How Panic Attacks + PCOS Improved my Life

 
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Before the Panic Set In…

Let’s get this out there first; I was homeschooled. 

Not casually, and not just in 1st grade. Nope, K-12, all at home.

What you should know: homeschooling is NOT for everyone. Seriously. It takes a certain kind of personality to achieve academically on their own and not go crazy. Thankfully, I was (and still am) 100% that person. 

I thrive on flying solo, working alone, and immersing myself in words as both a reader and a writer.

Ideas thrill me, obscure content is always interesting (and often more applicable than you would ever guess), and I honestly never felt any need for Darla’s drama and Ben’s bathroom breaks to be a part of my educational life.

So you can imagine that my first REAL day of 7th grade was quite an eye opener. 

I was 25 years old, surrounded by more than 700 hormonally charged pre-teens in a hallway that felt ridiculously narrow, and I felt sick to my stomach.

Unfortunately, it seems to be frowned upon for teachers to skip out on their own first period classes, so there I went, into the fray.

And honestly, I loved something about every single day that I spent teaching. I did. I also knew I needed to get out. 

Teaching is this crazy intense profession that asks you to give SO much, day in and day out, with very little recognition or thanks. And I’m the kind of person who really likes working in the background, getting things done without fanfare, and generally having a good deal of elbow room and creative space. So I thought it would be ideal, or at least pretty close to perfect.

As luck would have it,  it didn’t quite work out that way.

Because you don’t really get recognized that much...AND there are always people up in your business. 

There are mandatory state tests (and ensuing scores), classroom observations, team meetings, team planning, District walk throughs, justifying why this, why not that, all while you’re dealing with behavior issues, buying resources for your students with your own money (or credit cards, because you don’t get paid well enough to buy supplies for a hundred students), and working way more than 40 hours every week.

If you know a teacher, put this on pause for a second and THANK them (and if you’re really feeling it, get them a gift card to basically anywhere). 

So I’m teaching, I’m just getting diagnosed (or going the process of getting diagnosed, anyway) with PCOS and realizing that infertility is going to be a part of my journey, and meanwhile my family hit this major life event that added a whole ton of stress and chaos (the bulk of which isn’t really my story to tell). 

The wheels fell off.

I spiraled into anxiety, which for me looked like panic attacks during my conference periods and IBS triggered by stress.


Photo by  Jordan Sanchez  on  Unsplash

My depression was creeping around the edges, and I was feeling the weight of fatigue, headaches, joint pain, and social isolation that come with that...which also tends to get the nasty, hateful self-talk in my mind going a hundred miles a minute.

I was not doing well, y’all. (That is only acceptable because I was living in Texas in the time. I have disavowed “y’all” and any of its derivatives now that I live in in AZ!)

Counseling had been something I’d tried before, and it had been okay. I wasn’t against it,  but I wasn’t jumping around trying to sign up for anything either. But one night I had just had enough of feeling miserable, so I hunted around a bit and found a counselor I felt like might be a good fit (and who accepted my insurance!).

So I email her...and she’s not taking new patients. Of course.

She recommended me to a younger therapist that was finishing her clinical hours, however, and encouraged me to reach out to her. I was a little on the fence, but figured what the heck. When you need help, you need help.

So I reach out to this second doctor, arrange a first appointment, and commit to weekly sessions for the foreseeable future.

And I loved it. She was so different than my previous experiences with counseling, and I felt like I was able to just really dig in and sort through things in my life that I hadn’t really ever addressed before. I shared things I had never talked about, showed her collages I had made about my emotional life that I had never showed anyone, and just SHOWED UP for myself.

That was the key, really.

You can pay big money for coaches, counselors, therapists, or [insert your term here]...and it can be a total waste if you don’t personally decide to get yourself in gear and show up.

Almost a year later, my husband got the job offer that took us from Dallas to Phoenix, and it was like the floodgates to change finally opened.

I got a better car, we totally upgraded our home situation, we invested in some nicer things, and I did NOT go back to teaching.

Instead, I joined a coaching course and went full-time as a VA. I put time, money, and energy into improving my life - and I cannot imagine having taken another path. By showing up for myself in ONE area of life, I learned how to show up in other areas.

And I guess that’s what I keep learning. When I invest in storylines that tell me:

I’m exhausted and overwhelmed...but that that’s just how things are….

If I was smarter/stronger/better this wouldn’t be happening…

There is no “other way” forward...so I have to keep a job I know isn’t a good fit for me…

Then those things were true and I was trapped in them perpetually.

When I decided to rewrite my own story and embrace new ideas, like:

Anxiety and depression should not be bi-products of working, and I can find a new career…

I am enough, and I deserve to feel validated, loved, and accepted every day…

There are millions of paths, and I am free to choose, change my mind, and restart indefinitely…

Those things became true for me. I am so much happier, freer, lighter, joyful - I am the same person, but I have a new story, and it has truly made a world of difference.

 

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