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  • Writer's pictureNorma Jean Dunning

I'm Not Less

I've spent most of my life hiding away, sitting in the back of the room. A wallflower that no one sees. And for most of my life, I accepted that was just how it was going to be for me.

It all comes back to this sense of never being enough. Childhood trauma I'm working through in therapy.

I like to say I'm an open book and again on some things I truly am. But, there's still a lot of me I hide away because I fear not being enough.

This week I have been a bit more open. I have taken a few more steps in the right direction. And I know that the small pieces are coming back together to form a person I can truly be happy with being.

I had a very open and honest conversation with a coworker on my panic attacks and that I recently had one at work where only two people knew because they witnessed it. She was not one of them, though. And, yet, I told her about it. I forget that more people don't have panic attacks or anxiety attacks than do. And for those who don't live with it, they don't really grasp all they entail.

She was talking about a young family member of hers that seems to be starting to have panic attacks and being that this is new for her family, they don't know how to handle it or how to help or what the family member is dealing with.

I straight up with no shame said I have panic attacks. I've dealt with them a lot. I've dealt with them for years. There is no one set trigger.

My last major one at work was triggered by my claustrophobic fears and some EMDR reprocessing issues. The one before that feeling trapped in a confined space. The one before that, that was really major, was someone staying at my place that was creating a toxic atmosphere. That kind of goes for the many before that. Also, medical issues have lead to panic attacks. Stress as well.

I remember when they started for me, I didn't understand them. I didn't understand how to control myself even when I was in them and I was passing out quite regularly because of them. I didn't understand why I couldn't breathe, why I couldn't explain myself, why I was sweating and shaking, why my whole body hurt and everything was just wrong.

Now I know, it's a reaction to something my body feels is wrong. I've also learned how to recognize when one is coming and techniques to help bring me back. Sometimes I can minimize the reaction. But, when a bad one hits, I just have to get myself safe and get myself under control. Which to anyone who witnesses a panic attack that has no idea what to do, it is not a pleasant experience for them and definitely not for the person in the midst of one; freaking out about freaking out and then freaking out because someone else is freaking out because they don't know what to do or how to help.

The panic attack I had in my work parking lot was witnessed by two of the upstairs coworkers. These two amazing people witnessed a full force panic attack and were definitely troopers, even if they both had no idea what do to. The fact that they remained calm when I definitely wasn't was helpful. One asked if I needed medical attention which I was able to acknowledge no. So, they just stayed present with me and I pulled myself out of it and went on with my day. The next day I emailed both and explained what happened and told them I appreciated what they did. Because of this and the fact that for a while the panic attacks where becoming more frequent. Not necessarily severe but definitely more frequent. I put up an instruction sheet by my desk. Anyone can read it. Anyone can ask about it.

So, the fact that my coworker who had no idea I have panic attacks, sat there and listened as I explained mine, explained ways of telling if one is coming on, triggers/activators, what meds I take to help, and then suggestions on things to help her family member because they help me, was something enlightening I hope to her, but it definitely was to me.

I'm not less for my traumas. I'm not less because I have panic attacks. I'm not less for having mental health issues. I'm not less for having physical health issues.

I'm Not Less. And that's something I haven't thought for a very long time, if ever.

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