Battling Anxiety And How To Over Come Panic Attacks

Saturday, August 20, 2016

10 years ago almost down to the day I was robbed at gun point with a group of friends after my homecoming concert in my freshman year of college (hell of a way to start a post I know).

The robbers made away with cell phones, purses, money, car keys etc but luckily we were unharmed physically. 

We didn't tell many people about it and I personally tried to brush the traumatic event under the rug and go about my daily life not knowing how badly I had been effected by the whole incident. 

To this day I can still remember the whole scenario so vividly as if it happened last night, I remember what I was wearing, how the gun was pointed directly at my abdomen, being frisked to make sure I wasn't hiding anything and even what the men said to us.

I thought I was going to be able to move past it all, but that one event was the catalyst that sparked my 10 year battle with Panic and Anxiety Disorder, PTSD and my struggle to find ways to overcome both without medicine.

For every person Panic and Anxiety Disorder as well as PTSD manifest in a different way and while the conditions are similar their causes differ.

Panic and Anxiety Disorder is defined as: 

Repeated and unexpected surges of overwhelming anxiety and fear that set off physical reactions. As well as fear of experiencing another episode, accompanied by agoraphobia which is the fear of being in places where escape or receiving help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack. 

Symptoms Include: Feeling dizzy, racing heartbeat, chills, feeling of dying, nausea or abdominal distress, shaking, sweating, feeling as though you can't breath and more.

My symptoms tend to be: Feeling overwhelming, getting cold and clammy, feeling as though I am going to throw up or have to poop, shaking, mind racing/unable to focus, feeling like I'm dying. 

Depending on the situation and how bad the panic attack is my symptoms change. If I'm riding in the car with someone and they are driving (yup that gives me panic attacks) I may just get shaky and cold. If its a situation where i'm in completely new surroundings or feel trapped I can have all the symptoms above at once. 

Remember my last post when I said I was afraid of boats....make sense now?

Check out this Link for more information.

PTSD is defined as: 

A mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event-- either experiencing it or witnessing it.

Symptoms Include: Behavioral agitation, social isolation, flashbacks, severe anxiety, loss of interest, insomnia and more.

When I was at my worst my symptoms were: Social isolation, insomnia and of course severe anxiety. After the robbery I barely wanted to leave my room, I feared the robbers went to my school and it was possible for me to see them on campus or that they knew where I lived. I stopped going to class and my grades suffered and eventually left my school.

Check out this Link for more information.

I wasn't diagnosed with either condition until 2009 after I had transferred schools and was at a new college. I was struggling to pass my foreign language classes and at that point had failed out of Italian, gotten a D in French and was on the verge of dropping Spanish when my advisor suggested I see the school councilor/therapist.

After going through an IQ test, my history and discussing what was going on in my classes she told me that I had Panic and Anxiety Disorder and a mild case of PTSD. She also explained that my panic attacks were triggered by not being in control of situations, feeling trapped which was why I was having trouble performing in class when called on randomly without time to prepare. I also had issues dealing with new places, not feeling safe and being uncomfortable with my surroundings and my body would react to force me to leave them.

I was heartbroken, I thought I was crazy and would need to be on medication. She explained to me that no everyone chooses medication and that there are ways to manage it otherwise and coached me through a few.

My panic attacks at school were pretty tame outside of classes but I still never shared what was now my secret. If i got into situations where I would have panic attacks with friends I would make up excuses to leave. Or if there were instances where other friends wanted to drive to parties etc, I would say I needed to come later so I could drive myself and stay in control just in case I needed to leave due to an episode. 

That following summer however when I went home my panic attacks were worse than they had ever been, there was a week straight that every time I tried to leave my moms apartment my panic attacks would get so bad that I was shaking and would feel like I needed to throw up, but as soon as I would go back in the house with in minutes I would be fine.

 Growing up I was never the girl that wanted to stay in. I was always active in sports, co owned and ran my own entertainment company that threw parties, I lived for going places never cared how I would get there or where we were going as long as it was fun and an experience. 

But in those moments that summer I couldn't even stand to be outside my door, let alone go anywhere or interact with people. That was the point I knew I had to find ways to manage my reactions on a regular basis.

I tried therapy a few times but never found a therapist I clicked with and medication for me personally has never been an option. On one hand I have a lot of allergies and asthma that I take medicine for and I would never want to get in a situation where those things interact poorly. More than anything however I don't want to become dependent on a drug to regulate my "mood's" or "emotions". As a creative the idea of taking a drug that will curb my the exact things that make me creative scares me. I have this image of me just being so....monotone lol kind of like Daria if you remember the cartoon. Also the most common side effects of the medicine are the EXACT things that happen when I have attacks.

*side eye*.

Like what in the ACTUAL fuck?!

So yea, and although this isn't the first time I've talked about my panic attacks on the blog I wanted to share more about how I deal with them now. Over the years its been a battle to find what works but there are 7 ways outside of medication and therapy that help me overcome my panic attacks on a daily basis.

1) Gum

I keep gum in my car, at my desk, in my purse and any other place I frequent. Gum helps me calm down when I can feel a panic attack attack coming on. It helps me focus on things other than the attack and its something about the rhythmic chewing motion that soothes me as well.

2) Music

I've always been a fan of music but I've noticed having the right playlist can really set you in the perfect mood. Lately I've gotten in the habit of starting my day with one of these playlist from my Spotify account. I listen to them in the shower and as I get ready, it helps me have a clear and relaxed mind in the morning which in turn helps me be less anxious during the day. 

3) Breathing

Breathing is HUGE when it comes to panic attacks. When you're in the middle of an attack and feeling as though you have no control breathing can deescalate your anxiety in a matter of moments. I always thought it was best to purse your lips and breath but I actually found out from a therapist that the pressure you create when forcing breath out of your mouth can create more stress and tension. When breathing during an attack you should actually relax your jaw, open your mouth and breath. 

4) Meditation

Although I don't use this method as often as I would like to currently, taking the time to sit, remain quite and focus on relaxation is HUGE for people with anxiety.

Ideally I would like to be able to meditate each morning and I hope to get to the point where that is possible but even taking a few minuets in the middle of your day to re focus can really cut down on anxiety levels. If I'm in desperate need during the day at work, ill leave my desk and take a walk outside, sometimes just moving away from your surroundings can help calm you.

5) Tea

Tea personally brings me comfort and I relate it directly to relaxation so anytime I'm feeling antsy I grab some of my favorite tea and sip away.

When my panic attacks are super sever tea also helps to settle my stomach.

6) Talking about it 

One of the biggest stress factors that heightened my panic attacks is trying to hide them. It adds to my anxiety when trying to figure out excuses to leave situations or to explain why I'm feeling "sick". For a majority of the time I have suffered with panic attacks I hid them from my friends and family, it was not until recently that I began telling people why I suddenly may have to excuse myself from conversations or why I cancel plans last minute. 

However ever since I have become more open about it, it has helped lessen my anxiety about having attacks and also helps those around me better deal with me when i'm having them because they actually know whats going on. 

I was always embarrassed when I would have attacks, I would question what people would think of me, would they think I'm crazy, that I'm weak, would they make fun of me. There is so much negative connotation and stigma around mental health in the black community that I think we actually worsen the effects for people with disorders due to fear of speaking out. The last thing you want when dealing with issues is having no one to talk to about it and remaining quiet.

7) Aromatherapy 

Fragrances not only make your surrounding area smell better, the right combination of scents can actually help you relax. I use candles all throughout my home to help bring a relaxing atmosphere to my apartment and I also use special aromatherapy sprays and roller balls to help calm me in situations when I may not be able to step away and and calm myself down.

This candle sits right by my bed and I light it nightly.

How Are You Now?

Do I still have bad days, yes but they are few and far between. Managing my stress levels and trying to stay in a positive place, while reminding myself that these feelings will pass and that I'm not in danger often help.

Regrets & Test

My biggest regret is letting my panic attacks hold me back. No matter if it's missed time with friends or family or missed opportunities to experience new things, looking back over my life I know that there are moments I could have had that I didn't specifically because of my panic attacks.

My biggest test coming up will be my trip to Paris with my boyfriend. This will be my first time out of the country and also on a plane ride that long. I am seriously contemplating getting medicine for the trip only because I don't want to be miserable the whole week we are there and stuck in our AirBNB but we shall see. 

I hope this post opens your eyes on the issues of panic attacks and mental health. I know one of the hardest things for me was always feeling like no one understood what I was going through and always thought I was just being dramatic. 

So if you have a friend or family member that suffers from Panic Attacks know that this is a REAL thing and try to be there to support them through it. If you are someone who suffers from Panic Attacks I hope you find this helpful and know that your not alone <3

Until Next Time,
XO Deanna 


  1. Thank you so very much for this.

  2. Good article. I'm glad u share your experiences. I myself suffered from panic and anxiety attacks over 10 years ago and it was the hardest I have ever experienced and I tried to medications and I just couldn't take it. Some how I learned to over come it. Then few years goes by I started getting anxiety attacks so I'm learning how to control it and reduce stress whenever I do something or change my ways of thinking. So I'm glad I'm not alone. I'll definitely looks into some aromatherapy candles or essential oils to help cope with my anxiety

  3. This was SUCH an honest post I'm glad you shared!

  4. This is awesome! I follow you on my personal IG page simply because I love your personal ality, style + hair! However, I'm also a Therapist + I look for stories like this to share with my communities/my private practice clients. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your story! It's stories like this that help us to break the stigma against mental health + allow others to be honest in their own struggles. Thank you again!

  5. OMG! Deanna, this is right on time. I am set to fly in 2 weeks and I haven't flown since 1987!! I have had panic attacks for quite a few years now and the thought of a plane sent me into a panic. I will be traveling with my daughter and will use all of your tips in my "flight bag" . You are so inspiring and thank you so much!!

  6. I truly thought I was reading my own self. You are ME... I suffer the same things and reason for panic attacks. From closed spaces like elevators to unknown roads and places where I have no control especially of the ins and outs, I feel helpless especially on freeways. The one thing surprisingly I never feared was flying. But this March I had a massive panic attack & had to de-board from Hou to Miami. My hubby & son ofcourse followed. They support me a lot. But it was embarrassing. I am now set to fly to NOLA next week as a test ride to beat the fear but I am shuddering inside with the thought. I just hope to win this hurdle. I will certainly look into each and every pointer you have given. Thanks a bunch. A.H.

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