Panic Life

Fighting Stigma and Living with an Anxiety Disorder

My Name is Sarah and I Have Panic Disorder

Living With Panic Disorder

I'm Sarah Fader, a mother of two, a blogger, an animal lover and I am living with panic disorder. What this is means is that sometimes, out of nowhere, I feel what is known as "fight or flight." There is a seemingly imminent threat, when in actuality I am completely safe. Panic is a funny thing. I've laid in bed awaiting sleep and all at once I would feel a pain in my cervical spine. The pain would trigger a automatic thought in my mind: I am dying. This pain means that I have something horribly wrong with my body. I have Lupus or maybe Cancer. I am going to die. In actuality, it is just pain in my neck. There is nothing "wrong" other than the fact that I am anxious about the fact that something could potentially be wrong. What is really the pain in my neck is anxiety or (more precisely) panic. You see what I did there. I have been in excruciating physical agony only to find out that my body was merely reacting to extreme levels of anxiety. I once had a neurologist tell me "Sarah, there is nothing wrong with your brain. It's just anxiety." Just anxiety, she said flippantly. Well, "just anxiety" can feel quite extreme. Just anxiety can feel like you are literally going to die at any moment. I wouldn't use the word "just" in that sentence whatsoever. I treat panic disorder by seeing a therapist weekly, whom I adore, and by taking medication for panic. These two things are crucial to the treatment of an anxiety disorder. I find therapy to be essential for coping. Taking anti-depressants assists me to be able to calm the anxiety enough to do daily tasks. Those of you living with panic: you are not alone. Remember, when you feel like you have lost your breath, you can breathe. When you feel like your sanity is dwindling, it isn't. Feel your feet on the ground. Put your hand over your heart. Feel it beating. You are alive.

Sarah Fader is a mental illness advocate and mother of two living with panic disorder in New York City.

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