Saturday, May 13, 2017

Panic Attacks revisited

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself: nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

When FDR proclaimed that during his inauguration speech in 1933, he was trying to give heart to a country caught in the depth of the Great Depression.
He could use that exact statement to refer to the stress of life in the 21st century. "Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror..." Today we might call them panic attacks, or anxiety. They are a nervous reaction to stress.
This "sense of impending doom" becomes a common occurrence when you give in to it: you become more and more sensitized. The avoidance just makes you feel more reluctant to face the offending situation. In my case, it was leaving my house: a condition called agoraphobia.
When my first attack occurred, my then boss advised me to come to work. He understood that giving in to the anxiety just makes the next occurrence feel worse.
It took me 16 years before I began to shake the agoraphobia I suffered from. I had become a writer, and since I stayed home to work, I got a great deal done. You can see a list in an earlier post.
Sitting in my home office after my marriage broke up, I realized that if I didn't shake myself loose, I would become a hermit. Much as I loved my dog, I wanted to be exposed to better conversationalists.
A book called "Help and Hope for your Nerves" by Claire Weekes was the key. Biofeedback hadn't worked. Tranquilizers fell short, and made me feel logy and dull.
Ms. Weekes's 1969 book helped me face the panic and gradually overcome it.
I placed myself in situations where I needed to interact with people, and it eventually became easier and easier.
Here's the point: If you've ever watched The Dog Whisperer on TV, Cesar does something to attract the dog's attention and distracts the animal from the undesired behavior. That's what you have to do for yourself.
He wants the dog owner to become "calm and assertive." Isn't that what you want to do for yourself, rather than surrender to nerves and limit your life? Exercise more, even if it's just walking around the block. That drains the stress.
The main thing is to face the anxiety, accept it, and don't let it control you. Good luck. We're all in this together.

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