Mind over matter… Easier said than done. Especially for those who suffer from panic and anxiety. “Mind over matter, Annie” is what I was always told growing up, before my panic disorder was recognized as an issue that could not be easily overcome.
In psychology class, it is taught that people with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) make frequent trips to the ER or Urgent care because they think they are having a heart attack or are suffering from some other terrible illness. Symptoms often include chest pain, rapid breathing, and fainting. Yet all test results come back negative, patients are sent home and are told they are fine. In fact, in the DSM V, they have changed the definition of hypochondria, and lumped it in with GAD. For some, and maybe for most, this is the case. However, this has never been my experience. After talking with others who experience life-altering anxiety, I realize that the DSM may be too broad, especially with mental disorders.
My symptoms include a rapid heart rate- in fact my heart pounds and beats so quickly I feel as though it may come out of my chest- I become light-headed and as a result, very nauseated. Often, I will end up becoming sick. After losing the contents of my stomach, I feel better almost immediately. But this relief does not always last.
It has taken me a long time to identify the difference between having a panic attack versus just being sick. I have also had to learn to identify what triggers my anxiety, and try to stop the panic attack from taking over. Mind over matter. It has been no small feat, and because it is a disorder, it is not always triggered or preventable.
It took my parents a long time to understand that I could not always control what was happening to me, that my brain had put my body into fight-or-flight. My sympathetic nervous system was in action, and it was not my fault. I eventually came to the realization that my anxiety had not only taken over my life, but it was beginning to take over theirs. My mom would constantly have to leave the birthday party, restaurant, or store to take me home because I was sick. Many vacations spent waiting for me to pull myself together and leave the hotel or the car- if I made it that far.
Mind over matter- A technique I am still learning, as I have had anxiety about posting this very blog! And through this blog, I hope to help people understand another point of view. A view from someone who has learned to live with chronic anxiety. Feedback, questions, and comments are always welcome.
Peace and love,