“God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open.”
-Hazrat Inayat Khan
If you prefer to read, here’s the text article from the video:
I’m often asked what was the turning point with my anxiety and panic attacks. The reality is there were many turning points as it wasn’t a situation where I one day decided that changes were needed, I knew that continuing to live like this, hiding, avoiding dealing with it and telling people was not a long-term solution, but opening up can be a challenge when you’re so used to closing off.
There were many times when I would have a very bad panic attack or not sleep due to anxious thoughts building up through the night and when these happened, the belief that I couldn’t continue living this way was reinforced. These situations acted as small cracks in the armour I had created to shield myself from opening up and potentially getting hurt, this was the same armour that did a great job of keeping people away. While these small cracks may have seemed insignificant, a minor inconvenience so a situation that I knew all too well, they were essential in moving me closer to the point that I would finally open up and expose what I had been living with, which may seem like a fairly easy thing to do, but after conditioning yourself to hide it for so many years, it becomes a very frightening prospect.
Getting Cracked Open
I will never forget the day that I stated publicly to a relative stranger that I had anxiety and panic attacks. It’s a moment that I replay in my mind often with gratitude as it was the turning point. I had just started training in Krav Maga, which is a martial art that conditions you to keep focused in chaotic situations designed to intensify stress because in these situations, this is when many people lose the ability to think rationally and get seriously hurt or killed. In retrospect, this may not have been the ideal way to face panic attack provoking situations, but I believe everything happens for a reason. It was my 3rd class at the gym and during and exercise, my heart rate spiked, I felt disoriented, and it became hard to breathe. The panic attack started to come on and as I scanned for the exit, I ran out and fell on the floor of the lobby. Danny, who was the head instructor ran out and asked me what was happening, I tried to wave him off and told him that I was okay. At this moment, I felt his hand on my shoulder and he said “you’re lying on the floor of the lobby in the middle of class, don’t tell me you’re okay.”
This was my turning point, after running for so many years and getting the small wakeup calls that I couldn’t run forever, here I was in a situation where I had someone not buying my BS and inside, I was tired of running. I told him that I get panic attacks and have anxiety, it was a moment that seemed to drag on forever as all the thoughts that I had created were racing through my mind, would he laugh, would he kick me out, would he tell me to get over it?
No, the only thing he asked was “what do you need to feel safe”?
This was a question that would change my life because all the ideas that I had built up of telling people and having them reject me, of being laughed at or not being supported were shattered in an instant. Knowing that a relative stranger would care enough to want to help and offer support meant the world to me as it demonstrated the opposite of what I believed to be true in that this was my problem, that I had to deal with it alone and to not burden others with my issues.
Knowing that someone was in my corner made the difference, understanding that they’re not judging you and are genuinely there to help you in your journey made pushing the exposure to anxiety easier, especially the days that it felt overwhelming. As with most meaningful journeys, it was a long and trying road, one with successes and setbacks, but here’s a few key points that I would like to share with you if you’re living with anxiety or panic attacks:
1. Find a place for support:
This can be online support groups, community organizations, health care professionals. The point here is to reduce the isolation that often comes from living with anxiety and thinking you’re all alone. You’re not, there are millions of people that have been through the same situation as you and controlled their anxiety and many others that are in your same position.
2. Celebrate the small victories:
A common situation is to overlook our minor successes and live in a state of disappointment until you make the big step forward. The quickest way to achieve the big step is to focus on what victories did you win today, it could be that you faced a situation that makes you anxious for 10 seconds, celebrate it, knowing that these 10 seconds will quickly build to 30 seconds and then to minutes with repeated exposure.
3. Set a plan:
If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know how to get there. Set your big goal that you want to achieve, then work backwards and identify the steps it will take for you to achieve it. This sets the path and the key here is to get so detailed that you look at today and what you can do to propel you forward, so the journey begins now. With any plan, it’s important to understand that it won’t necessarily go as you set out, adjustments will need to be made, but part of the adventure 🙂
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