Hi there! Thanks for dropping by. My name is Nicole (Niki) and I am so excited to share my motivational blog that helps people, like me, who suffer from anxiety and/or panic disorder or substance abuse. To better help you understand who I am, I would like to share a little bit about me. I am 30 years old and have been suffering with panic disorder for about 10 years, possibly longer. It started as a mere nudge of anxiety here and there, and spiraled into a massive problem I could no longer ignore. I went from being an outgoing, fun-loving soul to a grumpy, lonely, fearful mess. I would worry incessantly at situations I could not control and doubt myself with anxiety even when I was fully in control of a situation. My closest friends and family saw me transform from a social butterfly with no fear and boundless strength to a chronic worry wart who hardly left the house.
For me, it all started with my carelessness in dealing with stress or owning up to situations in which I was wrong. Stress has always been an issue for me. If something was stressing me out, I simply ignored it or swept it under the rug to deal with another day. It wasn’t like I was purposely trying to self-sabotage, but often times I just figured I was better off ignoring something then having to face it head on. The problem with that idea, is that it did catch up to me and the outcome was far worse than I ever imagined.
As the years rolled on, I developed phobia upon phobia, including fear of crowds, fear of health issues, fear of big rooms, fear of small rooms, fear of being alone, fear of being perceived as weak, and the list went on and one. And then the worst of all the fears struck 6 years ago, this sudden fear of driving. Thanks to some help from some amazing friends in my life, I conquered the fear once, but eventually it came back and I was back to being unable to come and go as I pleased. I lost many of my friends, my family began to question if I was ever going to snap out of it, and I lost my freedom in being able to drive and escape which was my happy place not long ago. I couldn’t go to the store, take my kids to a park, go to the movies, go dancing, enjoy some alcohol or coffee, and I started to feel completely hopeless. Then I started to realize that as long as I wasn’t alone, I could do these things, and I developed codependency.
In the beginning, I would get these anxiety attacks and I would talk myself into believing that I could conquer this one attack, so why not enjoy a glass of wine with my friends or indulge in a delicious cup of coffee? Within ten minutes of drinking that glass of wine or cup of coffee, the racing thoughts began and it’s off to the races. I would notice first that my heart was beating a little faster, then whomever I was talking to would suddenly not make any sense because I was inside my own head not listening to anything they were saying. The room would begin to feel small, the paranoia would slip in and rush through my body, and I would begin to feel a sense of complete terror. And after all that, the physical discomfort commenced. Sweaty palms, light headed, hyperventilating, heart pounding, chest pain, complete loss of feeling in my extremities, racing thoughts, and so much more. There wasn’t a reason in the world to feel this way. There usually wasn’t any danger on the horizon and I wasn’t breaking any laws so the feelings were completely unjustified. I would be trapped in my own mind with no escape, no exit signs and absolutely no idea how long this was going to last.
Years of therapy, medications and thousands of panic attacks later, I am still standing. This disease has a way of reshaping your whole life and making you more aware of yourself. I used to dwell in the past, sometimes I still do, that is the good things of the past, and reminisce on the woman I once was, reminding myself that I am nothing anymore (which I know isn’t healthy). The old me was a strong, capable woman who started a business in college and got super successful building websites and logos, to this woman who is dull and lost her shine. I felt like I went from ruling my world to being a slave in my own world. It was the worst feeling ever. And far worse than that was the reactions from friends and family who didn’t understand how I could fall so hard. Even though I know my family loves me despite my huge flaws, I felt like a failure, I felt like they had to tiptoe around me so I wouldn’t fall apart and panic. It was so hard to deal with all that. All of the stuff I went through pushed me to a breaking point and I turned to substances like pain pills to numb my pain.
The abuse started after a wave of bad luck. I had to have a c-section with my youngest son, then I had a tubal ligation that came with a tremendous amount of complications, next I started to develop TMJ and my jaw as well as my neck was locking up, then my wisdom teeth got infected and I could only afford to do one at a time, then I had a terrible endometriosis flair up and got my period for three months until my doctor sent me to pain management and ordered a partial hysterectomy (there is more to this story but I don’t want to share that just yet).
After all this happened, while healing from the hysterectomy, feeling broken and devastated by my lack of a uterus, I had someone close to me steel my pain medicine that I needed and I was torn between involving the law or staying quiet. I chose to stay quiet and I went to the hospital to get help with the enormous amount of pain I was in, only to discover that they could see the pain pill prescriptions in their system and became suspicious that I had an issue (of course I couldn’t explain that more than half of the pills I had been prescribed were stolen). I became flagged as having uncomplicated substance abuse disorder and sent home to bear the pain of being less than a week out of surgery. This began a rash of horrible, inconsolable panic attacks. I already had panic disorder but the pain made them worse than ever before. Hysterectomy’s, especially complicated ones like the one I had, are extremely painful. The heeling time is 3 to 6 weeks, with the first two weeks being exceptionally difficult.
I felt utterly defeated and the panic attacks swelled inside of me, threatening to ruin me while I laid in bed crying day and night in horrible agony. I made some poor choices that I would have never made had I not been panicking. Panic has made me lose control of my character and morals doing things I would never do normally.
The whole point of opening up to this story is to express that substance abuse can become secondary to unmanaged panic disorder. For me, I felt as though nothing would ever be the same again so while taking the pain pills (even though I wasn’t abusing them or taking more than the recommended dose) I found myself using the pills as a crutch to not feel the panic attacks while I was in pain. Many people told me that I was going to get addicted and I should stay away from them so I didn’t become addicted. While in this treatment facility, I learned that my issues weren’t drugs or even pain pills, it was codependency and panic disorder, which I knew about the panic disorder but the codependency was something I didn’t notice until I stepped back from my life.
I know that I cannot avoid pain pills because I have a chronic nerve pain condition that will never go away, but I know now to always be accountable to someone when I have to take these medications. It helps to calm my anxiety and worry when I focus my energy on being the healthiest version of myself, whatever that might look like. While I found peace in taking the pain medicine, I was losing my ability to face my issues head on.
I came home and began this new journey in my life to figure out how to control my panic attacks. This was something that I will continue to do for myself and my little family. I certainly will not take drugs again for the wrong reasons or put myself or my family in harms way, and I will also be more careful about what I do in regards to my health.
I am slowly starting to change my life, and I am noticing that this “near-miss” rock bottom moment in my life has helped me to panic less, deal with my stress better and make healthy changes to avoid causing distrust with the people I love in my life.
Every panic disorder story I hear is different, however the one thing we all have in common is that we didn’t plan for this and we have to fight like hell to survive it. I hope that you find, through my own experiences, some ideas to help yourself or a loved one to get through to the other side and find hope when it seems as though there is none.
Welcome to my blog and I will pull back the bandaids, the scars, the deep emotional baggage to share with you my journey as well as who I am now, how I am managing my panic attacks, and what my goals are. I invite anyone who would like to share their personal journey on The Panic Spot to send me a personal email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story could change a life, and you are always welcome to be completely anonymous if you should so choose. I am doing this blog to raise awareness to other Panic Disorder sufferers to find refuge and learn how to survive panic disorder from me and anyone else who has been dealing with this for a long time. So again, I really encourage you to share your story and I hope you will!