How Panic Attacks are Initiations to Your Next Level
Right after this happened, I immediately told myself I wasn’t going to share about it publicly.
Because truthfully, I was feeling a ton of shame.
Then my coach shared this question that she asks herself in these moments of -“ughhh really?? I don’t want to share *this* thing, but I also feel that sharing this thing would help others...”
The question was: “If I were fully being all of me, would I share this thing?”
And my heart said: yes.
Because if this can even help one person, that’s worth it to me.
So shame and all, here it is...
There’s shame that I’m out here helping others with anxiety and I’m not always perfectly, 100% anxiety-free...
Shame that after nearly a decade of not having a single panic attack and believing I never would again...
I had one of the most intense ones I can ever remember having.
I experienced such an overwhelm of sensation that I thought I would burst.
The hot, prickly feeling amplifying across my face and over every surface of my body...
My heart pounding, uncontrollably shaking my entire body...
Wanting to escape my own skin, but having nowhere to run...
Scared to breathe as if that would make everything worse…
Forcing slow, deep breaths, but feeling like they were too slow compared to the rest of my sensations...
Every second that the panic increased, I became more and more sure it would be my last
That this was it
That I was dying.
For those who haven’t ever experienced a panic attack before, I imagine this sounds overly dramatic - in which case, with love, this message isn’t really meant for you.
But for those who have, let me offer a new perspective:
When the attack happened, I was settling down to sleep, reading in bed.
Intellectually I knew I was not in harm’s way, and *technically* everything was okay.
Moreover, I have been doing serious, deep, healing work on anxiety for the past decade of my life and am now equip with a wealth of tools at my disposal.
So in the aftermath of the attack, as I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture of all that’s going on for me right now.
I unveiled some profound and potent truths.
To give you a quick, but relevant behind-the-scenes look into my life right now -
I am currently in a phase (we’ll call it) where I am going ALL IN on myself, my dreams and my desires more than I ever ever ever have before.
I am more committed to doing whatever it takes.
I am more relentless about attending to and upgrading my mindset.
I’m more conscious and intentional with my energy. I’m investing massive amounts of time, energy and resources.
I’m not allowing myself to dwell old, outdated patterns or habits. And I’m not taking “no” or “that’s not possible” for an answer.
I am behaviorally, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually stepping fully into the next level of myself.
As growth and expansion inevitably do, this has me taking actions way way wayyyy outside my old, cozy, teeny-tiny comfort zone.
And that scares the SHIT out of my Ego.
The first thing I knew to be true about this panic attack was that it was a sign and a symptom of my Ego desssssperately clinging, with all of its might, to my old ways of being, to what it knows as safety and security.
(I feel the pull to mention here that I am a HSP/highly sensitive person so this message as a whole might be particularly relevant to you if you also identify as such. Whereas less sensitive people might not have, say a panic attack, as they go through up-leveling, it might look different for them.)
The beautiful thing about this happening is it means that we’re are deliberately choosing to be strong, to be bold, to take the leap and make the changes necessary to create our desires. Let’s CELEBRATE ourselves for this. Not everyone is willing to endure temporary discomfort in order to achieve what they really say they want.
This panic attack, especially given my long track record of not having any in years, was a clear sign to me that I am getting so much closer to what I’ve been dreaming of.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the vast majority of things on my desires list are things I haven’t ever experienced before. Things like creating a signature body of work, writing a book, building wealth, traveling to new countries and having babies one day.
These are all things that I deeply, deeply, in my heart of hearts and in my soul desire. And They’re also scary AF.
They’re new and different things than I’ve ever experienced before, so therefore my Ego sees having them as threatening. Having them means scary scary changes and our Ego’s job is just to keep us safe, but the Ego can only confidently know that things that we’ve ALREADY experienced (and not died from), are the “safe” things.
So the fact that I’ve scared my Ego so damn badly by creating such massive shifts and changes, is actually a really good thing when it comes to getting what I really want. (Though I’d obviously prefer a much softer and gentler approach next time…) It means that I’m just that much closer than ever before, I’ve gone beyond the edge of comfort - this is where the possibility to create our dreams resides.
Every single time we walk right up to our fears and make the choice to keep walking right through them - we teach our Egos how safe we truly are; we grow our comfort zone and thus the field of possibility; we expand more and more into our limitlessness.
If you find yourself having an experience like mine, take a moment to zoom out and see the big picture of what’s really going on. Chances are you too are being bold, taking leaps and creating change in the name of your dreams and desires - honor yourself, celebrate yourself, love yourself for that.
Other things that helped me during and following the attack:
Consciously directing my breath: Taking long, slow, deep breaths filling my abdomen, ribs and chest (commonly referred to in yoga as 3-part breathing). I brought as much of my attention as I could muster to solely focusing on my breath.
Taking charge of my thoughts: I noticed what thoughts were popping up that were making me feel worse and I argued against them, telling myself the truth. For example, when my thoughts were saying “this is it, you’re dying,” I responded with “No, that’s inaccurate, everything is okay, I am fine, I’ve been through this before and I lived. It will pass. Just breathe.” I also focused on or told myself other things that were easy to feel good about, such as how comfy my bed is.
Reaching out for support and asking for what I needed: I turned to my partner and told him I was having a panic attack, I asked him to hold me and tell me that it was going to pass and all be okay. He lovingly obliged and knowing that I didn’t have to deal with it all on my own was comforting.
Taking a warm bath: In the moment, I was feeling extremely cold and knew that anything I could do to physically soothe my physical body would also help soothe my whole system. Ask yourself what you need and give it to yourself.
Interrupting the current pattern and shifting states: During the attack, my mind was stuck in a pattern of focusing on the panic, thereby amplifying it. I made the decision to consciously interrupt this pattern by bringing my attention to something silly - I made a stupid joke, laughed a little and this quickly altered my state, making way for relief. (Laughter really is some damn good medicine!)
Self soothing: I woke up the next morning with my nervous system still feeling a bit shaky and vulnerable. So I continued to ask myself “What do I need? What would be soothing?” My answers were to skip the caffeine today, get more rest, relax, go to a gentle yoga & meditation class, apply essential oils and take another hot bath. By spending this extra time caring for my body and nervous system, I also showed my Ego that we are safe, I am strong and I can take care of myself (aka - it doesn’t need to run the show any mo’).
Panic attacks are *not* a sign of your weakness - they are a symbol of your STRENGTH.
They are a sign of your willingness to not settle, to not stay stuck, to not remain small.
Don’t let your Ego fool you into thinking this is a sign to stop and turn back.
They are a physical manifestation of stepping across the threshold of your Ego’s comfort zone and moving in the direction of your dreams.
I hope this helps you.
I love you.
And I’m here for you.
>> If you feel called to share, I’d love to know how this resonated for you, what shifts or ah-has you had in reading this, or what perspective you’ve taken on your own panic attacks that have helped you. I know in sharing, you will help others too.
[Note: It’s important for me to say that this does not necessarily apply to ALL panic attacks, as I am very aware that panic attacks can also occur as a result of traumas, PTSD, genetics, major life changes and stress, etc. This message is specifically about my personal experience with this particular panic attack and how I see it as applying what we can go through when we are creating deliberate change, progress, shifts, transformations and up-leveling in our own lives.]