The panic attack that changed my life

Author’s Note: Writing this post was hard for me, because it made me relive what happened to me last summer that shook my world and turned it upside down.  Yet, in sharing this, I am letting go of the past and looking towards the bright future.  In sharing this post, I hope it helps anyone who has personally dealt with or knows someone who has experienced something similar.  It is quite a read in length, but sets the tone for my blog as a whole.  It is the basis of why I am who I am today.

Panic attacks:  I have had mini ones throughout my life before; however, the frequency was minimal: maybe once or twice a year.  To what I can recall, they happened when maybe I was very upset, scared and/or felt helpless.  And so, with these extreme feelings, they came on.  Yes, I went through the motions –shortness of breath, hands freezing up– but they subsided within a couple of minutes.

When I met my husband, he didn’t know this happened to me.  It’s not something I would exactly bring up and mention (it was a bit embarrassing).  But, he ended up learning what it was all about that one fall day (we were still dating at the time).  We ended up arguing about something and I ended up having an attack  —  I felt too overwhelmed.  Panicked himself, he rushed me to the ER and it was there that he learned that I needed to be calmed down and that I just had a panic attack.  And so he calmed me down.  The following year, someone in my family was rushed to the ER for something and there I was, panicking outside of the hospital, because I didn’t know how to take it.  And, again, my husband helped calm me down.  Of course I thought this was scary, but with a frequency of once a year, I didn’t really pay much mind to it.  I thought it was just a fluke I had and off I went to continue living my life.

Fast forward through live events, moments that have made me feel uncomfortable, ideas other people had about me that I let get to me, and me pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  Yes, fast forward to last summer when I was sitting at work and had the hiccups.

I had them for about 2 hours (seriously, they would not go away).  But it was okay and I sucked it up.  At the end of the day, I boarded the train home and sat in-between two people.  However, the car was packed.  It was hot.  I had people breathing down on me.  And I still had the hiccups.

Trying to lessen their [the hiccups’] annoyance, I tried to hold my breath and, when they came, tried to quiet them down.  I knew that my body jumping was annoying the people all around me, not to mention the little whimpers of “hic-cup,”  so I kept trying harder and harder until I felt that I was short of air.  Everything started to close up, I felt like I needed oxygen.  Desperately, I got up, pushed some people to the side, squeezed my way through, and ran to the end of the car and called my husband:

“I can’t breathe!” I said.  “I can’t move, it is too crowded, this train keeps moving, I cannot get off, I am going to pass out!”
“Calm down, you will be okay,” he then said.

And so, there I was, breathing, in a panic, not knowing what to do.  Finally, the train doors opened up, and I ran straight out of there and into a local drug store that had some air conditioning.  Once inside, I walked up and down the aisles; my mind was racing and I was so afraid of passing out that I called my husband again and told him that he needed to pick me up as soon as possible.  I then proceeded to call my father, who tried to calm me down and told me to go into the bathroom and splash water on my face and then the crown of my head.  He could sense the panic in my voice and then said that he was going to come and pick me up from the pharmacy.  I dunked my head into a pool of water I made in the bathroom sink.  I looked like I just came out of the shower.  But I didn’t care.  I didn’t know how to care.  I didn’t know what was going on.

*Takes a moment to take a deep breath*  Just writing about this is making me anxious, but I’m breathing (something I learned) and it’s all going away.  In….and out…..  Okay, I can continue this story.

While I waited for someone to arrive to pick me up, I drank about three bottles of water to hydrate myself.  Finally, my husband came.  When I saw him, I was relieved, but needed a distraction.  I ran inside the car and demanded he make out with me to calm me down (my mind was not processing correctly).  The making out didn’t work.  My hands quickly became so numb.  My fingers started to contour into permanent bends at angles I didn’t even know existed!  My shortness of breath sent a panic signal to my body, so now all of my blood and oxygen was rushing to my core, a body’s response to preserve the internal organs.  And all I could remember was that I was extremely thirsty, extremely scared, and extremely not myself anymore.

My family ended up taking me home.  The elevator in my building complex wasn’t working, so my dad ended up carrying me up two floors via the stairs, and then my husband for the remaining three floors.  They plopped me in front of the air conditioner and tried to get me to calm down.  I eventually did so about three hours later and everyone went home.  But there I was, no longer pale as a ghost, but scared.

*Taking another deep inhale in here*

The following day (and the next couple of weeks were just horrible).  I demanded my husband stay home from work because I could not be alone (think hardcore tears, bloodshot eyes, and lots of screaming).  I was afraid of being alone.  Better yet, it had seemed that I scared myself so much, that I was afraid of leaving my apartment.  I could not face stepping foot into the hallway.  I would cry and run back into the apartment.  My husband practiced with me for hours on end taking one, two, three steps away from the door and then walking down one, two, and then three steps down one staircase.  I was afraid of the outside world.  I was afraid of this thing happening to me again.  I cannot begin to tell you how many attempts I made trying to leave my building complex.  I had to take off from work for about two weeks.  I needed to be driven into work when I could finally walk outside, and then escorted for the remaining days of summer.  It took about another month for me to finally be able to walk around the block.  I did not know who I was anymore.  I seriously had something wrong with me at that point.  I could not believe how my world was flipped upside down with that one incident.

And that was the problem.  I thought of it was a one-time thing that changed my whole life.  But it wasn’t.  Truth be told, all those mini panic attacks and fears I had were all warning signs.  I just always chose to ignore them.  I always told myself that it was something that would pass and that it didn’t define me.  I made it part of my life, this discomfort.  Which was so wrong of me.  Because I neglected myself.  I never made the time to take care of myself and learn to let go.  I always had to be an independent person and live up to other people’s expectations.  I could never let them down – oh, no.  I had to be ‘perfect.’  And through all of this, all of the lying to my own self and not speaking up for who I was and what I wanted to do, led me to this giant explosion and state of panic that I wish I never, ever, have to go through again.

And so I let my guards down.  I opened up to who I was inside.  I started to see a therapist.  I sought valuable advice from those very close to me. I decided to take control of my life.  And I am who you see before you today.  I took up yoga and think it’s amazing because it forced me to slow down and listen to my body, mind, and soul.  It has opened up a sense of greater clarity that I never saw inside of myself before.  It has made me start this blog to track my progression.  I am not one hundred percent ‘healed’ yet, but I am slowly getting there.  The panic attack last summer made me afraid of the heat (but I got through some of that fear (yay!) which you can read about here), it made me fear moving fast and making my heart beat fast because it reminded me of the attack (which you can read about here), and it also made me afraid of traveling far distances away from home.  I can no longer see myself getting on a plane because I am afraid (I loved to fly, I was on at least 4-6 flights a year!).  But, I know that one day I will get there.  (I will post about my Washington, D.C. trip in my next post, because it was emotional trip that helped me see that I am progressing).

Point is, if you see the warning signs, don’t ignore them.  Yes, the past is the past.  But we shouldn’t ignore it.  Instead, we have to learn from it.  We need to live in the present and build ourselves up for success in the future.  Which will be an amazing life of less anxiety.  I made a promise to myself that I would give myself a chance and take care of me first and foremost.  I still have daily headaches and things to take care of (think responsibilities), but I am learning how to take it easy and organize it all.  How to live life to its fullest.  Because we only have one life to live on this beautiful planet.  And it’s only up to us to make it better for ourselves.  The hard work comes from deep inside of ourselves and the benefits.. oh the benefits.. they will set you free.

My giant panic attack last summer was a real eye-opening event.  I was putting a lot of stress on myself throughout the years in terms of body, mind, and soul.  So much that they all finally retaliated.  I wish this experience on no one, but what I do wish is that we all take care of ourselves.  Be brave with me.  See the warning signs, and see that we are worth it.  See that a good life is a happy, balanced one.  We will all get there.  It takes time.  And in the end, we will all laugh and enjoy life together.

Don’t worry about annoying someone else with the hiccups, because at the end of the day, they are happening to you.  Take care of you.  Take care of your life.

August 2013 – weeks after my giant panic attack. I was comfortable being outside again.. my husband captured me doing a twirl.
August 2013 – weeks after my giant panic attack. I was comfortable being outside again.. my husband captured me doing a twirl.



unsubscribe from anxiety and subscribe to peace of mind

Yowzers!  The weekend flew by so fast and on this Monday all I can remember is that work last week meant early mornings, late nights, lots of running around, and lots of catching up to do.  I could not wait for some rest and relaxation.  But, alas, here we go again.  No fear, though!  I am ready to brace this week even better than last week with one little thing that I did: spring-clean my emails.

Now, work is work.  But the types of emails I am referring to are personal, leisure emails.  I cannot even begin to tell you how anxious it made me feel to have constant vibrations and see my screen light up every five minutes.  Extra twenty-five percent off here, flash sales there, and free shipping and one-week free trial & memberships everywhere!  Yes, these were all things I signed up for (not spam).  But they were years worth of things I signed up for.  And a lot of them, I found, were some that I didn’t care for as much anymore.  If I had some extra time at the end of the day, I would take a deep breath in (as I pulled out my phone), flip through my emails, and one-by-one go on and delete them.  Yes, there are some ‘select’ and ‘delete selected’ features on the mobile phone, but that takes some work, too!  Truth be told, these leisure emails (think vacation deals) were just making me want to take a staycation – a vacation at home!

And that’s when I decided that I should invest some time into spring-cleaning my emails; I was going to either unsubscribe or change the frequency of what I was receiving.  Because at the end of the day, I was feeling overwhelmed.  I felt like I had to sift through a clearance rack of winter clothes to find a summer dress.  Not only that, but my husband would ask me about something he sent me a week prior that was time-sensitive and I all I could do was tell him that I didn’t see it yet.  Think about it, my husband.  A week prior.  And, quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you anything about anything.  My mind was so overwhelmed with the day-to-day that just thinking about going through all of my emails and clearing out my inbox gave me anxiety.  I was avoiding it.  And there it was, like a dark cloud over my head.  One hundred and three unread emails.

So I made a change.  I sat in the dining nook, went into each email, and changed my preferences.

DSC_0584 2

Yes, it was a lot of work.  But I feel that the benefits outweigh the struggle.

As I saw it, if going through all of my emails everyday boggled me down for ten minutes, then I might as well take an hour and save myself some time and sanity for down the road.  I am building myself up for mental health and success.  I will admit, though, as I was doing it, I felt bad about unsubscribing and had total FOMO (fear of missing out).  But it occurred to me as to why I hadn’t done this before.  I was worrying about missing out on something in the future that I kept myself living in a crazy I-have-to-get-through-all-of-my-emails-and-catch-up-on-life-and-make-dinner-and-remember-that-shoe-sale-for-next-winter-that-I-really-don’t-need-but-maybe-will-need-one-day present.  I had to stop that.  I had to stop being afraid and let go.  I had to be brave.

Now, I’m not saying to get rid of all of your leisure emails – not at all!  You can definitely keep the ones you love coming.  And the ones you like?  Maybe change it to once a week or once a month.  And the ones you loathe and really don’t even know why you still receive them?  Just unsubscribe.  Beauty is, that this can also be extended out to catalogues and paper mail you receive at home.  That will be my next task! 😉 (Just think, less physical clutter!)

Point is, your time is precious and it’s amazing how little changes can change your world, how you think, and how you feel (it changed my world – I feel less anxious and free!).  You can only reach a big goal by taking small steps to get there.  And for me, if that means getting rid of something as simple as emails that I don’t read anyway, then I’m there!

Spring is here and it’s a great time to look at how we do some things and change them for the better.  Unsubscribe from anxiety and subscribe to peace of mind.




I faced a monster under my bed and found a few things. What will you find?

Last night, I made every excuse in the book as to why I couldn’t go to hot yoga: I didn’t have the appropriate clothes, I didn’t have a towel, I only had three dollars in quarters to rent a towel, I had a headache, and I was hungry.  Yes, I was making excuses as to why I couldn’t go to my second-ever hot yoga class.  You’d think that something scary happened at my first-ever hot yoga class that affected me or something.  Well, yes, actually.  That kind of was the case.

About a week ago, my lovely cousin Julia asked if I wanted to go to a hot yoga class.  I told her that I had never been to one before and, truth be told, I was afraid.  But, I knew that the day had to come when I finally faced one of my biggest fears.  So I agreed to go with her and off we went. (Side note: I almost passed out because of the last summer’s heat wave during my giant panic attack.  It scared me so much that I became afraid of the heat)

Before we entered the room at the yoga studio, the receptionist stressed that, no matter what, I could not leave the 110˚F room, not even if I felt dizzy or wanted to leave.  Wow, no pressure, huh?  Nevertheless, I was already there and felt that I was ready to accept the challenge.  As we entered the room, I could immediately feel the heat.  All the memories of my attack came back into my mind: the dehydration, the stress, the mental fogginess – ah!  However, I kept telling myself “Loren, you were brave enough to come into this room, you are brave enough to stay and not run away.”  And that’s exactly what I did.  As the class commenced and continued on for about an hour, I stayed.  I was actually amazed at myself for doing all of the poses and breathing on point.  I was in the moment.  I was keeping up with others in the class.  I was so happy!

And then it came.

During the last part of the class, I started to feel locked in.  I knew I couldn’t leave the room (rules are rules).  And I was hot.  So much, that the heat was starting to get to me and I, mindlessly, was letting it get to my mind.  Shockingly enough, though, I kept going.  Until I couldn’t go anymore.  I couldn’t leave, so what did I do?  I started to cry.  Yes, for the last 20 minutes of class I was crying my eyes out. I was so uncomfortable.  Sure, I had a bad experience in the past and while I tried to burry it, it just came back from the deep subconscious and taunted me.  But that was life showing itself to me.

Then I started to think.  I thought of the fear I had as a ‘monster’ under my ‘bed’.  Believing that this ‘monster’ existed, avoiding it, and fearing it, only made it bigger, meaner, and scarier.  But all of that happened in my mind.  Interchangeably, the ‘monster’ in that yoga class (and in my life) was the heat.  I was tired of running away.  I was tired of this ‘monster’.  So I made the executive decision to finally face the ‘monster’ and looked under my ‘bed’.  I continued to move along with the class to the best of my ability and took charge of my thoughts.  And you know what?  I made it until the end of class, still crying, but I was done.  As I was ready to get up, though, I realized that I seemed to have shocked my body, because at the end of the class, my toes and fingers were frozen.  They lost their blood and oxygen!  It was the same thing that happened to them the same day I got my giant panic attack.  Yes, it seemed that towards the end of the class, my body went through its own little anxiety attack.  But surprisingly enough, my mind was unaffected.  It was stable.  And in all honesty, my mind was just wondering why my body was getting all worked up.  I wasn’t afraid.  I wasn’t in a panic mode.  I was calm!  But just to be sure, I stayed on my back, rested on the yoga mat, and got hydrated.  My fingers finally moved and I could finally feel my toes. And I went on with life. Honestly, still a bit scared that this could happen again (it’s not a comfortable feeling!). But last night, I proved that I could do it again.

While I was making all the excuses in the book to avoid going to another hot yoga class after the first, my mind got strong on me and made me walk into that yoga studio.  Yes, I was afraid of my body going into a ‘shock’ again, but I faced that second ‘monster’ and both my mind and body were OK!  I did cry at last night’s class.  But this time, it was at the very end of class and they were tears of joy and accomplishment.

Life is hard and there are many ‘monsters’ that come and hide under our ‘beds’.  They come out of the blue and can affect us in a negative way.  They can make us beat ourselves up and think that there will never be a way to get over it.  But as I am experiencing it, I am seeing that there is a way to get over it and you will find a second chance, happiness or something else over that hurdle!  The uncomfortable is just that: uncomfortable.  But try to be uncomfortable little by little and you’ll see that you, too, will start to become comfortable.  You will become brave.  You will have an ease of mind, heart, and soul.  You are brave.  And I will go to another hot yoga class!

underbed I faced a monster under my bed and found a few things.  What will you find?



hit the reset button with your little something

I’ll fill you in on a little secret.

Work this past week has been stressful.  And while I am getting better at managing my stress, sometimes there is just so much going on that I feel like I just want to do laps around the office and scream.  Knowing that there are two paths to consider when confronted with something that causes stress and anxiety, I always opt for the ‘taking it easy’; however, I will admit, there are days that I do slip and don’t remember that those exist.  So naturally, I get stressed out.

Yes, I am guilty.  But I don’t feel too guilty, because I understand that I am human and that I will slip and make errors.  And realizing this is good.  Because if I put myself under the expectation that I will be perfect, then I will just drive myself, well, perfectly insane.  To think that life will be flawless and that you will never encounter an uncomfortable situation is not realistic.  Every day, curve balls are thrown at us.  Truth is, we cannot control the environment.  However, what we can control are ourselves.  Yes, life will be rough, but sit and reflect.  Is there something that we can do to keep our sanity?   Because at the end of the day, we all go to bed.  At the end of the day we all have 2 or 3 minutes to ourselves to quickly plan.  What is that certain something that will jump start the trajectory to a better tomorrow? A better sense of sanity?  A better state of health?  A better you?

You know, the past few days had me almost ripping my hair out, but I sensed that tension and didn’t go home and let it just bottle it up inside of me, nor did I let it out on my husband.  No, I took the time and went to yoga on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, while in the office, I may have wanted to just throw my hands up in the air because I felt like I was completely overwhelmed, but instead I took a few minutes and meditated in the restroom.  It’s all about finding that little something that you see as an outlet to release and let go.

Now, onto my little secret.  While I love yoga and meditating, every now and then I need something else that really lets me release frustrations and allow myself to be a goof ball (not just something to calm my tensions).  Want to know what I do sometimes after work every now and then?  Are you sure?  Promise not to laugh?  No, it’s okay if you laugh.

I go karaoking.  Alone.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 9.52.59 PM

Yes, I take my little self to a karaoke place, walk up and bravely say “room for one, please.”  And there I am.  In a room.  Made for singing.  But if you put a rock song on, you’re made for screaming.  And if you put on the fancy lights and the music really loud, you’re made for dancing.  The best part about this is that it’s only you and no one else.

I know, I’m silly.  And you may find this weird.  But to me, this is my little something that makes me feel so much better.  Yes, I can most definitely do it at home (and for free), but sometimes someone else is there or I may disturb the neighbors. But there is no worry inside my little karaoke room.  I find such a release in singing, and while I’m no professional, it gives me that little something that releases.

Your little something doesn’t have to be singing.  It could be punching a bag at the gym.  Maybe it’s getting a massage (think of the tension in those muscles!).  Or maybe, it’s going for a long hard run while listening to your favorite song.  Your little something doesn’t have to cost a thing.  But finding your little something is something that I hope everyone tries because once you have found it, you can look forward to this little guilty pleasure.  It helps validate ourselves.  It tells us that we are worth it.  And it’s making time for ourselves to just release.  I’ll never give up my yoga, because I find it so helpful.  But I can look forward to giving myself my own little concert once in a while, no? 😉

photo 3

Hit the reset button with your little something.


who knew stress management could come down to two paths?

Smiling.  That’s how I woke up this morning and that’s how I intend to stay throughout the day.

After my anxiety attack, a very, very wise woman once told me that if I am ever confronted with something that makes me start to get anxious, I can either take one of two paths:  I can either take it easy or don’t care at all.  And while I looked at her like she had three heads at the time, it wasn’t until recently that I started to implement this in my life and, boy oh boy, do I see a change.

For me, it’s all a matter of putting things into perspective (I know it’s easier said than done, but after getting in the habit of trying to do it, you actually start doing it).  Think about it: after coming home from a long day of work, am I going to completely freak out that dinner still has to be made and add stress to what I already encountered throughout the day?  No.  I either take it easy and have dinner done by nine o’clock in the evening or I just don’t care and order out.  Another example: visiting someone that usually says hurtful things and always judges.  Am I going to get into a heated argument with them and let them have control over who I am or what I do?  No.  I either take in their critiques and kindly say a few words about how that makes me feel (take it easy) or just say “oh” and take what they say with a grain of salt and just let it go.  Do a cartwheel when you leave.  Stroll down the street like you’re in a musical.  Whatever!

The point is that life is such a beautiful thing.  Living with anxiety is just code for living with layers of stress.  But what if we can slowly peel off those layers one by one by either taking it easy or just not caring.  If the closet door is left open every day are you going to yell at the other person for not following your preferences?  Or will you kindly mention it and close it yourself? (This, by the way, is an issue at my home, but I just don’t care anymore.  Think of those arguments I just saved!  No stress).

Everyday day is chance to be better than yesterday.  Don’t worry yourself about the ‘what-if’s’ and the ‘but’s’,  just think about the present and how wonderful it is to breath, move, and be active.  If something makes you anxious just stop and put it into perspective.  If you don’t want to take one of those two paths, you’re just going to continue stressing yourself out and driving yourself crazy.  You deserve the best.  Try it.  Choose one of those paths.  Because remember, in the end, you matter.  Your health matters.  Your happiness matters.  Take things easy or just don’t care about them at all.

As for me?  I took it easy making my husband breakfast this morning and am now going to go for a run.


photo 3

I like this free-spirit I am finding.
Who knew stress management could come down to two paths?