When I first heard that I'd be blogging for the anxiety section of Psychology Today, I got anxious.
Because I'm not a psychologist, I don't work in the field of health care, I'm not comfortable on the floor of a psych unit, and I can't prescribe meds.
In fact, I can barely remember what it feels like to have a panic attack, although I've had hundreds of them in my lifetime.
But maybe that's the point. Maybe I've truly healed from the panic disorder that haunted me from the time I was 15 years old. Maybe I've rewired my brain, connecting it to my body in a powerful new way. Maybe I really do have something to teach people.
I certainly hope so. Especially since I wrote a whole book about my experience and am about to go onto the Today Show to discuss it. I'm about to go out into the world telling everyone how much better I feel, how much healthier I've become, how I transformed myself from a neurotic Jew into a serene Tibetan monk. Or at least a suburban monk in a minivan, now able to shop in supermarkets without fear that buzzing fluorescent lights will set my central nervous system on fire.
I used to be afraid to live my life without a disaster plan. I used to carry a flask of vodka around with me in my pocketbook, in case I felt a panic attack coming on. When the telltale signs - pounding heart, closing throat, galloping lungs and sheer terror - snuck up on me, I could duck into a bathroom, take a swig of fiery vodka, and wait for a warm glow to bathe my petrified lungs and slow my entire body down.
I suffered my first panic attack when I was a fifteen year old waitress. Of course I didn't know it was a panic attack; nobody ever uttered the word back then. Nobody talked about anxiety disorders or spilled their guts on national television. So I had no idea what was happening to me when I showed up for work and then almost died. One minute I was serving dinner to college students in a cafeteria, and the next minute a bolt of electricity clobbered my heart, lungs and central nervous system. I broke into a cold sweat. My whole body shook. My pulse raced so fast I thought my chest would explode.
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