I was giving a presentation to a room full of people while on a business trip to the UK. It was my first true panic attack. I forgot what I was trying to say. My throat closed. I sweat rivers. And I actually walked out of a room while a bunch of people watched me attempt to give a presentation.
If you’ve ever seen the film 8 Mile where Eminem chokes on stage and leaves then you know how I felt. That’s exactly what happened to me. It was like the most embarrassing event of my life.
I had some anxious moments in my childhood, but it picked up steam during my corporate years in my early 20s and peaked with my presentation melt down.
There were plenty of warning signs — like the time I sweat all the way through my suit during a job interview, or the time my throat closed up when my boss called me to have a simple conversation about some account detail.
Looking back now, I know I had created the perfect storm:
Lots of travel away from family
Drinking alcohol in excess and too often
Staying up late and then waking myself up with gallons of coffee
A number of years of abusing my body with bad food and little exercise
Working in a meaningless job
That night I thought about killing myself, as the shame and embarrassment of my new found anxiety started to eat away at my ego.
On return to Canada I went to the doctor, as I wanted to be FIXED immediately. I did what most everyone would do, but what I’ve come to learn is there is no quick fix to anxiety, no miracle pills or potions that make everything alright.
But I didn’t realize that yet. The doctor prescribed me anti-depressants and I dutifully took them.
My anxiety persisted. Sometimes it faded a bit and other times it surged. I went to see a psychologist to talk it out, but believe it or not I felt like I was being judged and that they didn’t really understand.
But I continued to have panic attacks at work, sometimes publicly, sometimes with my office door closed.
I was anxious all the time. It thrived because I was trying desperately to hide it.
It wasn’t until I finally started to open up and share my vulnerability that I got insight I’d never considered before.
Maybe my lifestyle was contributing to my anxiety?
I was forced to take a long look at my life and what I’d created to see if it was serving me still.
An amazing thing happened when I started leaning into my anxiety rather than running away from it. I started to get better.
Starting with meditation and exercise I got the momentum to start making bigger life shifts. There are no immediate fixes but I discovered that it was possible to live a life not controlled by anxiety.
I decided that I was not willing to cope with Anxiety. Yes it might always be in my life but it wasn’t going to run my life. I run my life now.
Do you find yourself avoiding certain situations because of your anxiety?
Are you constantly concerned about what others think of you and that in itself sets off your anxiety even more?
Do you feel like even though you’re coping with anxiety from time to time, you’re never really escaping its clutches?
If you said yes to any of these things I urge you to join me in mastering your anxiety and living a full life.