I know that feeling all too well. I’ve had problems with anxiety as far back as I can remember, and full-blown panic attacks since my early teens. Knowing all the things I do now, about panic and anxiety and how they work, then if I look honestly at the genes I’ve inherited, and my childhood of being anxiously overprotected, by seriously overcautious parents, I can see there is no way I could have grown up ‘normal’. I can see that for many people, there is an inherited predisposition, and also that the reaction and parental example of anxiety has been instilled so consistently, from such a young age, that it is deeply ingrained into their whole being. It will not be cured and go away forever, but any treatment must be ongoing.
What really concerns me right now is that so many people are going round in circles. They don’t know why panic attacks happen, or the physiological loops and triggers that start and perpetuate them. They don’t know what things – or lack of nutrients – in their diet might be making the problems worse, or how they might need to change things in their lifestyle to reduce their anxiety. They don’t understand that much of the way they think and act is through habit, and that habits can be changed. I’m horrified that we live in a so-called civilised society, where doctors don’t have time to explain all these things, or where the waiting list for treatment in so long, that by the time it’s your turn, your problems have become so severe that what’s on offer doesn’t work.
And meanwhile, well-meaning but not very well-informed people are attempting to reassure and advise one another. Without knowing one another’s medical histories. Inadvertently advising treatments that might be dangerous. The blind are leading the blind because there’s no-one else to help.
So it never gets better. Someone logs onto a forum late at night. Says, I feel like I’m dying, please help. And someone else comes along and says, don’t worry, hunny, it’ll pass. And that’s all well and good. Because it does pass, and it would pass on its own eventually. But the next night that person logs on again and says they feel like they’re dying. And someone reassures them. But it only cures that moment.
Firstly, I’m going to recommend two books. The first is Self-help for your Nerves, by Claire Weekes. She’s a doctor, and whatever your symptom, however bad you feel, she calmly explains why it happens and reassures you that it won’t hurt you. The second is Creative Visualisation by Shakti Gawain. It’s a collection of exercises, visualisations and meditations. They’re not specifically about panic, but they’re helpful and uplifting. Get hold of print copies of these books. Keep them nearby, if necessary, carry them around with you.
Then, recently, I decided to address my own panic and anxiety state (which had got out of hand due to a number of stressful things outside my control). I wrote down everything I’d ever tried to make me better. Or things that friends had tried. I noted everything that had helped them or me, and what hadn’t helped. And I looked at the times I’d had least panics and analysed everything about my lifestyle at the time that might have contributed to feeling better.
When I started doing all the ‘good’ things, I felt so much better so quickly that I decided to write my own book. I did lots more research besides, and put myself through more panics induced by reading about it over and over. But I decided to push on regardless and get it finished. Here it is, and I hope there are some people who find it helpful. However, this is a treatment plan. You need to follow it wholeheartedly, not just dip in when you feel like it or when you have a panic. The aim is to reduce your panic and anxiety level and to learn to enjoy the buzz of adrenalin and the other stimuli which you have been interpreting as panic.
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