Reading the title of this post, you might be expecting some kind of marketing post about a new way to get organic traffic or move audiences through your sales funnel. That’s a reasonable thing to think since most of my posts are about writing, marketing, or business. However, if you are hoping for insights about blogging, I’m sorry to disappoint. I’m actually going to talk about something completely different today.

I started this website to market myself as a freelance writer. My posts have been full of careful keyword strategy and links to my Fiverr profile. I feel, though, that I can do something more important with this space. Some things changed in my life that caused personal upheaval as well as a feeling that I need to change my direction, or at least shift lanes.

Yes, I’m still a freelance writer. Yes, you can still hire me on Fiverr, I will still post content about writing and business, but some of my posts, like this one, are going to be a departure for something that’s very important to me. Below, I’m going to discuss mental health. If this doesn’t interest you, that’s fine, but please be respectful. My hope is that talking openly about struggles will help others who are struggling.

All Panic, No Disco: My Mental Health Journey

I’m not exactly sure when I had my first panic attack. The first ones that I remember clearly began in May 2022. I think I had experienced similar events the year before but they didn’t hit quite as hard. I found that I had increasing nocturnal panic attacks. If you don’t know what these are, let me explain. basically, you are lying in bed asleep, and suddenly, your heart rate skyrockets, you’re sitting up shaking and feeling like you have to get up and get help because you are about to die.

In 2022, I had many nocturnal panic attacks as well as feelings like I was about to fall out throughout the day. It was an intense feeling of something being horribly wrong. This led me to the ER where I had the cardiac workup and was given an event monitor for several days. My heart passed the test, and I proceeded to make lifestyle changes: No alcohol, No energy drinks, no medicinal herb that isn’t oregano. Things got better…for a while.

Months later, I started with all the bad things again using logic like “If I just have half an energy drink a day, it will be fine.” My flawed logic actually didn’t seem too bad. I didn’t have any panic attacks that I can recall until the fall of 2023. The problem is that in between these mental health low points, I had traumas that I wasn’t dealing with, and as I’ve learned, trauma is a slow simmering pot that you can ignore for a long time, but it will eventually boil over.

The Fingerprints of Grief

In October of 2023, I had the worst panic attacks I’ve experienced in my life. They were also accompanied by countless less horrible but still horrible ones. This seemed out of the blue because I had been “fine” for over a year. If you want to know why I put “fine” in quotes, look back at my boiling pot analogy. In July of 2022, I sold my home of more than a decade and upgraded my living situation although with a very stressful moving situation. On August 8th, I took my mother out to dinner for her birthday–On September 8th, she died.

My mother’s death brought family back into and out of my life. It brought sadness, fear, and a surprising amount of disbelief for something that I knew would be inevitable. In the year that followed, I gave myself several pats on the back for handling it so well. Here’s another thing I’ve learned: If you are “handling a loss really well,” That probably means you are not handling it. Unfortunately, our culture prides us on how fast we can pick ourselves up and how strong we can be instead of what we do with our pain.

The fact is, we have options when dealing with grief but we can’t see them. We can self-medicate. We can sit in the dark and cry. We can ask for help. We can keep on keeping on and telling ourselves that we are fine. Fun fact: Any one of these is fine in the short term if it’s what you need. Don’t beat yourself up for grieving wrong. The thing is though, the way we cope is often not sustainable. You can only ignore that simmering pot for so long.

What the Hell is the Point?

I imagine that’s what you’re thinking. This post may have jumped the tracks a little. It may have ended up sounding more like a diary entry. I know I just spewed a bunch of information about myself that few will care about, but I like to believe there’s a point. When I transitioned from having the occasional panic attack to living in a constant state of anxiety, not sleeping, not eating, and feeling completely lost, the one thing that helped me the most was finding others who had the same experiences.

I found a Reddit community where people discussed panic disorder including all the symptoms and challenges that none of us understand until we have to experience them. The biggest challenge with panic disorders is that something has gone awry in your central nervous system which tells you that you are in immediate danger. It’s not being nervous or stressed. it’s crossed wires activating your fight or flight.

Basically, this means that you could be making dinner, driving to work, or doing any other normal thing, and suddenly, your central nervous system decides that you’re having a heart attack, being chased by a bear, or in some other way facing imminent death. The fight or flight response is great if you have to fight for actual survival. These false alarms, however, mean that you are stuck standing in your kitchen with an insanely high heart rate, gasping for breath, feeling like you’re going to black out, and all the while, have to tell yourself “It’s okay. Nothing to see here.”

The power our brain has is truly incredible. That also means it’s one of the hardest things to combat when your amygdala tells you you’re in mortal danger. It’s basically like having your airbag randomly deploy while you are driving. It’s an important safety feature, but it isn’t very helpful when it busts out on the highway for no reason. That’s basically what a panic attack is: one of your built-in safety features malfunctioning.

It feels like it’s against our basic survival instincts to ignore everything that tells us we are in danger. “It’s okay that your heart rate is stupid high, you’re having trouble breathing, and you’re about to black out,” that doesn’t sound like something normal to say, does it? And, no I’m not saying you should ignore serious health symptoms. What I am saying is that your central nervous system can cause way more physical symptoms than you would think and make you absolutely feel like you are having a heart attack or stroke.

So, if there is a point to my rambling, it’s that I know how hard it is to understand what’s going on when our minds and body turn on us. I know that I was immensely helped when I read about people having the exact same experiences. I feel like sharing mine may help others, and I’m sure it will help me along the way. So, if you get any value out of this, stick around. I will be talking about mental health a lot more.

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