Panic Attacks, Say Hello To Your Conqueror

When I was a kid, I never thought I would see a day where I could feel a panic attack and willingly pull myself out of it. I thought panic disorder would control me forever. Today, I can say those predictions were wrong. I am able to pull myself out of a panic attack—and not only am I able, but I’m a fucking pro at it.

This is such a step in my personal growth, you have no idea. To correctly explain the magnitude of it, let me paint a picture. This Monday, I felt the familiar stir of a panic attack around 1:00 a.m. I’m used to it by now; I’ve been dealing with this phenomenon for the better part of nine years, so I’m no stranger. I don’t get panic attacks often (barely once a month now), but it always starts with the same little pang of dread in my chest, then I lose feeling in my face and hands, then my stomach does flips and limbs get weak. Sometimes it progresses into stomach pain or chest pain or those feelings of total helplessness. I know the drill.

So, I was panicking. What happens next? Here’s the thing: if I were 10 years old, I would absolutely break down at the emergence of these symptoms. I would have no idea what to do, so I would probably cry and find the fastest way to get to my parents, who were my only source of comfort. If I was at school and I panicked (which is usually where I panicked), I would stay in the bathroom for 30 minutes shaking or I would go to the nurse and pray that she’d send me home. I had no coping strategies.

But that’s not what I did when I panicked this Monday, and that’s the phenomenal thing. At 19, I don’t break down helplessly when I panic. I am so well-trained to fight my panic disorder that I can overcome an attack like NOTHING. Like I did that night—I simply got up. Opened the window. Breathed in some chilly November air. Left my dorm room and splashed some cold water on my face. Took a few more deep breaths. Looked in the mirror and smiled. Went back to my room and started writing this article in the notes on my phone. Panic attack over.

My strength to overcome panic attacks didn’t magically come to me; I am able to do this because I have spent almost a decade practicing strategies for fighting them. (If you’d like to hear these strategies, you can read an article I did about it a few months ago.) It has been far from easy, but it’s been so worth it.

I have come so far on my mental health journey, and I rarely take the time to think about it. By writing this article, I want to validate to myself that I have achieved something fantastic. When I was 10, I couldn’t spend a few hours away from my parents without worrying that I would feel an attack and not know what to do. I thought I would be living in my house, wracked by fear, for the rest of my life. But now, I live totally on my own, away from my parents—and not only do I rarely feel panic attacks, but even when I do get them, I crush them like nothing!

Another wonderful thing to realize is that I (me, myself, Tessa!) am literally all I need to remedy panic attacks now! I used to rely solely on my mom and dad to help me calm down. They were the only things that made me feel better, so I was convinced for years that they were the only antidote on this planet for my problem. But that’s not true! I am MY OWN remedy.

I have power in me that young Tessa wouldn’t be able to fathom. It makes me emotional, because I wish I could go back and show her life would be awesome someday. She went through so much hardship, convinced that her own brain was dead set on making her life a living hell. (Trust me kid, you’re still gonna feel like that some days. But thankfully, to a lesser extent.)

But it’s all over now. Because I have conquered you. Yes, you, Panic Disorder—I know you’re reading this. And just for you, I’ve included something that you may have forgotten. I predicted your defeat years ago. In April of 2010, a couple months into our ongoing battle. Don’t you remember this letter I sent you?

It reads:

“Dear Anxiety,

I am Tessa, which you might already know, because lately you have been trying to control me. And because of this, I absolutely hate you and I wish you would go away. Even though you might not know it, I am slowly getting rid of you. I have support from my family, friends, counselors, as well as medication. I have learned strategies to make you go away, but the most important thing I can do to conquer you, is to face you. I have been struggling, but I have made significant improvements, and motivation as well as reassurance are what keep me going. And one day while I am battling with you, I will give an outburst of strength, and defeat you. I will be stronger, smarter, and I will be the one controlling you.

From,

Tessa Langsdale

Your future conquerer”

Well, old friend, I guess the story foretold in this prophecy has finally come true. Say hello to your conqueror.