Panic Attack Diaries

Tracking the oft-forgotten triggers that lead to panic disorder.

3 Things I Learned In 3 Months


Before you can do anything, you have to be able to learn how to receive.  If you don’t, you’ll never get it.  And this change that happened to me within three months would have never come to fruition.  I would still be that person lying on the side of the road, blaming other folks for throwing me under the bus.


The Steps


#1 – No Mask

One of the things I learned was to take off that mask that I had been wearing for so long.  The mask wasn’t to hide something evil… even superheroes wear one to protect their true, vulnerable identity.  I’m talking about taking off a mask and seeing who is underneath.  That person may be damaged from years of neglect, hurt, and accusatory things from other people.  Taking off the mask gives you the right and ability to see yourself in a way that others cannot and did not for so long.  So, I took it off.  And I lived naked and carefree and learned to live with the person that I was quite sure that others would hate.

#2 – You Have To Do It

That masked I mentioned?  You have to take it off.  You have to want to take it off.  No one can take it off of you and say that you’re beautiful and have you fully and committedly believe it.  It won’t work.  You know that you’re solely relying on someone else’s opinion on who you are and what is considered admirable for you.  You cannot take their word for it because you never believed it in the first place or you would have removed the mask yourself.  I wanted to stop breathing behind the stiff and stale smells of what I noticed was going on around me.  And when you remove it, something wonderful happens: Others start to reveal to you that they, too, started to smell the stench of something bad happening.  You start to realize that people only said nothing to you because they could see that you, too, were a mask-wearer and chose to not believe the truth even if it sat right in front of you.  I told myself that I wanted to be free.  That was the first step.  The rest came naturally as soon as the mask fell.

#3 – Stay Busy

One thing I noticed more than anything was that when I took the mask off, and did it “just for me”, I pondered about it.  I kept going over and over and over again in my mind what I had done wrong and how I felt and what kind of world was I living in and who would want me now and yada yada yada.  I became unmotivated.  I became docile.  I didn’t want to do or say or be anything that would cause waves.  I just couldn’t do it without my reliable, trusty mask on my face.  Someone could ask me a question and I would just fall on all fours and beg for them to please not hurt me.  And then I stopped.  I started just doing things, not knowing if the outcome was going to be what I expected.  I started writing.  I started going to places by myself.  I started doing things that I had never, ever considered doing before and didn’t know what to expect to happen when I got there.  That was so unlike me; I’m a planner.  I’ve always planned out everything intensely and I know how to do what is expected of a great planner, but what about a not-so-great one that’s just going with the flow?  I had to learn how to be that latter one because the previous one was killing me (in the literal sense) whenever it was outside of the work area.



The truth is, there’s no easy 1-2-3 step guide to tell you how to live your life.  It’s full of rough edges and knowing exactly what to do depends on the moment.  But one thing I did take with me is that if someone doesn’t want me, I say “okay” and walk away.  I’m tired of trying to please people above and beyond what I think they expect from me.  To know me as who I am is what I’m discovering and what I’m also teaching other people on how to view me.  And if they don’t like who I am, then I know it’s best to walk away and let them be whomever and meet whomever they choose that fits their profile… or is willing to try to.  I had to discover that I am good enough.  Not in an egotistical sort of way, but in a “people will always tell you that you need to improve yourself with something when you actually don’t want to do it in the first place” frame of mind.  I got it.  I know that people want to push me and mold me into whatever they feel is best suited for their needs, but the truth is so much sweeter: Just be who you are, and the right people will come to you eventually.

Am I really getting helped?: When counseling is not really counseling.

Hand Image

Courtesy of old-school Clipart Gallery.


I was talking to some people the other day about the word “counseling”.  It’s a word that had been thrown around since I was a little kid.  One of my first interactions with it was when I was in school.

I remember sitting in the elementary school principal’s office overhearing a conversation.  I must have been very young because I remember my feet dangling from the seating area.  I was always a small-sized child so it could have been easily when I was 8 or 9 or as young as 4 or 5.  I vaguely remember that I was being told that I was suffering from some sort of behavioral something, but I couldn’t make out the words then.  I think that was one of the first recognitions to me that something about me wasn’t quite right.

After that day of swinging my legs to and fro without being really clear on what happened in that school office, my next memory leads me to a time in my teens where I was sitting squarely in front of what I was told was my academic counselor.  I remember trying to tell that person about my emotional problems and then being told, “I’m not THAT kind of counselor.”  I was led to believe that those type of people were very expensive to come by and that I was too young to really have any real problems that would cause a mental illness like depression.  Asking for that kind of help would only scar me and my reputation.  That was also the first time I even heard that I had a reputation.

I woke up in a dorm room some years later, feeling horrible and awful about my life.  I had done well in class for about two semesters.  I had gone home in the summer, visited family, and then ventured back to school.  I was even flown to an interview later in order to contemplate a future internship at a huge corporation.  I should have been extremely overjoyed and happy with my life, which on the outside I was.  There was something seeping inside me, though.  I couldn’t shake that feeling of “something’s not right” that I had felt since I was a very young child.

When a bunch of my peers told me that I was crazy and needed psychiatric help for my “condition”, I went to see the counselor in college.  At first, I only talked about my classes and how I felt about them.  Later, I was being coaxed into saying more on how I felt about school and the people around me.  I remember being ashamed to talk to him about that subject, and seeing that most of the people in my school were not from an environment like mine, it took a while for him to become accustomed to what I will now call my “culture”.  I told him about how the people from my culture viewed the help that I needed as weakness and that I had to come to him for it.  I tried involved as many peers as possible into this world in the hopes that they would understand the things that I could not even explain to them.  I thought the counselor would be my translator for life and… for life.

A really, really big argument with a peer led to me seeing a different counselor, in which I had to retell my entire life to.  It felt uncomfortable.  I was away in school and I didn’t know anyone that I could just easily call up.  During those days, a car phone was thousands of dollars, and there was no such thing as a cheap cell phone (they were still experimental and extremely costly).  That was also during the days where long-distance was not a regular part of a calling package.  So, seeing that I was several hours away from home, I did what I could do which was hide my illness from my peers and not talk to anyone about it (or minimize its appearance).

I remember only a few other things from my college days.  Most of it is coursework, the rest is that I felt ostracized and spent most of it trying to be alone without feeling lonely.  I did the best I could to try to cope with my illness in relative silence until I stopped going to class.  I barely even remember making the decision to do it.  It was almost like a non-issue… like choosing between Coke and Pepsi in the cafeteria.  I knew this wasn’t right and when I talked to my counselor about it, I was told that I needed to take a semester off.

I went home.  I tried to understand what happened.  I didn’t even seek further medical attention because I didn’t have the money to get what I didn’t know was professional counseling.  I thought it was for rich people who had money problems or couldn’t get over their parents not loving them.  I didn’t know that it even was for me.  I made an effort to hide myself, again, until I found a job with benefits that would allow me to go to counseling.  And then, there was another roadblock.

I got a low-level basic job, benefits, and was independent enough to go to and from work without issue.  However, when it came to me actually going to the job and retaining and dealing with the strict belief systems of the people there, I ran into a separation wall.  You had to either agree with them or be out.  If I chose to have my own ideology about any issue that was different than the status quo, I was told that I wasn’t “fitting in.”  People were still hanging around me, but I could tell that I was starting to be tolerated rather than accepted.  When I had the first ability to leave, I did.  I thought maybe if I went into a bigger society, my “difference” wouldn’t be that much of a setback.

During that time, I didn’t receive any counseling.  I had gone to doctors for a medical condition separate from my depression, but not one of the doctors at that time even thought about diagnosing me or saw that I was experiencing it.  I guess it hadn’t gotten that bad back then.  My behavior had been erratic only during times of deep loathing.  Otherwise, I appeared fine, maybe even slightly happy.

I had gone though a bunch of self-treatment by the time I had actually seen a mental health counselor.  I thought to myself how many hoops I had to jump through just to get there.  I relied on people that I thought would know what I needed and discovered how clueless they were even if I considered them competent, consummate professionals.  I learned that knowledge was indeed relative.  People I valued highly pretended (a lot) to know that they know what to do for me instead of admitting that what I was experiencing was out of their realm.  Unfortunately, when I finally called them on their bullsh*t, they rebelled very harshly and told me that I had no clue what I was talking about.  I stuck to my guns and finally found a counselor that was fit for my needs.

Moral of the story?  You may have a mental disorder, however, that doesn’t mean that your gut reactions are off.  Gut runs off logic, and when your depression is at its height and running rampant, it’s the gut that will save you.  You’ll forget this truth just as surely as you’re reading this, but if you practice it, it will stick.  I know I wasn’t getting the right help and kept trying even when I had no other sound information around me.  I trust my gut more often, now.  And it has helped get me out of some terrifying situations, in hindsight.


The fastest way to fight prejudice? Open up


No words.

Originally posted on


Equality advocate Ash Beckham hopes her habit of chronic over-sharing leads to more honest conversations.

I don’t really hide much. I’m essentially an open book, and honestly, I’ve always been that way. Since I can remember, I have always been the one at the cafe telling my co-workers everything — from bad blind dates to new business ideas. Partially that was to pass the time but also it’s because I cherish the input of family and friends. After all, nothing prompts people to open up quite like doing so first.

As a community, LGBTQ folks have been yelling for years – listen to us! Pay attention to us! See us as equal! Now people are listening and we need to yell less and talk more. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of things to yell about. But one of the biggest issues that the LGBTQ community faces is the continued personalization of our cause. If the old…

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This Is What Bullying An Adult For Being Gay Sounds Like. You May Not Even Realize You’ve Done It.


“Those of us in America often forget that the struggle for LGBT equality is worldwide. This powerful video, where people are symbolically unseen, was produced in Ireland, but the pain of the narrators is universal. I myself lived in silent fear for six decades of my life.

It is our straight friends and allies who make the true difference in the lives of those who feel silenced or, as here, invisible. See us for who we are, and help all people emerge from the shadows.” – George Takei

Video: LGBT Bullying in the Workplace

Stephen Fry is the brave face of suicidal depression – Telegraph

After Psychosis: What To Expect (Perhaps) & What You Can Do (Definitely!)


This blog post made me feel extremely better about the current status of my recovery. Feel free to explore the links for a deeper understanding.

Originally posted on Alex Straaik:

“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.”—Rachel Naomi Remen, heralded medical doctor and pioneer in holistic medicine

Perhaps you’ve just come out of an acute psychotic break, or a loved one has, and you need to know, right now, just what you can expect after such a terrifying and traumatic episode; and how to work toward recovery, even with the intense fear and amnesia that often follows episodes psychosis.

Both your psychical body and mind have endured extreme shock. You’ve just spent a rather petrifying period of time—perhaps a week, maybe even a month—where you’ve not been able to identify what is real from false. You’ve existed, in part or sometimes in whole, in a type of reality which is only truly known by…

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Silence is Golden… and keeps you out of trouble.



I’ve been mum for a couple of weeks now, and it’s all been purposeful.  I’ve been giving myself some time to think about things over the past couple of months and extract meaning from them.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have very high respect for Buddhist monks.  I don’t know why, in particular, but I just do… even before I was told that I reminded an Asian woman of the monks she encountered in her home country.  It was the best compliment that I could have ever gained.

Something I used to wonder about is why monks chose silence.  I couldn’t imagine a day without talking and giving my piece of mind or relaying my thoughts on something.  I could never think of what a person would be able to accomplish without having so much as a moment to say just… something.

And then, I decided to do it, as a test.  I’m a scientist (at heart), so I gave it a try.  And what I found is that it has often saved my life.  If I kept quiet long enough, I would find the answer to some of the things that I’ve been looking for.  Of course I’d say my share ahead of time.  But when you can’t talk anymore… when you’ve said everything inside of your head and heart… if you remain silent, then you don’t have to say anything else and the answers just start to flow to you.

Silence is a strong judge of character, as well.  When you can sit in silence and just listen – not wait your turn to talk, just listen – you find a whole world of things out there about people.  The body language, alone, tells you volumes.  It never lies even when voices do.

When someone says to you that they never said something, but you could have sworn that they did, you’re probably right.  They said it with their body, their mannerisms, the inflection in their voices.  Although they may think they are giving one sign, the body betrays them every time and gives the real answer.  Period.

No one is exempt from this, although some will be very, very good at hiding it.  Some even try to employ deception.  But the absolute truth of the matter is that I’ve done everything I can to be honest and even still I can see that my mind has tried on various occasions to give me different sorts of signals that there is something deeper inside of me that I may not be completely aware of on a conscious level.  I’m not talking about another person, but I am talking about another mentality.

I’ve learned from watching a few shows lately that there is a deeper, hidden part of yourself that you see once you have to face it.  Counseling helps, sure… but what happens when you see inside of yourself – your own mind – is both wonderful and fascinating.  It’s like there’s a whole other “you” inside there that you didn’t know existed or was even being formulated.  For instance, I didn’t discover my drawing talent until I was late into my 20s.  I didn’t try to hide it, I just didn’t know it was there until I just got the crazy idea to pick up a pen, a piece of paper, and actually commit to drawing an object.  I thought that part of me died out in my scientific search for truth and other fancy college things.

I learned that silence is what guides me in the future of being my true self, and that we’re often taught to be afraid of this.  I looked inside myself and was fearful of what I might find, but discovered that there is a person there that has been patiently waiting for the truth to be unlocked.  We’re all born with this duality: a person we show people, and another that we keep to ourselves due to ostracism.  It’s those of us who are brave enough to bump the status quo that will discover the true nature of success.

It’s not easy, by any means, finding out who you truly are.  It’s often scary and hurtful because the last thing you want to do is go through the same trauma that put that part of you inside yourself in the first place.  But in order to get out, to be successful, to do what you are meant to do, you have to risk it.

So, close your eyes… and listen. 


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