Panic is a Family Affair

family quote2

Finally I went to the doctor. I was in my early 30s. Since I was ten years old, I experienced episodes that were frightening and difficult to describe. All of a sudden I’d get light headed. My heart would beat super fast and I couldn’t catch my breath. Sometimes I thought I’d pass out. Other times I had out of body experiences and thought I might die.

I hid my scary feelings for years. I never talked about it, not even to my husband. I didn’t want him to worry, or worse, think I was crazy. One day I couldn’t take it any longer. I was in the mall, pushing my baby in the stroller. My symptoms got so strong, it took everything I had not to run out of the mall as fast as I could. It was time to get medical help. I honestly thought I’d be referred for an MRI or CT scan to check for a brain tumor.

“It’s hard for me to describe how I feel,” I told my doctor. “It happens out of the blue. I get dizzy, sweaty, and think I’ll faint.”

“Where does this happen?”

“At the mall, in the grocery store, and when I drive.”

“Does it happen at home?”


After a few more questions, my doctor informed me I had agoraphobia.

What? I’ve never heard of that. “You mean claustrophobia?”

“No. Agoraphobia. It literally means ‘fear of the marketplace.’ You have panic disorder and the symptoms you have are called panic attacks. The good news is, it can be treated with medicine and/or therapy.”

The doctor said a chemical in my brain, called serotonin, isn’t balanced. He said an incorrect level could cause depression or anxiety.

“Is this hereditary?” I asked.

“Yes, in many cases.”

“My mom had major depression.”

“In your mom, it showed up as depression,” the doctor said. “In you, it’s anxiety and panic disorder.”

I hope my kids don’t get this.

While I wasn’t happy I had agoraphobia, I was extremely relieved. For the first time in my life, I truly believed I wouldn’t have to go on living with my horrible symptoms. It felt good not to hide it anymore. My worries had been bottled up inside much too long.

I couldn’t believe there was a name for my scary symptoms. And that other people felt that way too. And that I could get better! For the first time in years, I didn’t feel alone. That powerful realization started me on the road to recovery.

Little did I know, years later, I’d be on a similar challenging journey with my daughter Talee. This was one part of me I did not want to pass on to my children. What mother would?



Image courtesy of Irene Luton on Pinterest.





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