Are you one of millions of people with a panic disorder? Do you fear something bad is about to happen and you have to leave wherever you are, finding the closest exit? Does your panic attack include fast heartbeats, being so dizzy you have to sit down, and in about fifteen minutes later, you're drained from the pressure of it? I was all of the above starting in 1997.
I had recently graduated from college in 1996 and was looking for a job. It was difficult for me as I was advanced in age - 60. I didn't want to apply in retail as I would be on my feet during my shift. There were a lot of jobs I didn't want because I had worked in administration for the past 30 years and even though I had just graduated college I wasn't a novice at work environments.
I remembered a friend of mine owned a Limousine company and thought that he would hire me just because we were friends and I had a flawless driving record. No tickets or accidents. I called him and he told me to come down to the office and fill out an application and I could start working after my training period, which was only a few days.
My trainer taught me how to back up a 10 passenger limo out of a tight space and how to lean forward, looking into my left sided mirror to make sure a car wasn't in my sight if I was changing lanes. Also, I learned how to put on my brakes slowly before I came to a stop, in case my passengers were drinking beverages. And, to start off slowly from a stop sign so they wouldn't be shifted all over the back seats.
I loved my job. Met a lot of neat people, but I also saw many errors that would get my friend in legal trouble so I wrote my recommendations in the employee suggestion box. Remember, I had worked a lot of years and knew employment law backwards and forwards. I was notified one evening at home by the Trustee for the Bankruptcy my friend was going through and he asked how I knew these rules. I told him of my experience and he hired me to run the company, which I did for several months.
One day I heard from another employee that everyone over 40 was going to be fired when the new owners took over in a few weeks. That hit me pretty hard as I loved my job. I was now under extreme pressure wondering when I would be fired. My marketing manager was 48. The accounting manager was 53 and my Dispatcher was also 60. I told them all what to expect. It was at this point I developed a panic disorder.
I was coming down the stairs to meet a phone vendor when I could no longer walk as I was so dizzy. My heart beat was well over 100 bpm. My marketing manager saw me and told me to sit down on the steps and to put my head between my legs. I did that, but when I opened my eyes, the asphalt was spinning so fast I had to close them again. I was taken to emergency thinking I was having a heart attack but by the time I got there the episode was subsiding. The Doctor on call said I had an anxiety attack and sent me home.
Still under pressure with new owners coming in, I had severe attacks on a regular basis. I saw the company Doctor and he gave me Xanax, which relaxed me so much I couldn't do anything but sit in a chair. He then referred me to a Psychiatrist who referred me to a Psychologist. I saw him for a year and he suggested I buy some blue stickers from Staples and put the blue stickers on my phone, desk, night stand and anywhere else I could be sitting when I was going to have an attack. That didn't work.
A friend told me about RecoveryInternational.org and I contacted them in San Diego, where I was living at the time. They are a group that focuses on self-help through "Will" training. You can "Will" your mind on almost anything. I had to drive myself to the meeting which was in Pacific Beach, about 7 miles from where I lived in Point Loma. As I approached a bridge, I felt the sides of it closing in one me. I didn't think I could get across it to get to the meeting. They kept closing in on me until I reached the end of it and the street went back to normal. When I got to the meeting I told them about my episode on the bridge and they had also experienced similar situations. I felt like I was at the perfect meeting for me.
Recovery International is all over the U.S. and abroad. It's amazing how many meetings they have and in so many states. They don't have even one in Tennessee where I live, but Facebook has them. It's not the same as a live meeting. I went to these meetings once a week and overcame my anxiety and panic attacks. I learned how to "Will" my mind against them. I ended up taking Paxil and going to meetings eliminating my panic attacks and feeling anxious.
It has been 18 years that I have been panic free. I have changed a lot about myself. I don't allow me to get uptight over anything. I have calmed down to where any crisis is handled with consideration and planning. I am thankful for a group that helped me see how my "Will" can change the way I think and act. Whenever something pressing comes up like being stalled on the freeway due to an accident, I know I can't do anything about it so I condition my mind to think about something peaceful in my life and until I hear the car behind me honking because the traffic is now moving, I enjoy looking back on something that will bring a smile to my face - my children, grandchildren and best Buds.