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Part Three – Overcoming Panic

Chapter 10 – Dark Night – A Life Of Panic

My panic attacks were frequent, but unpredictable. They hit out of nowhere - at church, the grocery store, the mall, the library, while visiting a friend. I was sure the doctors had missed something. Maybe I had a brain tumor or a rare form of heart disease. Surely this torture had some kind of physical cause. I bounced back and forth thinking it was a physical problem, but somewhere deep inside myself I knew there was something else wrong. But, I had no idea what to do about it. No one could put a label on what was happening to me.


…free floating anxiety had turned to high level anxiety. It was an ugly, constant companion. It lived inside me every minute of every waking hour. I was afraid to be alone and, at the same time, I was afraid to be with people. I went through spells of sleeplessness. Sometimes I slept all day. No matter how much I rested, I felt fatigued. There were times when I thought my head would explode.


During the course of my illness I developed other fears and symptoms. When a friend and I walked along a downtown street, I often felt the sensation the sidewalk was coming up, and the buildings were going to topple down on me. For more than a year, I felt dizzy and nauseated every day. I went through a phase when I cried every day. Another phase when I cleaned. Everything in sight was dusted, cleaned, scrubbed and polished. Over and over, and over again.


At the height of my inner chaos, the physical symptoms were so fierce I was afraid to walk out of my house to the mailbox, a distance of 35 feet. I thought, "I'll die. I'll just die."


There were times I was afraid of myself. I worried that I might totally lose control and harm myself without even knowing it. I felt worthless because I couldn't work, scared and humiliated because I was sick. Depression set in and I lost interest in life. I was puzzled. I was angry, at myself, at God, at anyone who had touched my life and may have contributed to my suffering. Confusion, pain and terror dominated my days and nights. I wondered, "How close am I to stepping off the edge?" I wondered if and when I would lose my sanity. Or if I had already "lost it."


Chapter 11 – Four Little Words Stop A Crisis

Every human being experiences body sensations. A person with no nervous sensitivity experiences a sensation and does not give it another thought. A headache is recognized as simply a pain in the head. Anxious people on the other hand, look at the worst possible scenario. A headache can trigger the fear of a brain tumor. One thought of danger (brain tumor), locks the fear in place. Fear and the belief in danger are two factors which pool nervous, mental and emotional conditions together.


By repeating the phrase, "distressing but not dangerous," you terminate the cycle of paralyzing fear and take the emergency out of a situation. "Distressing but not dangerous," stops a "fight or flight" response dead in its tracks.


Chapter 12 – Shaking The Fear Factor

It took many real-life endeavors before dread and discouragement were replaced by determination. Facing reality and setting reasonable goals, knowing my limitations, was part of the process. In the beginning, I knew it would be useless to attempt a 20-mile trip or to try to drive on a freeway. I would have surrendered to the fear, because I was too scared. I set my sights on small victories, stretching my boundaries one mile at a time. Even though my ambitions were high, I learned to pace myself and not let up.


When you think you're faced with more than you think you can handle, divide it. Fear and anxiety don't have to rule your life. You can reduce your stress level by reducing the big picture into separate frames. Rather than allow yourself to become overwhelmed and discouraged, you can accomplish "one act at a time."


Nervous fear is the fear of discomfort. It wasn't any specific activity or particular place that caused my fear. It wasn't being behind the wheel in a moving automobile. It wasn't the checkout line at the grocery store. It was the traumatic sensations that seized my body, that frightened me.



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