Easter day of 2006, I was in line for the Indiana Jones’s ride at Disneyland Resort California with my then boyfriend and his parents. I remember feeling the muscles in my stomach start to hurt. I assumed it was just the hardboiled egg and the French toast I ate for breakfast.
If you’ve never been to Disneyland and got on the Indiana Jones ride, then you won’t know that as you wait in line you enter a tunnel. As we got into the tunnel I started to feel as though I couldn’t breathe.
I felt clammy and my heart started racing. I turned to my boyfriend and said, “I am going to be sick. I need to get out of here now!” He told his mom and she and I got out of there as fast as we could. She sat me down and got me some water and a sprite to see if that would help. Once I was back in the open fresh air I calmed down.
My boyfriend and his dad came out of the ride and we decided to ride the train around the park in order to give me time to relax. I was fine the rest of the trip. I really did not think too much about the episode just chalked it up to something I had eaten.
My next panic took place 3 months later in June of 2006.
I graduated high school and the day after, my boyfriend and I as well as some friends, went to Six Flags Magic Mountain to celebrate. We were riding all the rides and having a lot of fun.
A few hours into the trip after riding one of the roller coasters when walking out of the exit I leaned over a planter got very nauseous. We all went to a shaded place and drank some water. I chalked it up to being overheated since it was very hot that day and we had been in the sun all day. I was feeling so weak and shaky we decided to leave.
I had my first “official” panic attack a few weeks later.
I say official because this is the one got me so concerned that I went home and googled the symptoms to find out what was wrong with me.We were on our way to Warped Tour. As we got closer to our exit I started to have heart palpitations, feel very warm all over, short of breath, and as I was going to be sick.
My boyfriend had to pull into a park and ride and called my mom. I never made it to Warped Tour that year because I panicked, my mom then took me home. Once I got home I goggled the symptoms and self-diagnosed that I was having anxiety and panic attacks.
My mom took me to the doctor where she prescribed me a small dose of an antidepressant. She also suggested I see a therapist to help learn coping skills.
The medicine helped me a lot that first year or so.
I started to feel like “me” again. A downside to the medicine was it made me hungry all the time and I started to gain weight, which I hated, so I tried another medicine.
By this time it was summer 2008 and I had already had a few major panic attacks, one on a camping trip, and one on the way to San Diego for a concert. Both times I simply had no choice but to let them happen because I could not escape the situations but they were really hard on me emotionally. Then, the anxiety started to creep into my everyday life.
I was able to go the grocery store with my mom which was literally 5 minutes from my house, but I couldn’t go out to restaurants with my boyfriend or family for fear I would “freak out” and want to leave, I couldn’t even go to my community college for classes.
It was to the point where I couldn’t even leave my room for fear of having a panic attack. My mom was so worried about me and thought she was going to have to commit me as she feared I may hurt myself but, I had told her I would rather live in my room for the rest of my life than not live.
At that point we found a therapist. I immediately did not like her. She basically blamed all my anxiety on my mom because she was and always has been a nervous/anxious person. She was considered the “worry wart” of her family.
The therapist wasn’t really doing anything to help me so I asked my doctor if she had another one she could recommend for me. She sent me to a new therapist who worked wonders for me! She taught me coping mechanisms and how to visualize my anxiety to calm myself down.
I also switched prescriptions to another med, which helped as well.
Fast forward to 2014.
I moved to Washington State with my family. I had a new boyfriend who I have been with for 3 years and I am enjoying life again. Although I still got anxious from time to time I went to concerts, and back to Disneyland since those first initial panic attacks.
My boyfriend’s family planned to visit from California. They wanted to come for 4th of July to see Washington and to visit us since we hadn’t seen them for a few years.
Something about this triggered my anxiety and I started having full-blown panic attacks again. I didn’t go out exploring with my boyfriend and his family the whole time they were in town.
I had to take a meds again and force myself just to go out to breakfast with them one morning. I was so frustrated with myself for having such a terrible setback after doing so well for so long.
At this time I did not have a therapist anymore since she was located in Southern California so I started looking for some type of self-help.
I found some apps on my iPhone for meditation and started to use those whenever I felt anxious.
They helped but not enough for me to feel confident and in control. They felt more like a Band-Aid.
In November of that year my boyfriend bought me a Kindle Paper white because I love to read. I literally had so many books at my fingertips! I decided to try searching for a book on anxiety. I had a few books before, one that my therapist had recommended for me.
It was more of a workbook and it did not really do much for me.
This is when I stumbled across DARE.
I read the reviews and excerpts and was sold. I bought the book and started reading it immediately.
The first time I read it, it actually gave me some anxiety! I couldn’t believe he wanted me to accept this thing that has been freighting and holding me back for almost 10 years.
As I continued to read the book I realized this is what I needed all along. I needed something that was going to empower me to succeed.
All this time, I had been looking for a way to just get rid of the anxiety. I wanted to be me again and to forget I had ever had panic attacks. Reading DARE I realized there is no easy way out. You cannot just forget you ever had anxiety.
You have to learn to live with it since Anxiety is a natural thing. It’s your body’s natural reaction to situations. Of course my body was taking the good anxiety and turning it into something to fear instead of just riding the wave and enjoying the moment.
DARE helped me to understand the difference between true anxiety and just the anticipatory excited feelings everyone has before fun events.
After implementing Dare, following the steps and doing all the hard work, I am proud to say I have moved back to California with my boyfriend after living in our own apartment, while my parents still live in Washington State.
I have a new job, will be graduating college in a few short weeks, have flown on a plane all by myself, got engaged, and just took a trip to Vegas all with little to no anxiety. I can now go out to restaurants and movies without worrying about panicking and wanting to leave.
I truly am so thankful for finding this amazing book as well as finding the support groups on Facebook.
I truly think knowing there are so many other people out there just like me who support and motivate each other daily has helped me so much in my recovery.
DARE and Barry McDonagh have given me the ability to enjoy life again! Now the next step, our wedding!