Anxiety Society: ‘Attacking’ Anxiety with Ashley, Panic Sufferer
(This is the seventh post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
This is the final in a three-part mini-series about Ashley Taylor, hypnotherapy, and her own struggles with anxiety and panic disorder. Previously, we discussed her hypnotherapy practice and the potential benefits of hypnotherapy itself.
In this final segment, Ashley opens up about the anxiety with which she’s struggled since adolescence. She recounts the story of her very first panic attack and offers practical advice for fellow panic sufferers — whether they’re looking to try hypnotherapy or not.
Summer Beretsky: How did you become interested in becoming a hypnotherapy practitioner? Did you experience hypnotherapy sessions as a client before deciding to pursue it professionally?
Ashley Taylor, CHt: I have experienced anxiety since I was in 6th grade. I know the debilitating effects in can have on one’s life, and I decided to seek a hypnotherapist after trying many other more conventional methods. I really connected with her. And she asked if I had ever considered it as a career — she thought I would be really great at it .
Was your own anxiety mostly cognitive or was it physical, too?
My anxiety started because I had my first panic attack in 6th grade that appeared to come “out of the blue.” I remember that feeling so well — and it was terrifying. Ever since then, I had fears of dying. It was as if I didn’t trust my body and I was afraid that there was “something” wrong with me physically. Since then I experienced panic attacks, and fear of panic attacks, and the idea that there just had to be something wrong with my body.
Can you share some details about that first panic attack?
When I was in 6th grade, I remember walking through the halls and all of a sudden I was experiencing my first panic attack. At the time of course, I didn’t know what was wrong with me other than the thought that I was dying! My heart was beating so fast, I became sweaty, I had shortness of breath, I got dizzy. It was as if the walls around me were moving. It was awful! I was going through a lot of hormonal changes during this time, and was bullied in school. It was a difficult time and I believe that’s part of what contributed to this first panic attack.
Wow. And this was during school hours? Between classes? How did you handle it?
Between classes. I honestly just let it pass. I was freaking out, but I don’t even know if people around me took any notice. I remember slowly my sensations started dwindling and my heart started slowing. I went home and talked to my mom. She has suffered from it and she talked to me about it and that’s when I knew what it was.
Panic isn’t fun, and it sounds like you “get it” – you understand.
Being a hypnotherapist takes a few things — like life miles and not being born with that silver spoon. It takes someone who can relate to others, and I feel that my experience with anxiety and panic helps me to truly understand where the individual is coming from.
Whether someone decides to seek out hypnotherapy or not, as a panic sufferer yourself, what advice do you have for others who are hindered by their anxieties?
Attack anxiety. Attack it full force. Know that you are NOT alone. Often we feel as if we are the only ones dealing with it and that is simply not the case, but most people don’t yell and shout out that they have panic attacks and anxiety for the world to hear. Immerse yourself in the things you enjoy doing. Find a suitable distraction for the mind whether it is a good music, book, etc. Exercise is extremely important! Develop a fitness plan that works for you, it really heals mind and body. Don’t give up. Talk to a friend. Pray if you pray. Face your fears slowly, and be kind and gentle with yourself. Talking it out with a professional may help, but it may not be for everyone. Find what works for you and do it. Every day it’s a fight, but when you face your fears, you free the greatness inside of you.
Any other advice you’d like to share with fellow panic sufferers?
Know that panic really is a FEELING. No one has died from a panic attack. It won’t hurt you! A good motto to say to yourself is “I’m okay no matter what“. Slowly, you become okay. Every time I dealt with a panic attack thereafter, I knew it would pass. There’s hope in that.
Beretsky, S. (2012). Anxiety Society: ‘Attacking’ Anxiety with Ashley, Panic Sufferer. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 29, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2012/02/anxiety-society-attacking-anxiety-with-ashley-panic-sufferer/