Join Date: Oct 2008
my story, my understanding...my victory
I can really relate to all of you who post here. The "been there, done that" saying comes to mind, as well as: "been through it all".
My story begins in the mid nineties, about four o' clock in the afternoon, at my desk at work: throat slams shut, heart rate goes to 200bpm, no way to get air into my lungs. Of course: I was "dying". Was rushed to the emergency room and two hours later was diagnosed as having suffered an anxiety/panic attack.
Okay: I could live with that (matter of fact I was real happy about that at the moment!). The week after: another one, three days after that: another one; and they kept coming more frequently at shorter intervals. Meanwhile I was on a first name basis with every nurse and doctor at the emergency room. I went to every specialist in town and out of town: cardiologist, allergist, ear/nose/throat specialist, gastroentologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, had a stress test done of my heart, had a film made of my heart, had a film made of my brain, extensive blood work and lab tests, you name it: I had it checked. Why: because for sure there was something terribly wrong with me physically that they had overlooked or I had developed a mysterious disease that they hadn't discovered yet (sound familiar?).
As this ordeal went on I became bed ridden for about six months, barely able to crawl into the kitchen to pour me a bowl of cereal, unable to leave my house (agoraphobia) while battling any or a combination of: chest pain, headaches, spinning head, throat "lock"/unable to talk/breathe, fainting, dizziness, blood rushes into my head, waking up at four or five in the morning with a heart rate of 190, checking my blood pressure to make sure I wasn't blowing a valve, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...! All in all it took a year and a half before I was "functional" again and to this day I thank my good neighbors!
Through it all I tried all the Xanax, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac and a few others I forget right now. None of them worked for more than a week to ten days, others made me more sick than I already was. Bottom line: I did not want to succumb to the "industrial medical complex". Any and all meds do cause side effects for which one will be told to take more meds and the body deteriorates further from there. I have lived that nightmare, the outcome described is inevitable.
At one point I was referred to (another) clinical psychologist who was able to create a change in me. He was the first (and only one) who told me that no: there is nothing wrong with you physically (however hard that may be for you to believe) and yes: it's all in your head but you're not a mental case by any means. The mental part however triggers some (possible extreme) physical manifestations because of a few mechanisms set in motion by the mind.
I became more and more interested in what that man had to say so he went on: I can see you are depressed (probably an understatement), of course I told him that yes I was. His next question was the one I never have forgotten and which was key to the healing process: what do you do to get so depressed...? ( at that point I was trying hard not to feel insulted but he said it with a smile and mentioned it matter of factly). I really didn't have an answer for him so he went on to explain: emotional states (such as depression) do not manifest themselves out of the blue, we create those ourselves. As in: all of us are constantly engaged in self-talk, emanating from the subconscious part of the brain (a lot of us are unaware of the conversation we have going with ourselves). Once one learns to control and quiet down that conversation stream, eventually directing it: the problem will be solved. Easier said than done of course but that was indeed the key to it all. Step one is to become aware of the constant self-talk, step two is to quiet things down and step three is to control and direct it. Tools to use: some good relaxation tapes (centerpointe makes a nice series) which will enable one to meditate at home, (no need to join a religious sect).
Initially I went for three or four half hour sessions a day. Diet changes: no caffeine, no nicotine, no coco (chocolate), no alcohol. Exercise: walking is the best to start with, it is not strenuous and the rhythmic movement creates relaxation as well. Life style: forget about watching horror/war movies and the like, don't even watch the evening news (it's always bad news = stress), instead watch some comedy; yes: laughter is the best medicine. Live in the here and now: enjoy a sunrise/sunset, listen to the birds in the early morning, criquets at night. Enjoy your surroundings while you drive: color of the trees, smell of the land/water. All these little adjustments add up over time (no: it does not happen overnight) and once you go a whole day symptom free: another one is soon to follow, then a whole week/month/year.
The main clue for me to understand was that these physical symptoms were not going to put me six feet under at any time of the day or night (as was my constant fear) and that I was in excellent health in spite of those (the body runs out of adrenaline if the fight/flight syndrome stays in the "on" position for too long, then other chemicals get produced to compensate for the lack of adrenaline, one being cortisol = bad...!).
Mastering the mental aspect (and accepting it first of all) took some time but it was well worth the effort. A good personal relationship helps a lot, even when by myself: calling a friend and engage in some mindless chatter will do away with any upcoming symptoms in a matter of minutes (when the yawning starts!).
Lying down with a relaxation tape always soothes the mind and body. I see a shaman about once a month (non-force chiropractor can help as well) and keep physically active. Am I completely symptom free? Not at all times, but I can live with what little gets thrown my way occasionally and know how to handle it.
In closing I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.