the pressure cooker of panic attacks

it took me a bit to put this on the site — shame does that — but speaking up breaks shame and brings healing. and that’s why I’m sharing these words with you. ~Rachel

I remember being frozen.

That’s the feeling, right?

It’s so hard to know how to describe how it feels to be stuck in that way. I just remember sitting at my table and the weight of my own body being too much for me to lift off of the seat.

The weight of my tears couldn’t be contained by the weight of my heart.

The next thing I remember was laying in my bed. I have some memories of shaking and crying, but now, now I’m here with a head that is pounding and every cell in my body aching.

Panic attacks do that to a person.

Not everyone will talk about them, I guess. I know that it makes me not put together or not as cool, but it makes me real.

Real is what heals people, saves people, and lets others know that they are not alone.

And if it takes me humbling myself and bruising my own ego then so be it.

There’s no shame either.

You know what triggered my panic? Being misunderstood, being cut down, fighting from my kids, coupled with intense pressures from the outside world. It just got to be so much that my body was done.

I’m not great at letting go of the pressures.

My mom knew it about me from when I was little. She would joke that sometimes she would make me mad if she could tell that I had a bad day just to let me get it out. She didn’t care that it was at her – she knew I needed to release. Moms are like that – putting themselves last for their kids.

I’ve been holding onto all those pressures again. Afraid to step left for fear that I will be told I should have stepped right. Afraid to make a mistake. Afraid because money issues from my divorce still haunt me. Afraid of messing up the kids. Afraid of speaking up.

Fear can cripple a person.

And for me, when I don’t release those fears and burdens I end up like a pressure cooker waiting to burst.


So tonight, at the table, that was what happened.

And it’s so horribly hard.

Sometimes I wish I had a thicker skin – you know the kind that doesn’t allow stuff to penetrate identity. But I just don’t. That whole “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” chant just doesn’t apply. I do try, but trying adds pressure to a world of pressure.

Even writing this makes my heart race a bit. I know I’m so close to that anxiety again, but I also know that I can move forward. And I also know that my writing might help one more person.

I know you don’t want to be told to breathe in those moments.

I know you don’t want to be told how it will be okay.

I know you don’t want any of that.

You need to know you will make it through.

Sweet friend.

You can do this. But not in the way that everyone thinks is the right way, but you can do this when you close your eyes and calm your spirit and know that there is a strength in you that cannot be doused by the pressures of this world.

It is the you that loves.

That gives.

That fights.

I need you to open that pressure cooker just a bit and to release some of that pressure. Let it out. Let the tears fall. Write it in a journal. Kick box. Drop the plates in your home. Garden.

But let it out.

Holding onto it so that you appear strong doesn’t make one stronger.

Letting it go, speaking up, being free does.

So from me to you, as I lay here in my bed with eyes that are puffy and a heart still racing, let me tell you how much you matter. How beautiful a person you are – even in your broken state. How these moments of anxiety or panic do not ever define worth.

You are priceless.

That’s the brave art of finding joy.

It’s not in perfection. It’s not in externals.

It’s in knowing, deep down, even in the darkest places that there is beauty and there is good.


10 Responses to “the pressure cooker of panic attacks”

  1. March 18, 2017

    J Reply

    Thank you

  2. March 18, 2017

    Allyson Butler Reply

    For years, I did not know I suffered from anxiety. I thought something was wrong with me or, perhaps, I was finally losing my mind and then one day, in the midst of interviewing someone, I felt as if I was going to faint and couldn’t quite catch my breath. I excused myself, walked out of my office and into the bathroom where I locked myself in a stall. I thought I was dying. It was so humiliating. One of my co-workers rushed to the bathroom because she saw my face when I walked out of the office and thought something was wrong with me. When she came into the bathroom and called out to me, I was on the floor. I couldn’t unlock the door. I couldn’t walk. I had to crawl underneath the stall door to get out of the stall.
    Rachel, thank you for sharing your experience. I was too ashamed to share mine with my loved ones. Thank you for shedding light on a condition that is very real and quite frightening

  3. March 20, 2017

    Amy Reply

    I am laying here knowing I need to get up, but feeling that frozen state of being. It is all too much and yes the financial mess I have to clean up because the ex didn’t want to be a responsible adult but a helpless child. And one more fight today- finding out where the child support is. I think that’s when the panic attacks started was the crumbling of the marriage. Thank you for your honesty, being real and offering us a word of encouragement. That we are doing our best for our children even if we don’t think so. Keep writing- your words are needed!❤

  4. March 20, 2017

    Dany Reply

    Thank you Rachel for bravely speaking about your experience with anxiety. Allyson, I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for a long time and feeling faint (even fainting once) was always a symptom. A psychologist explained to me that when I got anxious I would breathing would become more shallow or i would even hold my breath without realizing it and the lack of oxygen is what caused the fainting feeling. Practicing breathing with my belly instead of my diaphragm has helped.

  5. March 22, 2017

    Anna Reply

    Rachel, are you seeing a therapist? Life doesn’t have to be this way for years at a time. Please consider finding a skilled, qualified therapist who can help. (I say this as someone who is currently in therapy- it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself).

  6. March 22, 2017

    Kristina Redwine Reply

    You have no idea how much I needed this-well I’m sure you do! I felt like you were in my head!! It’s so hard being strong ALL the time. Thank you for sharing.

  7. March 22, 2017

    RPC Reply

    I’ve experienced everything you described in your post, but never really came around to labelling them as panic attacks. I’m so happy I came upon this blog. Because of you, I always feel that someone else is going through the same experiences as me. Thank you.

  8. March 23, 2017

    Mom Reply

    You can always call if you want to vent. I have learned over the years that I need to stress less and trust more. I would have like to have changed many things, but realized that was not the path I was to follow. Instead I am trying to remember that life path is something I can’t control. Sure I make decisions, but I also say many prayers for all my family members, friends and strangers. Knowing that whatever I face in the days ahead, I am never alone. God is guiding me and knowing that bring much peace and comfort. Love you, Mom

  9. March 24, 2017

    Cynth Reply

    Thanks Rachael. But what do you do if the pressure cooker constantly fills up with pressure that you reach a stage when you want to explore from the cooker and not gradually release the steam?

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