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Finding myself again

This page created 20th July, 2007
By Gillian, daughter, mother, sister and now lover of life

I was frozen with fear and just didn’t know what was happening to me. Was I going crazy? Was I about to die? My heart was racing so fast and my mental state made everything familiar seem unreal and unreachable as though I wasn’t a part of it. Various things had happened to bring stress into my life and then all of a sudden:

The panic attacks began daily, and then several times a day until there seemed to be no respite from them. The symptoms were always there from the minute I awoke and at night I would wake with the same dread and physical symptoms. I was physically and mentally exhausted. My whole world was shrinking, everything I used to do without thinking about it began to get more and more difficult – driving my car, going to the supermarket, going out anywhere – all these became impossible. I couldn’t even walk to the letterbox without panic and feelings of faintness and dizziness. Noises were so amplified that even watching TV was a stressor. I didn’t understand what was happening and no one else around me seemed to understand what it was like for me. Over about 6 months I had many kinds of treatment. Medication didn’t agree with me, in fact it made my condition worse and a four week stint in hospital eventuated where behavioral therapy was the main source of treatment offered and returning home was welcomed.

In a desperate state I saw something about meditation classes with Pauline McKinnon and I knew I had to try this. It was my last hope as nothing else had worked for me and I was continually getting worse. In making an appointment I didn’t think I would ever get there because at that stage I wasn’t really leaving the house. With the help of my then partner, I remember walking through the door to the Life Development Centre so distraught – desperate for help but in a complete state of panic – to the point of being incapacitated. He had driven of course, and the only way I could attempt to travel in those days was by lying down across the back seat. When I actually got inside Pauline’s rooms I remember clinging to my partner and begging him not to leave me. It took some time and gentle persuasion from Pauline to let him go and even then, the consultation was conducted with me lying on the floor! I was SO insecure and terrified – though it was such a relief that somebody actually understood what I was going through. I wanted to believe that this was going to help but I still thought I might be the ‘one’ that couldn’t be helped. I had a lot of doubt. It was very hard going to that first meditation session in a group. I couldn’t sit still for five minutes let alone an hour! It wasn’t easy for me at all at first but as I continued to attend meditation classes, slowly something started to change inside me. I continued with the meditation practice daily at home as well as classes and began to notice I would have times, even though short at first, where I would feel at ease with myself and everything around me.

I started to be able to do small things that I thought would never be possible such as driving short distances and attending to ‘normal’ day to day duties. As the weeks progressed, these calm times extended for longer periods and as the months passed the hope I had, grew. This wasn’t a short process but it was slow and steady – and it has been a lasting one. I am so grateful for it. I’ve realised it is possible to achieve if you practice regularly. Now, as I look back to how I was before I can see that I’ve come such a long way. I have raised two teenagers on my own, I have survived the grief of the death of my father, I was able to initiate separation from my partner, recognizing that it was an unsatisfactory relationship and I have been able to live normally, naturally enjoying life for a number of years. Recovery was a bumpy road at times. But I know there’s always going to be bumps along the way and I can find that calmness to cope. Really, I’ve found myself, and that’s all that matters. I hope this story will help someone else.

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