Panic attacks: my story from 2004 until now

For over ten years I have had no panic attacks. I have felt anxiety in moderate amounts and in specific situations, but it never blows up anymore into an actual panic attack like it used to when I was twenty years of age.

When I was twenty, I had very frequent panic attacks. And in between the attacks I was extremely anxious and constantly afraid of having another one. At that point, I thought I was going to feel afraid for the rest of my life. This was an extremely depressing perspective.

What I did not know yet, was that I would learn ways to manage anxiety and panic attacks holistically. I did not just get rid of the panic attacks from one day to another, but learned ways to support myself better, incorporating both body and mind. The panic attacks faded as a result.

Up until today I benefit a lot from everything I have learned in the past years.

From my first panic attack, about thirteen years ago, up until now, I can observe five phases I have gone through.

The reason I want to write about these different phases, is to illustrate that change will always happen. No matter how stuck we sometimes feel in a situation. We will learn new things, we will grow and transform.

The first phase of my panic disorder lasted about one month. At this point I did not know yet what was happening to me. All I knew was that I was going through sudden rushes of extremely unpleasant and unnerving physical and psychological symptoms. It was the phase in which I had to reach out to my network and health system to find out what was going on.

The second phase started when a doctor diagnosed me with anxiety/panic disorder. Although I had never heard of anxiety disorder before, apparently other people were suffering similar experiences. I was still frequently experiencing panic attacks with strong anxiety in between and feelings of depression. However, now that I knew what was going on, I had something to work with.

The third phase was when about half a year later, I started taking medication. Up until that point, the panic attacks and anxiety had felt like uncontrollable factors in my life. They seemed to come and go whenever they liked. Through medication I learned that it was possible to influence the symptoms, and this gave me a sense of relieve and hope.

The fourth phase was when I took up yoga practice. Through gentle postures and movements I learned to recognize and release tension in my body. Deep, slow abdominal breathing and relaxation exercises also helped me to regulate feelings of anxiety, giving me a sense of control over my own life again.

I started integrating my yoga practice in daily life, and over the course of several months, panic attacks and anxiety started to lose their edge. At this point, I only carried medication in my purse as a safety net, until most of the pills expired many years later. I never bought new ones.

The fifth phase is now. I still experience mild anxiety on a regular basis, but I feel confident that when I take good care of myself through relaxation, movement and breathing exercises, anxiety will not keep me in its grip. Through meditation practices I have grown accustomed to being present with pleasant and unpleasant sensations in my body. I have not used any anxiety medication for many years.

Want to read more about which exercises have helped me most with anxiety and panic attacks? Then take a look at these articles:

Deep, slow abdominal breathing

Contract & Relax Exercise

Self-care to soothe anxiety, panic and depression

Cultivating awareness of body and mind

Stepping out of negative thought patterns

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