Personal Stories

Surviving Panic Disorder is Something to be Proud of

Panic disorder is both my heaviest burden and my biggest badge of honor. For the past few years, I’ve experienced increasingly frequent panic attacks and have developed a deep phobia of “the next one.” Unfortunately, the next one inevitably comes, perpetuating the painful cycle. This is the nature of panic disorder.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the space between “this one” and “the next one” has become shorter and shorter. When I’m in these moments, it feels like I’m fighting a battle in my brain — a battle between Brain A and Brain B. 
Brain A is my “normal” brain, which is capable of logic and reasoning and a range of human emotions. Brain A knows that I am smart, I am loved, I am safe. 
Brain B is the brain that takes over when I’m having a panic attack. Brain B is my fight-or-flight response. Brain B tells me I’m going “crazy.” Brain B tells me I’m worthless. Brain B tells me that this panic attack will be the one that pushes me over the edge. Brain B tells me I have to leave the situation immediately, lest I lose all my friends and have to move back in with my parents. Brain B tells me that I am panic and panic is me.
Although Brain B hits me like a hurricane —it makes me sweat, shake, vomit and cry — Brain B has never been right. Brain B always starts the fight, but it never wins. I repeat: it never wins. I share all of this in hopes that someone else with panic disorder will read this and know that you are not alone
I spent a lot of time suffering in silence. I never talked about my mental illness because I was so ashamed. I mean, I have a disorder that literally convinces me that I’m “crazy.” Who wouldn’t be scared to talk about that? But through lots of therapy, support from friends and plenty of reflection, I am starting to truly believe that surviving panic disorder is something I can be proud of. Like, hello, I just won a war inside my head, thankyouverymuch! 
Each and every time I talk about it, I feel less like an embarrassment and more like a hero. I don’t say this to minimize the life-altering pain that PD has caused me and will likely continue to cause me. I just hope that others know there’s someone out there who shares your pain, who sees your pain and who truly believes that our pain makes us more — not less — worthy.