The year was 2005 and there I was in the city of Chicago in between careers. I had never lived in a big city before and I wanted to explore new opportunities. So, there I was in this amazingly vast area of a city. There were so many people there. Me personally, I grew up in a very small town about 2 hours east of Cleveland, OH. The population in that area was around 2,500. You can only imagine how small it was. The first time I had ever been within the walls of any city, that I can remember, was when I visited Cleveland during my late teens. I was in awe of all the tall buildings and structures. It was amazing! Experiencing a big city such as Chicago was even more mesmerizing. Prior to moving to Chicago, I had just separated from the military and I was experiencing major changes within my own life. I was invited to stay with a close friend. Great guy! He was nice enough to allow me to stay with him as I was going through this transition. He had gone through the same transition as well so he had a lot of knowledge and experience of the change that I would expect. I took with me one packed duffle bag, a resume, and about 1,000 dollars for beginners. I got in my car and there I went, off to the big city. I was very confident about my potential moving to this area. I couldn’t wait to get there! I was excited! I had no plan but I just knew it was going to work out. I got there and within the first week I had mapped out certain sectors I was targeting as employment prospects. I have always been a determined individual, always hard on myself to perform up to my fullest potential.
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH PANIC
So, there I was, just moved to the big city and I started right away pounding the pavement of downtown Chicago. In suit and tie and with numerous copies of my resume in hand, I fearlessly entered business after business and prompted conversations with staff and management to try to strike their interest. I got nothing. Weeks would turn into months and still nothing. It was really starting to get frustrating. I mean, I had all this military experience. Why didn’t people see my potential? The pressure was mounting and my cash reserves started to dwindle. I heard about all these great success stories, people moving away and achieving great things on very little and there I was trying to make progress. My purpose started to fade and I began to question my true worth. Time had gone by and the pressure kept building and then one day, it became too much and I had a panic attack. It was the most horrifying experience I had ever gone through. I spent that afternoon curled up in a ball in the middle of the living room, wandering what went wrong. I had totally lost control of my mind. The one asset I did have just slipped from my control.
DESPERATELY SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
I had eventually moved back to Ohio and moved back in with my folks. I became desperate for things to be the way they used to be so I decided to rejoin the ranks of the military once again. Being back in familiar territory, I expected things to get back to normal but they didn’t. It got worse! Much worse! Soon after my re-entry, I was off to Little Rock, AR to report to my assigned base. Shortly after my arrival, things weren’t getting any better so I decided to volunteer for an overseas deployment in a drastic attempt to get back into a routine and get my life back. I was desperate, alone, and extremely confined to the circuitry of my very own mind. My mind began to race uncontrollably. Around and around I went with no sense of any type of order. I tried to ignore it! I thought maybe this was just some nightmare and I would wake up. The fact of the matter is, it wasn’t a dream! It was all real! I couldn’t escape it! I was exposed to situations every day that induced massive amounts of panic. Terrifying as it seemed at the time, I had to continue moving forward in hopes of finding answers.
Each day, when I reported for duty, we were required to attend briefings in a small enclosed room with other peers and superiors. This is where the panic would be at its’ worse. I would have my struggles but one day the Base leadership showed up at the briefings and did their own personal inspections. This briefing was particularly very long. I had tried to resist my thoughts from racing out of control. It was too much! I was exploding deep inside. My central nervous system began to send shock waves that sent my spirit hovering 20 feet in the air. My heartbeat, I can feel exploding out of my chest. I can actually hear the pounding of my heart through my ear drums. I was drenched in sweat and the trembling I could not control. What has become of me? I would ask myself over and over again. After spending months on in trying to keep these dreadful struggles a secret, I found myself having to report it. I couldn’t hide it any longer. I was relieved of duty. My weapon was taken away and I was sent to see a military therapist, who later diagnosed me with having panic disorder w/agoraphobia and general anxiety. That one panic attack caused a spiraling affect that created various other mental disorders, confining me within the walls of my own comfort zone. I was a prisoner within my own body. Couldn’t leave, didn’t want to leave. Fear controlled my life. I didn’t want the rest of the men to find out but they did and they began to confront me about my condition. I was told that I was trying to get out of work, that I was faking it. I was told over and over that it’s all in my head. I was sent home shortly after because the panic was so intense. After arriving back state side, I was ordered to report for re-assignment. I reported to squadron leadership, who were as unforgiving, if not more so than the others. I was told that I am a leach on society and that I will not amount to anything. In a time of desperate need and support, I wasn’t getting anything.
A NEW BEGINNING
Within a year from having these encounters, I was medically discharged and I moved back to Ohio and back in with my folks, who was especially supportive during this time. I went back to school the following January (2008) to pursue an education in accounting. The struggles continued as the class room was a triggering point for panic and anxiety. Being surrounded by a bunch of young kids, who can be even more judgemental than most, tend to make the thoughts of having another panic attack even worse. I found the classroom to be a little easier to deal with my situation though, considering I could control my seating arrangements. I eventually got through that, completing my degree and going on to work for the VA as the POC for bene travel, working closely with the Chief of Fiscal and playing a vital role in the vendorization program. After 3 years of employment at the VA, I decided to take on a more challenging role and pursue a position as an accountant within the private sector. My new role was quite a struggle and I was eventually let go from that position shortly after. I was on the unemployment line and on the beating path once again. As the economy began to take a turn for the worse, jobs were becoming even more difficult to find. I eventually took on two part time roles as a security guard, working for a Macy’s warehouse and a small business owner (on-call).
THE PANIC COMES BACK
Into the first month of employment with these two companies, I received a call from the Veteran’s Administration in Florida, offering me a position in their cash management division. Without even considering savings and moving expenses, I happily accepted the position. Everything that I had earned prior to that had gone to other expenses so I had no savings. I eventually was able to find a bank to agree to fund me a $2500 personal loan, which was enough to pay for the necessary moving expenses and get me to my first paycheck. All the while, being out of my comfort zone was contributing to panic and anxiety, especially the long drive down south. The panic was very debilitating and exhausting. I don’t like panic or anxiety but I felt it necessary to begin the steps beyond my comfort zone.
I started orientation and began work during the month of May 2013. The work was great and I started to excel within my department but within the second year of my tenure, I began to experience deep symptoms of OCD /hypervigilance and decided to, once again, seek out the help of a trained professional, who later confirmed that I did appear to show some signs. I became frustrated and didn’t understand these conditions and why they were affected me the way they were.
After spending the past couple of years dabbling in certain areas of interest associated with stress and anxiety, I am on a mission to find out about these conditions. I have waited and waited for a solution and my wait has been met with resistance. I have sought out “expert” opinions only to be given “treatment options”. I have been told that there may be no cure and that I may deal with this for the rest of my life. I tend to live where the grass is greener and the lilies are flourishing. I have struggled a great deal of my life with anxiety and I’m dedicating it to understanding these conditions that have affected so many more people before me. I am blowing the lid way off and bringing awareness to these debilitating conditions. People that are dealing with this need to understand that they are not alone. I am beginning to understand how this works and I will continue striving toward a better future. Along the way, I will share my experiences and what has helped me get through it. There are just a few areas I’m going to focus on, which will mainly target positive thinking, motivation, inspiration, and goal setting. I will also track my own fitness and nutrition goals. These areas have helped me gain significant improvement in achieving desired stability. My struggles and setbacks have given me the necessary tools to succeed and I believe they can do the same for you. I’m not a psychologist nor a nutritionist. I have a history of anxiety/panic and would like to share the things that have helped me. Please, feel free to comment with any questions or further insight…….