My Panic Monster

When I first started Positively Panicked, Husband’s loving Aunt sent me a book. I received Life With The Panic Monster, written by Evelyn Barkley Stewart, in the mail with no note attached, and was not quite sure what to think. I had never read a book about panicking and was afraid that reading about someone else’s fear would just create more of my own. I read the introduction, my heart racing the whole time, and then quickly put it back on the bookshelf, right between Brad Paisley’s autobiography and F U Penguin.

I didn’t want to learn about someone else’s worries. I didn’t want to hear about how hard and terrifying life became for this author. I was afraid to discover that she never recovered, never healed, and never lived a “normal” life. So, I didn’t. I left the book to collect dust and bond with my other lonely, abandoned books…until a couple weeks ago.

I probably “forgot” to mention on here that I have been taking Lexapro for the last month. As you know, I am only just now getting my health insurance through work, so you may be wondering how I scored some anti-anxiety medication. Well, it’s simple really:  I just forced Zoey to go to a doctor in Costa Rica, tell them she needed it, get a prescription, and I’d pay for it, (a whopping $20 BTW). It was almost as easy as getting anti-anxiety medicine in Albania. Except there I just walked into a pharmacy and asked for it, and it only cost $12.

Before, I get a bunch of phone calls and emails telling me how irresponsible and stupid this plan was, let me say I KNOW. It wasn’t exactly my proudest moment. Please try to understand that I was having a panic attack almost every night in Costa Rica, and I was far too panicky to go to the doctor myself. I was absolutely 100% sure that if I went to the doctor myself, I would be informed that I was dying or having a heart attack and I would have to immediately be sent to a hospital to receive treatment, which would definitely ruin everyone’s Costa Rican vacation/my Honeymoon.

I realize that this is completely illogical, and that if I was actually dying, going to the doctor’s office would be a better choice than not going, but when you suffer from panic attacks your mind cannot separate what’s logical from what’s completely crazy. So, Zoey, being the best most wonderful sister-in-law there is, did me a HUGE favor, and I was actually able to enjoy the last few days of our trip. Not only that, but I’ve been able to take the medication the rest of the summer.

My goal was to stretch it out until my insurance kicked in and I was able to make a doctor’s appointment, get a psychologist recommendation, and a legit prescription. Unfortunately, the pills did not last me that long, and although I haven’t had a full-blown panic attack since Costa Rica, I am starting to get anxious about upcoming doctor appointments. I have been trying to remain as calm and logical as possible to prepare my mind and body, and recently I came across the Panic Monster book again. I skimmed it a little more, and decided it might be worth a chance.

That night, I went to bed earlier than normal so I could start to read the book alone, while Husband played video games and watched Jimmy Fallon in the next room.

I was crying before I finished the first chapter, and finished the entire book in the next 2 hours. I continued crying for probably another hour. I cannot really explain the reason behind the tears…sometimes I was crying because I was afraid, other times I was crying for the girl telling her story, and often I was crying because I didn’t feel so alone anymore. Each little anecdote struck a chord with me; it was as if I was reading my own thoughts and experiences, re-living some tough and cruel moments.

The author of this book wrote honestly and clearly about her life with panic, her “crazy” thoughts, her most challenging struggles, and her effort to live a “normal” life. When I finished reading it* I got online to find the Ms. Stewart and stalk her until we became best friends. I just kept thinking how great it would be to not only tell her how much her story meant to me, but to really get to know her. I wanted to hear more; I wanted to keep being reassured that I am not the only one suffering from panic.

*(The very first thing I did when closing the book was run in the next room and hug Husband with all my might and cry and cry into his shoulder. The book reminded me that I am not the only one suffering. Husband suffers with me, and I am so, so, so, so grateful that he not only puts up with me, but also does his best to help me, and love me more. I can’t imagine having panic attacks with a spouse who judged me or didn’t at least TRY to understand me. I know it’s not easy for him to live with me sometimes, and I just wanted to love him and squeeze him to remind him how much I appreciate his help.)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyway to contact her. Instead, I started brainstorming. I stayed up most of the night comparing my life to hers, making lists of my biggest fears, googling anxiety support groups in my neighborhood, and thinking about what I could share on my blog.

One of the most important, heart wrenching, and enlightening moments of the book for me is in the end. Evelyn resolves with the fact that she will always need medication; after years of therapy, support groups, different medicines, and practices, she can’t happily and calmly survive without it.

This is not a fact for everyone who struggles with panic. Often people panic for a brief period, and are able to heal and move on in life. I have a feeling I am not one of those lucky people. That sounds very negative, but I actually felt relieved when I read her outcome. I thought, “If she has to do it, then so can I”. After all, “We can do hard things!” right Glennon?

Overall, this book wasn’t scary. It didn’t send me into a downward spiral of nightmares about life-threatening illnesses. On the contrary, this book was exactly what I needed. It was confirmation that I am on the right path. I am no longer in denial, I am healing, and I am definitely open to getting help (medical and mental), which I previously was 100% against. Most importantly, it reminded me that I am far from being alone.

If anyone else is dealing with similar struggles, I highly suggest reading Evelyn’s story. I can even lend you my copy. It’s even beneficial to non-panicky people because it explains how to live with and help the ones you love who panic.

Much more to come…


5 Replies to “My Panic Monster”

  1. I dealt with panic attacks for a while and it was so awful. Not knowing when, where and why they would strike. Eventually I got so afraid of them happening that I would sorta stay in my “comfort zone” and wouldn’t go places where I might have to run looking for a place to hide in a fit of panic. I tried anti depressants and they made me feel terrible so ultimately I just had to deal with it without any medication. Not an easy thing to do, but over time it just went dormant. They have yet to reoccur. So all has been well for a few years now. Hope it works for you!

    1. That’s great that they have gone away! Did you did anything else to help? Talk to anyone, read, or meditate or something?
      I know that feeling of staying in your “comfort zone”. I’m really afraid of becoming agoraphobic, which is why I often force myself to get out of my comfort zone.
      Dealing with anxiety is tough because everyone handles it and needs help in different ways. So glad to hear you seem to be pretty much free of panic! Thanks for sharing Jeff!

  2. I am a big believer in if medicine helps treat any type of disorder or disease whether it be anything from diabetes to panic disorder to mental illness then why not?! We are lucky in this day and age to have that available to us to live as normal as possible. So glad to hear you are moving in the right direction and I would love to borrow the book from you. I am uneducated in this matter and am interested in fixing that 🙂

    1. Sure! I can mail it to you! Maybe you and I should start our on book club. haha

  3. To be honest, once I got married and had other things to worry about other than myself and how fast my heart is beating etc., it just sorta went away. I didnt talk to anyone about it or anything. I mean there is still that little voice in my head that tries to make me constantly worry a bout EVERYTHING, but I have just learned to tell it to “shut up!” haha. I think the older I get the more at peace with things I become, which is helpful as well. 🙂

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