One year ago today my life changed. On June 11th, 2012 I had a panic attack that wouldn’t stop and sent me tumbling into depression uttering the words, “things will never be the same…” over and over and over again. I was convinced that the terrible feeling of overwhelming anxiety that had consumed me would last forever. I was convinced I was handicapped. I was convinced my life would never be the same. I was convinced I was going to die. There were a lot of things I was convinced of at that time and only one of them was true…my life would never be the same…but not the way I thought. I was convinced that everything was downhill from that moment on…because how could someone possible recover from an experience like the one I had. How could things ever be normal? How could things ever go back to the way they were?
They can’t. They won’t. They never will…and now I know I never want things to be like they were before.
It took me a few months to stop looking at my anxiety as something that needed to be fixed and learned that it was something I needed to address. As soon as I stopped trying to fix everything I was able to cope with it. I had stupid timetables and goals I had set forth like how many months I’d take my medication before I stopped and got back to normal. Back to normal. That right there may be the worst three words I’ve ever spoken. Were things normal before? I thought they were but with 20/20 hindsight I am able to see that I have been living with anxiety my whole life but wasn’t addressing it…so my body forced me to see it on June 11th, 2012. How did I not know? How did I not know that there was all this anxiety bubbling up inside of me? It seems so clear to me now…but again…I have 20/20 hindsight.
Very recently I started to figure out that things would never get “back to normal.” How I was living before, though it seemed normal, was not healthy to my psyche. I was ignoring my emotions and when they came bubbling up to the top I was freaked out by them and saw them as a physical problem. I felt physically weird…so it made sense. I felt “normal,” all the time and then all of a sudden I would feel woozy in my head. After having this happen many times I started to think, “there must be something seriously wrong with me.” Then my brain focused on this and convinced myself that when I felt woozy it could be the moments before my death. So now I’m dying? It might sound stupid but that’s how I think the evolution of my anxiety came about. Since I didn’t know I was having anxiety attacks I perceived them as larger spells of me possibly dying. That is stressful. On June 10th I had a big anxiety attack because I had a migraine and on June 11th I told myself those terrible words, “Things will never be the same.”
So what is “normal?” For me…”normal” meant how I felt before…but now I know that wasn’t normal. I spent a lot of time this past year trying to get back to the way things were…but if I could…would I want to go back to being someone who isn’t in touch with the emotions inside of them self? No. So what is “normal?” Getting back to “normal” means going backwards and that is not how life works. Life is tied to time and both flow ever forward. Getting back to “normal” is swimming upstream. That is a battle, and once you get back upstream you have two choices:
- Keep fighting the current forever
- Get washed right back downstream
This revelation (albeit obvious to some) is why I will never get back to “normal”…because I am moving forward. For better or worse I am moving forward because I already know what is behind me and I can’t go back. I can’t change it, fix it, relive it or go back to it. I can go forward, and unlike the past I have some say in how things go moving forward. I feel better. I have less anxiety than I did a year ago and I don’t know how this will all play out but I’m in for the ride. I knew all the things I’d never do again after that panic attack and I was wrong about all of them. I can fly on planes, I can be in large crowds, I can leave my house, I can be a good father, and I am happy. Sometimes I’m anxious…and that’s okay.
One year ago today my life changed. For the better. June 11th, 2012 is the day my body set off an alarm and told me I needed to start appreciating how good life is. That was when I learned it is okay to be scared. That was when I learned how great my family is, how amazing my marriage is, and how much I am not alone. It is a day to celebrate. It marks the beginning of the journey I am on and I am no longer looking for the end…I’m just traveling downstream and taking it as it comes. I can’t go back. I have an opportunity to make myself a better person along the way which I aim to try to do as my children look to me for guidance…and I to them. If you are living with anxiety and fear you are not alone. Please help me celebrate today by doing something positive outside your comfort zone and see where it takes you. Say yes when you would normally say no. Break up your routine a bit and see who you meet or what adventures (big or small) are ahead. Life is out there!!! It is awesome, scary, exhilarating, exhausting, amazing, dangerous, loving and everything you can and can’t imagine it to be. Let’s live it.
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