I went to therapy for the first time when I was about 9 years old. It was shortly after my parents divorced. I had my first panic attack around that time as well. I think most of it stemmed from separation anxiety I had when my mother wasn’t close by.
When I got a little older, I didn’t continue therapy because I didn’t notice much change and I was also told that I would probably “grow out of it”. To some extent, I think I did. I don’t have separation anxiety anymore, but I do have anxiety towards other things.
Not dealing with loss and grief has been a huge issue for me that I was recently made aware of by my current therapist. If we define “loss” as the “ending of something” (not necessarily death), then I have experienced a lot of loss in my life that I have chosen not to emotionally or mentally process/deal with. As a result, my body stores those emotions as anxiety and it gets periodically released as symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks.
For a while, I thought I was able to track my triggers (loud music, crowds, thunderstorms, tornado sirens, yelling/shouting), but over time, the attacks seemed to be more random.
I was able to count the number attacks I had during 2018-2019 on one hand up until the end of May of this year. As I was looking for a home, a job, and I was also dealing with (I actually wasn’t dealing with it at all) a fresh breakup, I found myself hyperventilating at the nail salon. The old familiar feeling was back in full swing.
2 weeks, a house, and a job later, the panic attacks and anxious feelings subsided. I’m 99.9% sure that my anxiety was caused by the stress of not having a home or being employed.
Let’s fast forward to today- to today’s therapy session to be exact. Today was one of the best sessions I’ve had since starting. I’ve discovered a lot of things in the past 2 months. I’ve also acknowledged a lot of things in the past 2 months.
- I am hard on myself.
- I have a fear of failure.
- To me, setting goals+achieving said goals=success/life purpose
Today was the first step of me including all parts of me in an acknowledgement. What that looks like is: “I acknowledge that when I think about [insert whatever makes you anxious/scared here (for me it was elaborate solo travel)], I get scared and nervous, but I also have powered through similar things that have also made me scared and nervous.
Instead of saying “X makes me feel scared”, I’m including the fact that yes, I feel this fear, but I’ve also fucking powered through fear before.
I’ve shut parts of myself down over the years. I’ve shut down Grieving Megan. I’ve shut down Angry Megan. I’ve shut down Sad Megan. I’ve even shut down Excited/Hopeful/Optimistic Megan because I have a fear of getting my hopes up and then being let down and feeling stupid for letting myself get them up in the first place. I’ve silenced all these parts of me and the voices that belong to them. Today was a step in letting them be heard.