As I sat on the floor of a public bathroom stall, I knew something wasn’t right … I started breathing heavy, my vision became blurry, my heart was beating fast, I was sweating, I started getting dizzy, and I thought to myself, “I’m too young to have a heart attack.” Moments later I gathered my things from the bathroom floor and pretended it never happened. A few weeks later I suffered the same harsh symptoms, but this time I was at home alone and scared that I wouldn’t make it. After the second episode I forced myself to the doctor’s office and found out I was indeed having panic attacks.

Each time I had previously suffered from a panic attack I didn’t feel anxious or worried prior to; in fact, prior to both instances I felt extremely chill. So, when the attacks occurred it felt as if they occurred out of the blue and for no reason. The first time it occurred my life was just full of “stuff.” I was a law student juggling two stressful jobs, I had a social life that I made a conscience effort to keep and a romantic relationship, and not to mention, my civic involvement because that’s what the world requires of us right?! Hell nah! None of these factors were true requirements just “stuff” I piled on my plate to help secure a pseudo-stable future, which we are told will take place post graduation.

So, in my mind I was leading a fulfilling healthy life until I found myself on a public restroom floor, inside of a busy courthouse, barely legal, young lady standing over me asking, “Are you ok?” In my mind I was screaming, “Hell nah … I mean do I look okay!” I felt like I was dying, and after a few long deep breathes, and a few more moments on the dirty ass bathroom floor, and a glass of water, and a pair of false lashes blinking quickly over me, I garnered enough strength to gather my things and pick myself up, but not before the fake eye-lash wearing/barely legal young lady could ask me if I was an attorney and if I could assist her with getting child support (I can’t make this stuff up people!).

After that incident I hustled back to the courtroom to find my mentee who was the reason we were attending court that morning — he had gotten into a fight at a college party a few weeks before. I was there to lend support and, of course, my connections. After settling the matter, I returned home and slept for the remainder of the day. When I awakened, I recalled the incident that occurred earlier. The only persons that knew were me and the young lady seeking child support assistance. I brushed it off as a one time thing and kept it moving because my life was too full and too busy to pump my brakes.

A few weeks later it happened again, and during the course of it transpiring, I said a silent prayer and pleaded with God. I promised God if I got through this matter this time around I would cut some “stuff” out of my life. Shortly thereafter, I went to the doctor’s office and was told that panic attacks were my body’s disorder of choice. While I was fortunate enough to survive the attacks and refrain from medication, there are many people who aren’t so fortunate and will suffer from this anxiety disorder for the rest of their lives. Panic attacks and anxiety are very real and quite common but, most importantly, preventable through lifestyle changes or medication.

A lot of people make light of the stresses in their lives. People are often silent about these occurrences, ashamed that, if they admit that they too are stressed or have suffered from a panic attack, they will be viewed as weak or incapable of multitasking. Suffering from a panic attack does not deem one weak, it’s actually your body/mind’s way of telling you to either reevaluate some habits or let some “stuff” go. Some people may have one or two panic attacks (like me) during the course of their life and others may suffer from the attacks more frequently and require medicines, either way get help. Choose to live a healthy, informed, and a stress free life. My panic attacks were my valid excuse to let some people and some things go, I mean who’s going to argue with you if you say, “Hey I have to let you go because you increase my chances of having a panic attack, nothing personal I just want to be healthy” Choose yourself … Choose healthy living.

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  • StacyAustralia

    This article was right on time for me. I’m sitting here on a Saturday afternoon flipping throughout my Flipboard app on my Ipad and I saw this. I closed the Ipad and headed to my desktop because I knew I wanted to write a well thought out comment.

    I am not sure when I started having panic attacks. I assume it was sometime in early 00’s when I started college. I remember when I was a senior, I was at work and I remember this odd sensation coming over me as if I was going to past out. I felt as if I was having an out of body experience. As you mentioned, I think these attacks are the way my body cope with stress. I have several things going on in my life within the next few weeks (leaving an old job, starting a new job, leaving one state, moving to another state, apartment searching). I have been having more and more panic attacks over the past few weeks.

    Years ago, I did have a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication but I never got it filled. I didn’t want to appear “crazy.” This is sad because I am a therapist and I know how medication can help you (at the time I was fresh out of undergrad).

    I hate having that feeling that “something bad is about to happen.” I hate having the “on edge” feeling. I have seen therapists, but I have never fully explored this anxiety I feel. I have talked about it being manifested through “depression”, “just stressed out”, or “just being tired” but never have “I suffered from anxiety.”

    I am glad to see I am not the only young black woman who struggles with this. I guess the question is “Now that we know we have this issue, what are we going to do about it?” How are we going to do the things we need to do to help ease our stress and decrease or at least manage these attacks?

    I have looked on-line for several “tools and techniques” but I really think I just need med-management. I believe (and have witnessed) what the proper medication regimen can do but I don’t personally take medications. It’s going to be a struggle for me but I can’t continue to feel always “on edge” and “jumpy” and “waiting for the other shoe to drop” about life.

    Thanks, thanks, thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • Shannon C. Smith

    I am so happy that everyone is speaking out about this…prior to writing this article I was skeptical and a little unsure about being so candid…but I’m glad I did!!

  • Laugh

    I had anxiety attacks from being stressed at work and tired. I felt like I was always in a fog and then the attacks when your heart would race. I’ve lost a lot of weight on purpose and Thank God I don’t get the attacks like I did before.

  • TEXASGRL

    This article is so candid… Exercise mainly walking is the key… I went to the emergency room with a panic attack..(at this time I did not know what was happening) I was so afraid, I call the ambulance. The doctor herself said to me when you feel this take a walk… I was on antidepressants and the side affects are as bad as the panic attack.. atleast the attack goes away… the pill itself messes around with your sex drive, your monthly period..your skin..it made my skin so dry.. I am off the antidepressant for one month and still repairing my skin….I have decided to exercise, limit my stress and the stress I allow other people to place in my life.. and most of all place God at the center… because if you study the word of God you will know what direction you should take your life. That book is full of hope. Thank-you so much for this article…

  • Panic attacks are a very serious thing and cannot be ignored. Up untill a few monthes ago mine were really bad, heres some of the info that helped me, hope it works for you guys as well.