Leaving panic behind
I wish I could tell you there’s a magic pill to find your way out of anxiety and panic attacks. There isn’t. But one thing I can tell you: This path, the way back to your true self, is one of the most beautiful, most revealing ones. Maybe painful, yes, but in a freeing way. In an honest way. It’s the way to your authentic self, the way to finally start listening to the true you, the inner wisdom, the inner spirit which still knows it’s dreams. And let me tell you, this is a long journey. But each step will make it lighter and brighter. Until pure joy fills your veins.
By the age of 16 I faced my first panic attack. The first of an unstoppable row of attacks letting me in the very convincing believe I would die. This panic attacks were so exhausting. Imagine you’re on that high mountain, on an insanely small platform, just about to fall. I needed help. Looking back at the aid I got by our traditional medicine, I am hardly disappointed. I’m shook, even. I am not saying western medicine is incapable to cure per sé. But I felt utterly left alone. No questions asked about my lifestyle. I was given a pack of antidepressants and it’s best friend Temesta (a strong tranquilizer) and was sent on my way. I was 16! But I knew this couldn’t be it. I knew my body wanted to tell me something. So I started reading many books about different healing methods, tried a variety of therapy forms and some of them even helped. A little bit. For a tiny, releasing second which vanished in an instant.
I always pushed for my dreams and never let any opportunity slip. I had panic attacks during work; suffered in silence on filmsets, or photographing weddings while smiling at guests, I suffered while studying for my bachelors degree, while celebrating, traveling, hiking or just sitting in the sun. It started when I woke up and sometimes it lasted until I finally dozed off. I felt like I always had this extra fight. I once read a phrase saying “I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying,… I’m tired.” This was my unspoken truth. Unspoken because I barely shared my struggles with anyone but my mother. And I deeply understand every person who gives up. Because there was no help – there still barely is. Why are people not speaking up more often, especially the ones who fought the fight? I feel the fear is too big, the recovered freedom too fragile. Therefore nobody explained to me what was going on. Nobody told me what happens within the body or taught me about our nervous systems. Yet on my journey of 10+ years I learned my lessons. Let’s make it less for you.
My final breakthrough and discovering the main key started with overcoming my biggest fear: Flying. I was not afraid of flying itself, but the fact that I couldn’t leave this tight airplane whenever I wanted, being stuck in this vehicle for hours with way too many people, scared me. And then, imagining having a panic attack in this situation, terrified me to the bones. Fear of the fear. A classic, as anyone suffering from anxiety and panic attacks knows. But guess what, I did it anyway. Without any planning, I booked a one-way ticket to Thailand. And travelled solo through Southeast Asia for six months. How incredibly freeing this was. The only responsibility I had was myself. I experienced pure, vivid joy. I lived again… But let’s stop here, because the way I got there is not important. I’m pretty sure „one-way to Bangkok“ won’t solve your problems. But living in the present moment does. But how to get there, is way more difficult than the solution itself sounds.
“Living right in the moment”
The beginning was – as you might assume – the hardest. But I soon found myself in a retreat center in Cambodia (Hariharalaya in Siem Riep). And this was my beginning, the breath taking start of the journey home.
I heard phrases like “living the moment” before. I honestly think I never truly understood it’s meaning until then though. I’m not sure I even tried to understand. Did you? Because “Now” is so powerful I struggled to grasp the intensity of it’s meaning. Now is all there is, it’s all we have. The very precious wisp of a moment. The past is long gone. Even “now” is gone the second you say it; the word an empty vessel. The future – nothing more then a delusional, fragile construction of thoughts.
This so called “now” is absolutely pure, so valuable, yet so easily lost. And therefore, living in the moment is way harder than it sounds. Achieving it is like achieving fitness goals; like training your muscles in a gym. Repeating exercises over and over again. Meditation is a powerful tool to live more and more daily wisps as a present being. We are so easily trapped in our thoughts. Trapped in imaginations of situation which most likely never occur. But our bodies don’t know that. And here lies one of the main issues:
Imagine there is a big bear in front of you. A scary one. You’re afraid – if you’re sort of sane. Fear comes up. You’re body reacts on the transmitted danger by releasing hormones like adrenaline to improve your chances to survive. You’re in survival mode. So you either fight, flight or freeze. Anyway, you’re only a shell of what you’re usually like. Because of the different nervous system which was now activated: Only the most important senses are activated. No hunger, no ability toremember things, no lust nor empathy. Only survival. Shallow breaths only to run faster or fight longer. Can you imagine the state of your body? Now here comes our main problem: The body can not make a difference, if this big, scary bear is actually in front of us or just a delusional construction of our mind. The body reacts anyway. Can you now grasp the impact of our thoughts? Where “the fear of the fear” comes from? This was the final realisation I needed.
It is important to understand that the journey home, as I call the healing journey, is unique. We may have the same symptoms, maybe even similar reasons, but for sure not the same way out. There are many opportunities to learn, many aspects to reinvent and redefine. Or whatever suits you.
If you want support on your journey home, I am gladly helping you to dig that way out of the suffering with you. It’s a hard one. But believe me, it’s also an incredibly beautiful one. I am happier than I’ve ever been. Very rarely, I still have a panic attack coming up or I feel it’s tingle. Don’t worry: I can handle them very well now. But they let me know that something is not right. They are now my barometer of the soul and I am truly grateful for it.