What a Month of Daily Panic Attacks Taught Me About Anxiety

Posted by on September 21, 2019 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments

Image Credit: Tiny Buddha

By Sabrina Wang | Tiny Buddha

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

It happened in the middle of an intimate moment, about a month before my wedding.

One minute I was enjoying a kiss from my fiancé and the next thing I knew, I was clutching my face and writhing in agony.

At first, there was a loud thud in my chest, as if my heart had skipped a beat.

Then out of nowhere I started getting this strange sensation—like the kind of feeling you’d get on an elevator that’s going down too fast. The feeling was so disorienting I couldn’t help but let out a startled cry.


I felt what I would later describe as “the draining”—it was as if all the blood had poured out of my body in a split second and I was left with an icy, numb, and shaky shell.

I was convinced that I was going to die.

But I wasn’t dying. Ten minutes and many repetitions of long, deep breaths later, I calmed down enough to shake off the fear and I was able to see the ordeal for what it really was—a panic attack.

It Wasn’t My First Time

I was no stranger to panic attacks—I’d already had a few in my life up till then. The first one hit me shortly after I was diagnosed with Leukemia at age nineteen. From then on it would rear its ugly head from time to time when things get overwhelming.

So when I had this panic attack a month before my wedding, I didn’t think much of it at first. I chalked it up to excitement over the impending wedding. I thought once I rested up for the weekend, everything would go back to normal.

But I was wrong.

I went on to have another panic attack, and then another one—until I lost count.

I continued to have panic attacks every day for an entire month. The experience opened my eyes about anxiety—I learned a few valuable lessons in this journey that taught me how to cope with anxiety and helped me get to a better place.

And I’m here to share those lessons in the hopes that my experience may be able to help someone else who’s suffering from anxiety.

3 Important Lessons About Anxiety from My Month of Panic Attacks

1. You don’t need a reason to explain or validate your anxiety.

I used to think that anxiety was something you’d only feel if there was a good reason for it.

For example, just right before an important exam or after a life-changing diagnosis.

So when I first started having those daily panic attacks, I kept asking myself why?

I know what you’re probably thinking: Maybe it was the wedding planning?

After all, many brides do get stressed just before their wedding. But I assure you that wasn’t the reason. I was a happy, relaxed bride-to-be who already had everything planned out months in advance. There was little left for me to do except to wait for the day to arrive.

Perhaps there were other stressful things going on at the time? No, not a thing.

My job was wonderful, my health was better than ever, and I was having a great time with my family and friends. I’d been through rough waters before and in comparison, this period of my life was all smooth-sailing.

Could it be from chronic stress that had been building over time? I doubt it.

I was practicing Tai Chi and Qigong meditation for at least forty-five minutes on a daily basis—a habit that I’d kept up for a couple of years already by then. I was in a good place mentally and physically. In fact, I hadn’t had an obsessive thought or lost sleep over anything in a long time.

I was feeling on top of the world.

But despite all of this, I began to experience some of the most terrifying symptoms of anxiety I’d ever experienced in my life. And the more I tried to look for an explanation, the worse I felt. As my mind desperately searched for an answer, it became more and more fixated on the anxiety itself.

I started to examine myself inch by inch—with a giant imaginary magnifying glass—for any clues that would explain the tightness in my chest, the tingling in my hands, or the throbbing in my neck. Soon, my anxiety was all I could think about.

In order for me to stop ruminating over my anxiety, I had to surrender to the fact that I didn’t know the explanation.

I had to accept that anxiety can strike at any time for no reason.

I came to realize we don’t need a reason to explain our anxiety, as if a solid explanation would somehow validate the way we feel. Sometimes anxiety just shows up. And once I accepted this fact, I felt more at peace with myself.

So if you’re stuck running in circles wondering why you feel the way you do, try this:

Instead of beating yourself up looking for a reason for your anxiety, accept that it is happening and you may never know why.

The sooner we make peace with the fact that there is no clear answer, the sooner we can stop scrutinizing our anxiety—and concentrate on healing.

2. Incredible things can happen when we open up about our anxiety.

I used to think having anxiety was embarrassing.

My family never talked about mental health when I was growing up. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. A couple of my relatives had mental health issues, and everyone in our extended family treated them like they were the family shame.

So when I started having the daily panic attacks, I felt I had to keep up the act that nothing was wrong.

I’m fine,” I told my friends and coworkers when they noticed I wasn’t my usual cheery self. “I’ve got it under control.”

But as the days went by, it began to dawn on me that I was not fine. I was rapidly loosing grip on my normal life. I needed help.

I finally opened up to my friends and coworkers about my anxiety. I was skeptical and nervous at first. I’d imagined I’d get a lot of caring but suffocating questions, plenty of warm but generic words of comfort, and a few well-intended but over-simplified comments like “just relax.” I expected some people would want to jump in right away and try to “fix” me. But to my surprise, I got a very different kind of response.

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