While I must admit that I have never had a full blown panic attack that completely paralyzed me or sent me to the emergency room, severe anxiety was a constant specter and companion in my life until I got into Recovery in 1993.
Even in my pre-spiritual Recovery (up to 2010), and with tools like medication, therapy, and CBT, my social anxiety was miserable. I remember having to steel myself and get through the fear by force of will nearly any time I left the house. Anticipating going into crowds, public speaking, and social events left me feeling like I was about to face death.
Pre-1993 was far worse. My feelings of panic that emerged in public and social settings were so intense that I could barely function. I often avoided social events and only went to work and the store. When I couldn’t avoid, I would self medicate, usually with alcohol. Or, if I couldn’t self medicate or avoid, I would grit my teeth and barely get through what felt like an intensely terrifying ordeal.
It was absolutely brutal. My self worth was zero. I crawled in my own skin. I had maladaptive coping skills. I couldn’t relate to others. I was certain that others thought as little of me as I did myself. I was terrified of failure, rejection, and being mocked. I willed the panic away because I was indoctrinated not to “be weak.” And for internalizing my feelings, I paid the price of sacrificing a piece of my humanity.
Severe, chronic anxiety is Hell. And while I never had a textbook panic attack, my experiences enable me to empathize with my brothers and sisters who have.
God love you all….