, we can still be proactive about dealing with it to help keep things in perspective.” That was exactly what I needed to hear.
So that day I went home and researched everything I could find on panic attacks and anxiety. I started getting a much better idea of what anxiety is, why panic attacks happen, and what I could do to get it under control. I always thought anxiety just meant being uncertain about future events and like a lot of people I know, I suffer from this. But as I
began to dig a little deeper, I read something that really opened my eyes. In his book titled Dare: The new way to end anxiety and stop panic attacks, author Barry McDonagh explains that, “you feel the way you do because of high levels of stress hormones in your system. Basically your body’s fight-or-flight response has gone a bit trigger-happy and is wreaking mental and emotional havoc.” Reading this gave me a better understanding that the high amounts of stress I’ve been feeling have caused my nervous system to become over sensitized. This over sensitization occurs when “our nerves have become alerted to respond too quickly to situations that would, at other times, leave us unmoved.” In other words, it causes a person to overreact to stress. I realized that the stress in my life, or my overreaction to it, is what’s to blame for elevating my anxiety and ultimately triggering my panic attacks.
This realization has made me put more of my focus on actively finding new ways to combat triggering more stress or panic attacks. The first thing I did was made a doctors appointment to have some blood work done to find out exactly what is going on inside my body. I also am starting to do more yoga, meditation, and making sure I’m always staying hydrated. Hydration is a big one and something myself, and a lot of people, often overlook. I recently read somewhere that for a person to be fully hydrated, they must drink half of their body weight in ounces, of water every day.
Now I want to be up front with you: I don’t have everything figured out when it comes to my anxiety and the panic attacks I’ve been experiencing. This is just the beginning of my battle with it. But this setback has really made me want to take a hard look at my life, and the way I live it, to better understand where my stress is coming from and how I can handle it in a healthier way. Friends, like I’ve said before, I understand that some things in life should be kept private. But because I believe my purpose in this life is to be a positive influence in peoples’ lives, especially in the lives of young men, I want to share what I go through. I don’t just mean the highlights and the accomplishments but the things struggle with as well. I don’t want a young kid to look at my life and think that I have it all together because I don’t. Not even close. I don’t want to pretend like I’m perfect because nobody can relate to perfection; they can only compare themselves against it, and that’s not a realistic or fair picture of who I am when I want people looking up to me.
I do want a young kid to look at my life and hopefully feel a little less alone in whatever he’s going through because I was honest. We are all battling something, and for most of us, we don’t talk about our issues because we’re afraid of what people might think. I want to be different, and I want to encourage you to do the same. If you’re battling anxiety or panic attacks, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! It’s not your fault that you can’t control something that’s happened/happening to you, but you CAN be proactive about dealing with it. It first starts with opening up about it with the people you love and trust and then finding ways that are best for you, to help you deal with it. We’re ALL in this together!
PART 2 coming soon.