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The Message Panic Attacks Sent Me

"There are things that I am not doing that I should be doing or things that I am doing that I shouldn't be doing, and some deeper aspect of myself is aware of it and trying to correct me. Anxiety is the spur to change." - Russel Brand.

Overthinking, fear, loss of control - when I first saw the clip of Russel Brand talking about anxiety a switch immediately went off in my head, I've never resonated with anything more. My first real panic attack hit me like a ton of bricks. My trigger? Not a common one like many others, it was (what felt like at the time) completely random. I was driving on my way to meet a couple of friends - I noticed that when I was leaving work I felt very off but couldn’t put my finger on what or why. I was sitting at a light about to pull up to my destination and suddenly I gasped for air as I’ve never done before, feeling like I was being choked, and immediately forgot how to breathe and swallow. My body was shaking, I was soaking wet instantly. I was in full-blown panic, "fight or flight" mode feeling as though I was dying. I knew exactly what was happening because I’ve learned so much about it...but I didn’t know why. Not knowing why at that moment was the scariest thing, it haunted me and still sometimes does.

I think back now and realize that it was a combination of things but ultimately my body was telling me something. I’ve never been the person to say no, as long as I can remember I’ve said yes to every plan that has come my way because I wanted to “live my best life”. Saying yes to going out with my friends was a constant, wanting to always keep busy no matter the cost was my normalcy. But at the same time my “true self” always wanted to get back into photography, start a new art project and move somewhere that gives me substance - saying yes to everything came with a price. I also wasn’t saving money for the things that gave my soul joy and in return that true, soul substance wasn’t being fulfilled.

My first panic attack turned into a month's worth, in which every day I would have another one because of the fear...of having one. My nervous system was in shock and my body continuously felt like it was on speed. My month straight of experiencing this felt like a year. Time was completely distorted and I’ve never felt so detached from my body. I look back now and (for the most part) it all makes sense. Taking a step back from life every once in awhile is necessary. I thought I was doing that before but clearly that particular lifestyle proved to get old. Now this isn't the whole explanation for why this happened, it also revolves around what you've been through in life and...genetics *sigh*. But what I've learned now is that subconscious feelings are real and things stay dormant inside until one day...they don't.

The mind is fascinating, strong, controlling, and SCARY - if I’ve learned anything it’s that. Much of the problem of why these attacks continued for months was because I was getting too lost in my own head - but guess what? I had lost all control. I was riddled with constant fear and anxiety that it would keep happening, and because of that it did.

Anxiety is real, panic attacks are real and that can't be taken away from anyone who has/is going through it. I always empathized with those who went through things like this but feeling it yourself is a completely different ball game - it brings you into a whole new world where every sense is heightened and you feel everything on a much deeper, stimulated level. A new perspective was introduced into my life once this happened.

Overall this whole experience made me reevaluate and ask myself: “Am I really giving my soul what it needs? Am I truly doing everything I want to do and not what’s just expected of me?” At the time this was shocking to me, because when this attack first happened I felt as though I was in the "best part of my life" (emphasis on the quotes), especially with how I was handling my job, family, and friends. But that’s what I've learned about behavioral expressions, they come when you least expect it and explode without any warning. This whole experience made me realize that I was just going through the motions of life (just like many others do), but at the same time I've never been that type of person to be content with mediocre - so for me, that realization made so much sense. It takes listening to any and ALL clues your body tells you to move forward and GROW.

In the future I will be posting more about my experience getting through the panic attacks and how far I've come today. In the meantime if you've ever gone through something like this just know you're not alone and there are people who can help you...that was my saving grace.

(FYI to anyone who is scared to talk about this kind of stuff, this post has been typed out for awhile now because I wasn't ready to share it for some time - hearing it out loud or seeing it written makes it real, but that's the part of coping and accepting what‘s happened to you. It's okay if you can't talk about it at first, you have the right to only share things if you want to and if YOU'RE ready.)

Have you ever suffered from panic attacks before?

If so, HANG IN THERE it does get easier...I promise.

xx Ashley

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