Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fight Or Flight – That IS The Question

For those who are diagnosed with panic and anxiety disorder, this is a question or term that I am sure that you are familiar with. When you are about to have a full-blown panic attack, everything in your mind and body has the urge to run as fast as you possibly can away from the certain danger that is upon you. In most cases, the danger is perceived, but when you are “in the moment,” there is nothing that will convince you that something terrible isn’t about to happen.

I became familiar with this disorder 15 years ago. There was a trigger; I lost my best friend to cancer. This was my first “peer” death experience, way too soon, way too young. How could this be? Why did this happen? Most importantly, why didn’t I stop it? Yes, I really believed that I had the power to prevent this from happening to her. I believed that I didn’t do enough; I wasn’t a good enough friend – what the hell was wrong with me?

Then it started; numerous trips to the emergency room with stuff that was happening to me – stroke, heart attack, you name it, I had to have it. On one trip, I felt a tingling that started at the top of my head and was traveling slowly down my face. I was certain that my face was becoming paralyzed. I was convinced that I was not going to make it to the hospital in time, to tell someone what was happening so that they could save me. Surprisingly, to me anyway, when they did all the tests, they came back normal. When they gave me a shot of Valium or Ativan, the terror was gone. It was suggested to me just about every time, that I should seek counseling for panic, anxiety and depression. Perhaps some medication for this was in order. What? No way, I was too smart for that! They HAD to be missing something; I was being treated by a bunch of quacks!

After thousands of dollars in hospital tests, for just about every possible affliction known to the medical community, I faced the facts. I was carrying around a lot of baggage and it was time to let it go, if I could. I couldn’t run away from my problems, especially the loss that I was feeling. I had to face my fears; running wasn’t an option any longer. There was nowhere to run. It was the fear of losing my own life that taught me to fight for it, rather than run. I found myself a therapist, took some medication, and learned proper breathing techniques to make sure there is plenty of oxygen in my blood stream. These are the steps that I use to deal with episodes of panic and anxiety. It's not easy, but easier.

My life is a constant learning experience to teach me the importance of why I’m here. Things haven’t been easy; there have been losses and lessons that have been difficult to learn. But they have been tempered with such growth and happiness that I realize should be at the forefront. It’s taken some time, but I am getting it.

Living should be celebrated. There are times that are hard and times that are truly wonderful.  I believe that there have been instances where the hardships have been self-inflicted and it’s time to stop. It’s important to take care of your mental health, as well as your physical health. Choose your battles wisely; you and your life are always worth it…with love…

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