A Return to Anxiety

Since my last post about my experience with panic and anxiety, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For the most part. There have been questions, however. Most of the questions have been around whether or not it was a good idea for a therapist to admit to having dealt with a panic attack. After all, no one wants to see a therapist who might have a panic attack while you’re in session. It is to these questions that I wish to speak.

Waterfall Park

My panic attack was something of an anomaly in my life. When it came, it was ferociously quick moving, and it materialized out of what seemed like nowhere. I had never experienced anything like it, and I have yet to experience anything like it again. The experience very thoroughly affected me, but in the time following, I have come to realize that my life hasn’t been defined by its existence. In fact, to the contrary, I have been able to define the experience as important to me and for me, a moment in my life that informed me about what my real feelings and fears about myself really were. With such a bright and shining check engine light going off, I took the opportunity to open the hood and see where the problem really lay.

I guess my point is this: I have been able to move past my anxiety and lead a normal, healthy, productive life.

And perhaps this speaks to the most damaging and damning part of having panic attacks and anxiety, which is the belief that a person who has anxiety is a person trapped and forever broken. Nothing could be further from the truth. The world is full of incredibly successful people who have a very deep and real understanding of what it means to live with panic without being defined by it. I think that people in general understand that, statistically speaking, anxiety and panic attacks have existed in the lives of a few people who made something out of their lives. However, it might shock you to know that some of the biggest names in the world lived with anxiety. People like Oprah Winfrey, who overcame her anxiety to become the biggest talk show host to ever grace day time television. Or Abraham Lincoln, who would suffer from anxiety and depression throughout most of his adult life. Or David Bowie, Johnny Depp, Adele, Scarlett Johansson, Nikola Tesla, and even Sigmund Freud, all of whom suffered from social or general anxiety and panic.

In short, I want to make two things very clear.

  1. Anxiety is a very real, powerful thing, and it can have devastating effects on your sense of self and your self-confidence.
  2. It is entirely possible to overcome the negative effects of anxiety in your life and live a very productive, very fulfilling life.

My experience with panic attacks was (thankfully) very brief, but that simply and unfortunately is not the case for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t say that it was an easy experience, nor would I say that I came away from the experience the same person that I was before. However, I also wouldn’t say that my experiences with anxiety have closed any doors or prevented me from taking advantage of great opportunities. I have found a way to live a life where anxiety can be present sometimes, but that is all the same rich, vibrant, and ultimately a life that I feel in control of. I know from personal experience that anxiety is something that can be overcome, and that a life with anxiety is still very much a life that can be enjoyed.

If you find that you are struggling from anxiety, please know that you are not alone. If anything, you may come to realize that you find yourself in some very good company. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Asking for help doesn’t define a person as weak, and it doesn’t mean that you are sentenced to an existence of worthlessness or useless living. You can overcome the negative effects of anxiety. And with the proper help, you will.