Changing the World: One Panic Attack at a Time

You can usually tell what kind of day I'm having by the messages I write to myself on my arm.  Image: Dakster Sullivan
You can usually tell what kind of day I’m having by the messages I write to myself on my arm. Image: Dakster Sullivan

It hasn’t always been easy to be open with my struggles. I would hide my pain and suffer in silence. One day, I realized that I was tired of being quiet. I realized that I have nothing to be ashamed of and it’s not something I do for attention. It’s a real struggle and I wasn’t going to be silent anymore. In fact, I would find a platform and scream about it at the top of my fingers. In comes GeekMom.

I started slowly by talking about my struggles on Facebook with “friends only posts.” This was an eye-opening experience, because as I shared, other people came out of the woodwork by commenting or sending me private messages. And just like that, I wasn’t alone anymore.

This small step turned into my next big step. Writing about it on GeekMom.

My first post about anxiety and depression went live when we were on Wired.com. You’d think that on a platform as big as Wired, I would have had at least one troll.

In truth, I didn’t receive one single negative comment. Instead, messages of support and understanding came pouring in.

It may seem like it’s easy for me to write-up about my struggles, but in truth, it can be rather difficult. Not the writing part, but putting the post in for editing and scheduling. Reading it on the site and promoting it. Those are the hard parts.

My post about my experience with Ashley Eckstein was one of the harder ones I’ve done and, in truth, I’ve nearly cried several times reading it after it went live. Reliving the painful experiences and panic attacks through writing can be hard. But reading them live on a website can be downright draining.

Despite the emotions that writing about my struggles causes me, I’m glad I do it.

I’m lucky enough to have a support system that surrounds me with love and understanding every time I have a panic attack or I’m having a bad day. Not everyone is that fortunate.

While I’m going through an episode, I’m certainly not happy with my situation. I’ve screamed “WHY??” and waited for an answer. I’ve wished it would all end quickly and let the pain be over with permanently.

When it’s all over, though, and my son is there to give me hugs and my husband to get me a cold cloth to wipe my face, I realize how strong I really am. The panic attacks and anxiety do not define me. The strength I show by getting up after they are over with and going on with my life, do.

I show my struggles on Facebook, Twitter, and here on GeekMom because I know not everyone has the support system I do and I want others to know that I’m here. I understand.

For those who don’t have anxiety and depression, I show my struggles to teach them that it’s not all in our heads. It’s real. It hurts. And just like anyone else with an illness, we should be treated with kindness and respect.

Recently I took my mission to be open to the next level and shared a video on Facebook of me having a panic attack.

In the video, I talk to myself and say out loud what is going on in my head. I made sure to emphasize to my friends and anyone who saw the video that I was not in any danger and had no thoughts of hurting myself or others. To put it simply, I was scared. Terrified actually.

When I felt I had shown and talked enough, I turned off my phone, sat up, and realized I felt a ton better. My therapist said it’s because I acknowledged the feelings and by hearing myself talk, I realized how illogical my fears really were. My brain was once again playing tricks on me.

Unless you know someone with anxiety and are privileged to be close enough to them for them to let you in when the really bad times hit, you’ve probably never seen a panic attack or recognized what it was when you saw someone else having one.

By having my sharing start out small and by forcing myself to have the courage to take bigger steps each time, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the people around me.

All of this sharing hasn’t been easy, but the rewards of support and seeing others who have suffered in darkness coming into the light have made it worth it. When having a panic attack or going through a depressing day, it can make us feel like we are totally alone. By being open with my struggles, I’ve shown others they are not alone and, in turn, I’ve ended up with a support system stronger than anything I could have begged for in my darkest hour.

To see more posts that I’ve written about anxiety and depression, click in the search box at the top of this page and do a search for “anxiety.”

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Dakster Sullivan is a network administrator by day and a cosplayer by night. She loves discovering new books to read, tech to play with, and ways to express her herself. She has anxiety and depression and strives to educate others about these invisible illnesses.