If you follow my work, you may have seen me use the word “overcome” several times. I have an online course for Overcoming Panic Attacks, and my most popular YouTube video is titled Overcoming Depersonalization and Derealization. So I wanted to share today what exactly I mean when I use this word.
First and foremost, when I say “overcome,” I don’t mean that we’ll never experience these things again. I know the way I’m wired and that I will probably always be more prone to panic attacks than most people. I also know that when I feel extreme anxiety or trauma, I tend to dissociate. So I’m well aware that if something difficult or traumatic happens in my life, those sensations of panic or depersonalization/derealization might make an appearance.
Overcoming these things simply means that I don’t fear them happening anymore. I don’t let my life be run by them. If they do come up, I don’t get scared that they’ll stay around. I don’t brace myself against them and tumble into the nonfunctional mess that I was before.
While I haven’t had a full-blown panic attack in years, I still get the sensations of panic every now and then when I’m not taking care of myself well. Over Thanksgiving, I ate way more sugar than I usually do (mmm pies!), and I woke up in the middle of the night with a strange thing that started happening once my panic attacks began- I woke up with absolutely no idea who I was or where I was, or even who the person sleeping next to me was. It took longer than usual for the memories to come flooding back, and by the time they did, my body was in a state of pure panic. My heart was racing. I could barely breathe. I had a burning sensation of impending doom rushing down my spine.
Before I “overcame” my panic attacks, this would have launched me into a 20-30 minute full-blown panic attack. The lingering fear would stay with me for days, and I would continually be terrified of when the next attack would occur, possibly even avoiding places that might trigger one, or becoming scared of falling asleep again.
Yet, this time, I KNEW how to deal with it. I knew what tools to use. I realized that it was just a panic attack and I talked myself down calmly and gently within a minute or two. I was able to fall asleep quickly after that and haven’t thought about it since. That, to me, is what it means to overcome panic. It doesn’t rule my life. It just doesn’t affect me like it used to, thanks to all the amazing tools I learned.
I also get asked often whether I experience depersonalization anymore. And while I don’t experience it on a daily basis, I’ve had small moments of it since “overcoming” it. Now, in my day to day life, I feel like my normal self. I feel grounded. I feel connected to myself, and I honestly don’t think about dissociation at all anymore. It’s not even on my radar.
But when the “me too” movement was really taking hold, it triggered my ptsd. I felt overwhelmed, anxious, and unsafe. And consequently, I felt mildly dissociated. It wasn’t intense, but I definitely felt “out of it.”
Yet it didn’t bother me. I reminded myself that, “I’m feeling anxious and triggered right now, so of course my mind is going to try to protect me. I know that this will pass and there’s nothing to fear.” So I went about my life and lo and behold, it disappeared after a couple days.
Overcoming our fears is all about taking back the control and not letting fear run our lives for us. We don’t let fear dictate what we do and don’t do. We don’t fear having a panic attack because we know that we can handle it if we do.
Then, we don’t have to be discouraged if we have moments of fear creep back in. It’s not the point to NEVER have fear again, just to learn how to work with it when it arises. If you’re still wishing and hoping with all your might that you’ll never have a panic attack again, or feel depersonalized again, then you still believe that you can’t handle it. Yes, these sensations are uncomfortable, but the less that we fear them, the less they need to be a part of our lives.
If you’re ready to learn how to work with your fear, I invite you to check out my online course. Also, a helpful book I love that encompasses this same idea of overcoming your fears is called Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks. I highly recommended giving that a read.
As always, lots of love to you on your journey, wherever you may be.