How I am Learning to Live and Thrive with my Panic and Anxiety Disorder.


I’ve lived with panic and anxiety disorder my entire life. I didn’t identify what it was until I was in my late 30’s. I thought I was just a “Nervous Nelly.” It kicked in big time when I thought I was having a heart attack one night. Diagnosis: “The common cold of psychiatric disorders.” (No kidding. That’s what a doctor told me.)

I would like to share with you some of the ways I am learning to manage my anxiety and be able to live a successful and happy life.

I want to share with you how I am learning to cope with not wanting to leave the house or vegetating in my recliner and binge watching The Gilmore Girls.

I want to share hope with you. Because if I can learn to manage this disease – And it is a disease! Don’t ever let anyone tell you anything different – You can as well. It takes some trial and error and finding which emotional shoes fit the most comfortably, but if you stick with it and ride the roller coaster for awhile, you’ll see some benefit. (How do like that for a bunch of cliches strung together!)

Before I share I have to make the lawyers happy.

Please note: I am not a doctor or a therapist. The things I share with you came from my own moments of self discovery, my journey and trial and error. THEY WORK FOR ME. It doesn’t mean they will work for you. In other words, don’t stop taking your meds just because I shared some crazy ass ideas that work for me! ( I still take my meds!) Thank you

Sooooooooooooo Here we go!

  • It is what it is.

I read somewhere that if you want to save a drowning person you have to stop them from struggling before you can save them. When they stop fighting, you can rescue them.

I have panic and anxiety disorder. It can be debilitating. I denied that it affected me for a long time. I was stressed out. I was preoccupied. There was nothing wrong a good nights sleep wouldn’t take care of! It was an aberration. Stuff like that.

I struggled for a long time trying to deny what was going on in my head and my body. It was when I began to practice mindful meditation that I started to understand that before I could “learn” I had to accept things as they were and where they were – Right Now.

One of the Noble Truths in Buddhism is “There will be suffering.” We will face challenges in our life and some of those challenges will be painful. It’s the first Noble Truth – The presence of suffering. That goes against everything we’ve been taught in western culture. We’ve been taught to quickly identify the suffering and create an action plan to remove it. Easy peasey lemon squeezey, right?

“I’m suffering so there must be something wrong with me. I have to get rid of it quickly and get back in the race.” I’ve learned that every experience I have in my life leaves a remnant of itself behind long after it’s gone. Now, that’s really cool if I live in a bubble and I’m only exposed to positive experiences.

I live in a world that is mostly unpredictable. When something doesn’t go the way I want it to I asked the question: What’s WRONG with me?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

When I have the flu or a cold or strain a muscle I don’t start to analyze why it happened. I don’t blame myself. When my anxiety starts to rear it’s ugly head and I begin cascading down the mountain of self doubt and recrimination I focus on treating it like I would a strained muscle. I rest it, I evaluate it and I treat it.

In other words it’s no ones fault, even a klutz like me. 🙂

Somewhere along the line I accepted this disease was part of me and it always will be part of me. The harder I tried to push it away and deny it, the stronger it pushed back. As I learn to accept and began the process of managing my anxiety, rather than trying to eradicate it, life became easier for me. Accepting it creates clarity.

As The Beatles once sang Let it Be

  • Make sure your health care team is in alignment with each other and with your health goals!

I have two doctors and a therapist. All three were carefully chosen. Their beliefs on treatment and outcome align with mine. We all speak the same language. Don’t be afraid to check out more than one provider.

True story: When I finally admitted I needed therapy I got a recommendation from my primary care physician. It was someone in my network, a MD. In our first and only session, they stopped me after fifteen minutes and announced that I didn’t have panic and anxiety disease I was told I had but I was bipolar. Further, my mother, who had the same symptoms and behavior I experienced was misdiagnosed and was bipolar as well. The medical student that was in the room, nodded their head in agreement. I was bipolar!

I was given a prescription and told to return in a month.

Before I left I stopped at the door and said I’m curious. You’ve only known me for fifteen minutes and you were able to diagnose me. You never met my mother and BTW she’s been dead for 10 months and you diagnosed her as well. You must be clairvoyant.

When I shared this story with my primary care physician do you know what she said to me?

Good for you John! I’m glad you weren’t afraid to speak up. For what it’s worth, I don’t see and symptoms of bipolar disorder in you. I’m sorry you had that experience.

I kept looking and found the therapist I’m working with now. We share the same values. My treatment is grounded in science and results.

The other physician I work with is an endocrinologist. I have a hyperactive thyroid. It exacerbates my anxiety and panic. Between him and my primary care physician they keep close tabs on my medication and any additional symptoms I may be experiencing. My therapist will remind me to keep those two informed. They’re my team. (Maybe I should get them tee shirts.)

In the end, it’s all about balance – Body, Mind and Spirit

As far as I know, nothing in this world works the way it’s designed to work unless it’s in balance with itself. That includes you and I. Creating and sustaining that balance is a lifelong endeavor.

I could sit here all day and share all sorts of strategies on what’s needed to create that elusive homeostasis. It would drive me as crazy to write it as it would you to read it.

So, lemme share what works for me.

Listen to your body

Let me say that again.

Listen to your body

Rinse and repeat.

Okay, before I go on I have to make the lawyers happy…….. again!

I am not telling you to stop going to see a health care provider for medical treatment if you are sick or injured. I am suggesting that sometimes a bit of preventive action – the right diet, rest and relaxation and creating some time to decompress can help ward off an illness. If you are ill or injured and need to seek medical treatment please do so.

Our bodies are machines. They are finely tuned machines and each part was specifically designed to do a certain task. When we add stress, worry and fear to the mix, we are asking it do something it wasn’t designed to do. It will tell us if we’ll listen. Sometimes it shouts.

It’s called developing our intuition.

Lemme share another quick story, Okay?

For years I struggled with my weight, and I was the kid that would cry at night because I weighed 145 pounds in high school and wondered why he was so skinny! I tried everything and every diet known to man. I’d have success for a few months and then balloon bigger than float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It was maddening. Mix that in with panic and anxiety disorder and it was one wild ride. Trust me.

I was at a workshop a year or so ago and I met someone who had a unique approach to health. I shared my struggle and the effect it had on my self image and she suggested that when it came to eating – Listen to your body!

It took awhile to get used to not starving or denying myself but after awhile I noticed I was feeling so much better, not only about my appearance but about myself in general. If I wanted a cookie, I ate a cookie. It wasn’t every day. My body told me what it fuel it needed to prosper. No more diet.

My body found its healthy weight and has stayed there for a year. If I get a little to crazy, my body starts to let me know and I adjust.

There is only one you (and one me) I am becoming selfish in my self care and how I treat myself. I encourage you to put you first as well.

I’ll leave you with a mantra I use with myself daily.

You deserve success. You are worth all of the effort you put into yourself. You are who you hang around with.

Namaste.

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