When the Progress You've Made Isn't Enough (Coping with Panic Attacks)

I've made a lot of progress through all of the years of counseling, self-help information, addiction support groups, EMDR, and other activities that contribute to healing. 

And I've made a lot of progress. Really I have. 

However... 

There have been two instances in the past few weeks that showed that I still have a loooooonnnnng way to go. 

When I woke up for church a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't feeling well. I almost didn't go. 

It was one of those times my determination (stubbornness?) was an asset, I guess. I had missed a lot lately due to work and other issues so I got ready and left. 

On the way, I started having a panic attack. It's been a while since I've had one and I knew I couldn't handle Sunday School the way I was feeling. 

I called my husband who was driving his car (due to somewhere he had to go right after church) and explained my thoughts about a way to cope.

My plan was to go to a local Dollar Tree and shop for about the next 45 minutes (I've fallen in love with DT!) and then I felt I should be okay to attend church after the distraction. 

It worked... To a point. 

I did calm down. I even laughed some. And as a bonus, I got some shopping done! 

I just knew I'd be okay. I was ready to handle church. 

It didn't work out that way. 

I don't know what triggered me, but something did. 

After only a few minutes, I knew I couldn't stay in church. It's a deaf church and it's true that they are more visual than many who are hearing. There would be no way I could fake it through the service. 

I fled before I completely lost it. 

Ironically, the closest place for me to head was my Sunday School classroom. 

It was only a few steps away, but by the time I got there, I started hyperventilating. My husband had followed me out and knew what to do - talk to me about mundane things to distract me from my labored breathing. 

I expected that... But what I didn't expect is that others would follow me out. Everyone was worried about me and several actually tried to find me. 

One man, the deaf ministry's worship leader, really engaged with me. I couldn't believe it, but before church was out that day, I was literally laughing out loud. 

Like I mentioned before, it had been a while - months? years?? - since my last panic attack. Once I made it through that one and remembered that I hadn't been sleeping and had a lot of caffeine which I had figured out were my main causes (but had forgotten at this point). 

I really didn't expect to have another one so soon. I know that I pushed it too much last night, shooting Winter Jam 2023 (my first time to shoot like I used to since the rotator cuff surgery). I shot about 1500 frames from angles all over the floor of the arena. 

I did stop early, once I realized what I was doing. But by then it was too late. 

By the time I got home, my arm was killing me. I couldn't sleep, even after taking multiple meds. I finally got up and took a bath and fell asleep for a short time in the tub.

I went back to bed for a while and slept another hour or two. It wasn't enough. 

On the positive side, I was able to walk and move my arm when I woke up. I really thought I'd be out for days while I let it heal. 

Instead, I was able to move, but the mental effects from the lack of sleep caused a repeat of two weeks ago. I'm at a women's retreat and several times on the way here and after I got here, it took major strength to not go back home. 

I'm glad I didn't leave. Some of the women here were so accommodating when they realized I wasn't doing well. That helped, but I still wasn't able to make it through the first session. 

I consider it a "failure" that I had another panic attack, but I am proud of myself in that I did what I needed - I went outside to calm down. 

When I got to my car, I cried and prayed. I took photos with my phone.

I enjoyed the beauty and stillness of this setting. 

It made all of the difference. 

Though I'm still really tired and my vision is still blurry from crying, I didn't go into a full-blown panic attack this time... And one reason why is a realization I had. 

One of the issues today was the overwhelming thought that all of these women who are wearing nice clothes and have fixed hair and makeup have it all together.

When I was outside, I reminded myself (out loud) that yes, I'm not like these women. I never will be. I have a weird personality. I question everything. 

I have physical and mental health issues that literally affect everything I do. I don't have nice clothes and I sweat off makeup so quickly that I don't even try anymore. My hair is cut in a "brush it and go" style (and it's especially bad today since I slept on it wet). 

But I'm not less - less worthy, less important, less a woman - because of those differences. 

I feel that God made me this way and even though I'm the weirdo in a group of neurotypical women (or any group of neurotypicals), I'm okay with who I am. 

I might not be like these women, but I have a lot of great traits:
- I see the world through the lens of a camera and can tell you which angle would be best for the shot without having a camera in my hand. 
- I have been told that I'm a very good interviewer. 
- I can empathize with those going through a lot of crap. 
- I question everything (yes, it's both a weakness and a strength). 
- I am usually able to juggle all of the aspects of my life effectively, in spite of my struggles. 
- I know how to live without having much. 
- I've been really, really low and I lived through it. 
- I'll keep trying and rarely give up on a hard task. 
- I'm fiercely independent but I'm learning how a measure of give-and-take. 
- I get to interview and shoot some amazing people and events. 
- I can understand those who don't fit into the mold, especially in Christian circles. 
- I am blessed with a good living situation and have enough financially for what I need. 
- I have amazing friends and family (not all, but most). 

I could go on but I need to get back to focusing on what's going on about the retreat. 

Life is good and I'm thankful, even if I still have panic attacks. 

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