Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Panic Room

Joanna is the woman who started the mom group that really saved me when I was dealing with some awful prenatal/postpartum depression. I'm really thankful that she agreed to share her struggle with anxiety and depression with us today. If you'd like to share your story, please send me an email. Thanks.

It was about 2 AM when I woke up, gasping for air.  My chest felt as if it was being crushed.  My body was paralyzed.  The beating of my heart was deafening and seemed to race out of control.  Was I having a heart attack?  An asthma attack?  A stroke?  A seizure?  I was terrified to close my eyes.  I blinked.  My eyes darted toward my bedroom door, but I couldn’t even open my mouth to call for help. I felt like I was choking.  The heaviness on my chest surrounded me like a lead straightjacket.  There seemed to be a sinkhole in my bed, and I was being sucked into it.  Only I couldn’t fight it.  I could only feel myself slowly sinking into it.  I was sure I was about to die. Suddenly, I was no longer being pulled down, but lifted up.   I was experiencing depersonalization, which is when you feel completely detached from your body.  I looked down and watched myself as if I were in a dream. It was almost two hours until my body began to calm and I was able to move and speak.  It was petrifying to feel a complete loss of control over my own body as I lay, trapped in my own little panic room.

Never to lie is to have no lock on your door, you are never wholly alone - Elizabeth Bowenphoto © 2008 rohit gowaikar | more info (via: Wylio)

That was my first panic attack.  I was fourteen years old.  It was the worst I ever experienced, but not the last.  I’d all ready had problems with depression for a year or two before the anxiety episodes began. Chronic stomachaches and migraines caused me to miss quite a bit of school. I constantly worried that I was on the verge of “losing it.” I felt that surely someone would look right through me and see the fakeness I radiated and see how unhappy I was beneath.  Yet, I quit telling family what was going on.  It seemed easier just to keep it to myself than to burden my family with my plethora of ailments.  The anxiety and depression were a secret shame I kept to myself, gradually accepting they were just part of who I was.

Though anxiety and depression came and went many times since then, only eight months ago, I was diagnosed with an adrenal disorder that has been a major cause of my anxiety and depression for seventeen years.  I was cured in less than two months of treatment.  The anxiety and depression aren’t entirely gone but I feel more like the old me again.

If you are having problems with anxiety and depression, please don’t make the same mistake I did.  Don’t assume that people are too busy to care.  Don’t assume that there is nothing that you can do.  Don’t waste years of your life thinking this is as good as it gets.  Don’t buy into the notion that you are weak or crazy or a disgrace simply because you have a chemical imbalance.

Most people don’t understand that anxiety and depression can’t just be “snapped” out of.  You lose control of your body. Just as you can’t physically stop a heart attack by wishing it gone, you can’t just hope your depression away. You wouldn’t hesitate to be rushed to the hospital if you were having a heart attack. So if your life has been hijacked by anxiety, there are people and treatments available to help you take back control- whether it is Zoloft, therapy, breathing techniques or herbal supplements.

Don’t live your life in a panic room. 

For more information on generalized anxiety disorder, check out:

Joanna loves to sit around the dinner table with her husband and four children.  She loves to learn, owns too many books, and enjoys a good chai latte.  

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