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I make voice messages about things I want to share in this story that’s unfolding now that I’m “off my meds.” Today’s voice message started like this “I think I’m ready to share about panic attacks…” 

The panic attacks have been hitting me hard lately. Last week while I was driving. This morning at a basketball game. I haven’t told anyone. 

I remember a particular panic attack I had about 20 years ago. 

Twenty. Years. 

I was sitting at Applebee’s and I thought my heart had stopped beating. I know how crazy that is. It happened a lot. I also know how debilitating the irrational fear can be. I know how paralyzing it is for me. I can imagine how frustrating it was for my family. 

If I sit and dwell on that panic attack very long, I can still feel it. I will get the urge to feel my pulse, too, and see if my heart is still beating. WEIRD. So weird. I know.  I was convinced I was going to die.

I remember telling God at Applebee’s at the age of 20 that if I lived 10 more years from that day, I would know that He could heal. Because I couldn’t imagine living 10 more minutes with that kind of fear, much less ten more years. I am pretty sure I made some silly promise to Him about what I would do if He let me live that long. I don’t remember my end of the bargain, but I’m about to be 40 so I’m pretty sure He decided to let it go. 

The meds helped my panic attacks. 

I am not against anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. I believe in them. I believe they work. I am living proof that they work. 

Recent panic attacks make me wonder if I should have stopped taking the meds. If I made a HUGE mistake. If I should get back on them so that I can be more stable. For myself and my family. I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach and the fear starts to creep up the back of my neck and I KNOW what’s coming. That’s when the voices start in “Hey Miss ‘off my meds'….look at you trying to be all brave…how’s that working for you??” 

{insert PANIC ATTACK here}

I AM against taking pills as if they are the only tool we have to fight with. 

I AM against the false belief that pills are our ONLY option if we want to overcome the irrational fears of panic attacks, the constant onslaught of anxiety, and the despair of depression. 

I am NOT saying I’ll never take meds again for any of the above issues. I don’t know what the future holds for me. Right now, I’m in a season where I’ve chosen to make time to fight. Things can change at any time. What I AM saying is that meds will never be my first or only option. 

I had success today. 

I fought the attack. 

I sat peacefully at my son’s game within 5 minutes of the attack. 

PEACE-FULL-Y. Full of peace. 

If you had told me that could happen 20 years ago while I was sitting at Applebee’s…..I probably would have shoved my lemon chicken in your face.

Honestly, the best thing you could do for a panicking person is what my neighbor Liz did for me one night. This was probably 12-13 years ago. She walked me around the block (as many times as it took) and held me up and told me when to breathe. She didn’t let me stop walking. She told me “Breathe OUT the fear. Breathe IN the peace.” We took a few more steps. She’d say “Breathe OUT the fear. Breathe IN patience.” More steps. Baby steps. She was holding me up. I remember her gripping my arm. “Breathe OUT the fear. Breathe IN goodness.” More steps. “Breathe OUT fear. Breathe IN self control.” It worked.

Before you start wishing you had a neighbor like Liz (don’t we all?? She is an amazing cook, too), I want you to know my next blog is about taking your power back. 

Why? Because it’s not up to Liz or any other neighbor to help us fight panic attacks, anxiety, depression or anything else.  It’s up to US. 

I see so many people posting on social media about depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. That takes courage. I get it. But it’s usually images or articles telling other people what to do if “someone they love is suffering.”

I understand that we want to be heard.

I understand that we want to be UNDERSTOOD.

I understand that we want other people to get it. 

But if we take our power back…take our mental health into our own hands and take full responsibility for it…we can stop waiting for other people to understand us and start the healing process. With or without meds.

When I realized I was in control, (this past spring when I went off my meds, AND this morning when a panic attack hit hard) I was SO empowered. It was my first step toward healing.

I remembered that no one else but ME decides how I respond to fear. 

No one else but ME decides how I respond to anxiety. 

No one else but ME decides how I act when I’m depressed. 

The only person who needed to be ready for me to be healed was ME. The only person who needed to understand panic attacks, depression, and anxiety was ME. I didn’t need anyone else to get it.

I could quit waiting for someone else to fix me. 

I had a God who had done all the work and was willing to walk with me toward healing. The choice was mine. It was mine last spring, and it was mine today when the panic set in. 

That is really, REALLY good news.