I am 52 years old now. I have started this blog to share about living with anxiety disorder/panic disorder as a mental illness. I have lived through A LOT. I have lived a life with mental illness coming into and out of my life since my late twenties. I am at a point where I can now live independently and make an income. There was a period of time (years) where I was not living independently or making an income. My goal here is to share my story, and then if you feel you want to connect, then we can connect by email. I have been to HELL and back, and that is the truth. I am still alive. That is amazing. I want to help others understand that you can live with mental illness and not become a hermit afraid of everything. You can be more fulfilled in your life without the mental illness taking over. I want to give support for others to relate to someone who has come through the WORST of it and is still standing. I still live with mental illness and deal with it every day.
Now, on with my story….
When I was a kid growing up, I was socially awkward, always extremely nervous. I did not know how to act around guys growing up. I would like a guy, but have no idea how to relate to him, on top of the extreme nervousness and fear that I had being around him. Because of this, I couldn’t date until I was 25 years old because of this fear and nervousness. In college, I drank alcohol to open up and be sociable with new people. I relied on it too much, and I became an alcoholic.
I was able to stop drinking when I found a new passion. I focused more on that and it was like I felt peaceful again. I had a goal. When I drank so much, it felt like I was filling a hole in my heart. The hole needed to be filled, and the thing that filled it was alcohol. When I found my purpose in life, the hole went away and so did the drinking problem.
I was back on track with my life in my mid-twenties, pursuing an Engineering degree. I was going to school and working. I ended up going to Rutgers University for my Bachelor’s degree. I was there two and a half years. All seemed on track with school and life until one day when I was driving from home in NJ to my dad’s home in MD, and in the middle of the trip, I suddenly had the worst fear driving. I had to pull over and call my dad. I was shaking all over and could barely drive on the interstate. I didn’t know what was happening. I made it to my dad’s house, but I was a wreck. He didn’t understand it, and neither did I. I thought that was a one-time event until I had my first panic attack in the middle of the night.
What’s a panic Attack?
I had never experienced a panic attack before. It came to me in the middle of the night like a train rushing towards me. I was panicked, scared, heart was racing, and I thought I was having a heart attack. I was a mess and needed HELP. I ran into my dad’s bedroom and he told me to eat something. I ate some bread and it worked. I calmed down. Okay, that is over, so now I can fall asleep. Great.
Then it happened again during my visit. I was alone in the house, and I smelled a gas that seemed dangerous. I went into a panic attack AGAIN. It was awful. Now it is a recurring thing. What do I do? What the hell is happening to my body?
Help on its way
My stepmother was smart and knew I needed to talk to someone. Her brother was a therapist, so I talked to him. He said I was having panic attacks. He wanted to know if I was having a lot of stress lately, and I was. I had just dealt with one of my professor’s unwanted “friendliness”, and I had recently dealt with a violent roommate. I was feeling stressed with school and other things on top of that. He said to go see a doctor, and I did. She gave me xanax to take when a panic attack came on. I used it, and it worked! Yay!
I was able to go back to school, but I had to see a therapist for help with my panic attacks. I was faithful in doing so weekly. Over time, it felt like I was no longer having any panic attacks. I forgot about it, and stopped seeing a therapist or getting medicine. In my mind I was cured.
I was now thirty years old working in Maryland as a Packaging engineer. I had my first professional job and thought I had finally achieved my dream! Great! I was able to work and earn money and have a home to rent with my sister and her boyfriend. All was on track.
Panic Attacks Again
I was playing on a soccer team in my early thirties; it was a coed recreational league. I made friends and was having a blast. I also had a boyfriend. I finally had time for one, and I wasn’t as nervous with being able to relate to men.
But then one night I was playing, and I broke my leg. I had to get a cast and stay in the basement during the day with food and a nearby bathroom to recover. During that time, the panic attacks came back. What the….? THIS AGAIN???
I went back to a therapist and psychiatrist this time. The meds I could only take were xanax. Nothing else was working for me. Again, as the usual way in the past, the panic attacks would stop rearing their ugly head, and I would slowly stop therapy and taking the meds.
I was in an up and downward cycle with the panic disorder. I was good with dealing with life until I had stress in my life, and back it came. OH GOD. I don’t want to become my grandmother. She lived her life with mental illness; she had schizophrenia. My memories of her were this: grandma sitting in her “chair”, smoking, and staring off into space. She was not your typical grandma. She was not checked in at all. She didn’t relate to people really and was just strange to me. I didn’t understand her at all, and now I felt like I was becoming her. I was so scared of that.
FAST FORWARD TO EARLY FORTIES
I quit my job at NASA because I was miserable. I was getting sick all the time, and one day I just had had enough of the job place. I quit. I sold my house to take time off and find a new career path and a new way of living. The money came after I sold my home. I rented a new place and life was good for a while. I did not have any panic attacks. I was enjoying travelling and took an art class. Life was pretty good. But then the panic attacks came back.
I didn’t want to go back to meds again. I just hated pills. I hated admitting that I needed help. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t deal with life in stressful periods. I did something else instead. I put my self care into the hands of a healer. We would speak over the phone and she would help me with my healing. This ended up being a hoax. It was over a year of my time with her on the phone, and it was a hoax.