It’s a small little pill. I take it every day around 4 p.m. It’s green and white, and I wash it down with my afternoon coffee or water.
What is it? Fluoxetine which, if you’re not familiar with it, is more commonly known as a form of Prozac.
I started to get panic attacks in my early twenties. I thought I was having a heart attack the first time one hit. I was dizzy – the room was literally spinning. My heart raced, my chest tightened, and my extremities started to go numb. My lips would always go first, then the tips of my fingers would start to prickle, and the numbness would spread. I felt out of control…out of my mind. It was absolutely terrifying.
While my doctor quickly confirmed that I wasn’t dying, I was told that I needed to address my anxiety. Immediately. Medication was an option, but there were other things to try first. I appreciated this approach. I was able to pinpoint my triggers and learned how to ward off further attacks.
Here is what worked to curb my anxiety and ward off panic attacks:
- Yoga and yoga breathing. Breathing was especially important when I felt major anxiety start to threaten.
- Lots of water throughout the day. For me, being dehydrated is a trigger.
- Consistent sleep routine, and getting at least seven hours a night.
- Valerian Root supplements – a natural aid for sleep and anxiety.
- Grounding. This can take many forms. The idea is to focus on the present, eliminate excess external stimuli and reconnect with yourself and the earth. A great technique is to focus on five things you can hear, four things you can see, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Go through each of the five senses and focus on each.
These techniques were amazing and worked for many years. If I felt my anxiety deepen, I could ward off a panic attack using one, a few, or all of my methods. I was proud of myself. I beat anxiety. I did it!
But, really, I didn’t.
Anxious people are anxious. We can’t help it. We are made this way. I didn’t ask to be like this. Truthfully, I’d give anything to be a super cool, laid-back, cool-as-a-cucumber type of person. I know people like this. They make me wildly envious. WILDLY! But my brain chemistry just doesn’t work like that.
I come from a long line of overthinkers and empaths. We think deeply, and we feel deeply. We are beyond sensitive. For me, this overthinking, empathetic, and sensitive makeup leads to major anxiety and, sometimes, panic. I used to feel ashamed of this like it was a defect. “You’re so sensitive,” was a phrase often lobbed at me, and not in a kind manner. Now, I understand it’s just who I am. I’m definitely not ashamed. But I also understand that it takes a certain amount of awareness and work to keep myself on an even keel. I can turn into a hot mess express easily if I don’t pay attention to the signs and my triggers.
Here are the additional methods I use to manage anxiety and prevent panic attacks:
- Therapy. I’m not a habitual patient but when I need it, I go. It’s hard and challenging. It forces me to confront things that need to be addressed, but that I’d rather sweep beneath the rug. I was fortunate to find an amazing fit. If you’re searching for a therapist, I highly recommend visiting this website. It gives you the ability to search for care based on type, price, zip code, and more.
- Pills. I fought this one for years. I didn’t need them. I could manage everything myself. I wasn’t the type of person who took pills. It was a weakness. The list of excuses and denials was long. But, as it turns out, I am the type of person who immensely benefits from a low dose of antidepressants. A once-daily, low dose has made such a difference in how I feel. I’m not as anxious, not as “on-edge”, and I don’t feel the overwhelming feelings or even occasional dread that I was experiencing. I’m still me, just more well-balanced.
- Understanding myself – learning my triggers and boundaries. I’m in my forties now. I’ve lived a lot of life since anxiety and panic first took their strongest grip. Life’s experiences – the amazing and the terrible – have all helped to shape who I now am. Understanding my triggers, learning and establishing my boundaries, and self-awareness are key aspects that I continue to work on with myself.
If you’re interested in delving deeper into boundary setting and self-awareness, please check out my post HERE. I’m not an expert by any means. But I am a strong believer in mental health, self-awareness, and self-improvement.
Moreover, I believe in being completely transparent about my struggles with anxiety and panic. I wish someone could have been there for me when I first started experiencing these very real and very scary feelings all those years ago.
Life is fluid. Its experiences don’t allow us to maintain a stagnant existence. The wonderful and the terrible exist together, and it’s not within our control which side of the coin we flip on any given day, week, month, or year.
Will I continue to take my one small pill that has made such a big difference? It’s very likely. Or maybe I will reach a season where I don’t need the daily dose. Either way, I know that there’s nothing wrong with working on being the best version of myself by managing my anxiety.