On March 15, 2000, a panic attack temporarily derailed my life. Sunshine smiled down as I drove through town on an errand. There was seemingly nothing wrong in my world. But all of a sudden, overwhelming fear gripped my soul and left me clutching for air. I pulled over to the side of the road to breathe, just breathe, as best as I could. My heart pounded, my hands shook, and time stood still. I went home that day and didn’t want to leave.
This was undoubtedly the darkest time in my life. I didn’t want to get out of bed and was terrified by the idea of driving a car again. I became a zombie with raw nerves whose constricted chest couldn’t fully inhale. Depression and anxiety locked me up in a windowless prison.
My poor mother was beside herself, feeling helpless to make me better. Two psychiatrists made a house call and immediately prescribed something. I refused to take it. I was afraid to lose control, so why swallow a pill that would alter my mind and body?
Spring became summer and I was blind to its beauty. When I’m stressed out I can’t eat, so I lost a lot of weight. A hopeless gray pall settled over me and I forgot what it felt like to be normal. Those long evening drives I used to take, listening to music and feeling the wind in my hair, seemed like a faint memory.
Little by little, though, I did improve. A psychiatrist conducted sessions over the phone and an amazing reiki practitioner performed energy work on me. I found a program with books and cassette tapes (yes, cassette tapes!) to help me work through my issues. Family and friends reached out to offer support, which proved invaluable. By October 2000 I began a part-time job, started seeing a therapist, and rejoined the outside world. I could breathe again.
Even though the story has a happy ending, I still struggle with anxiety and depression. They alert me when I’m starting something new and challenging and then do their best to keep me stuck. Sometimes it feels easier to let them win.
But I’ll never forget what happened to me on the Ides of March. Now when something feels impossible, I remember that hard fought battle that I won 19 years ago. There is a way out and there is always hope. Warmer days are upon us, and I’m once again looking forward to those long lost summer drives.