Excerpt for The Other Face Of Panic by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Petya Petrova




Text copyright © 2017 Petya Petrova


All Rights Reserved

© Kate Nickolson, drawing on the cover

© Petya Petrova, design cover

Bulgaria - 2017

ISBN 978-954-9379-30-3

To my parents

and to my sister!

To Monica and Lora –

My best Teachers in Life!

To all who participated in the initiative Panicers Club in Bulgaria with

Their story and experience!

To all who trusted me and choose to own a copy of this book!

To all who forgot how to love themselves!

Love Yourself! I Love You!

Thank you to all who not just stood behind my back when I started this adventure,

but showed me the Way in front of me!

Please, do not consider the advices in this book as medical decisions! Everyone is responsible alone if decides to use them. Before doing anything, always consult your doctor in advance, especially when it is related to antidepressants! The desire of the author is only to provide information on her own experience in order to help others like her, but she is not responsible for your actions.

Table of Contents:

The reasons why and their importance?

The pressures of modern life, the distorted values we cherish ​and the fierce struggle to survive in an atmosphere of endless economic, social and even personal worldwide crisis – all those factors trigger ever intensively the development of depression, phobias, obsessive thoughts, anxiety, panic attacks, and other psychological disorders. It is possible for a person to suffer from a few of those at once - nobody is immunized!

Not being an exception to this current lifestyle tendency, 15 years ago I experienced my first panic attack. Shortly afterwards, I developed the syndrome of panic disorder. During this long period of my Life, I went through a number of stages - from complete disorientation and despair, through denial and resistance, until I finally came to the liberating power of acceptance. In this little book, I do not offer you a panacea, but you can consider and take advantage of the issues tackled adapting them to your personal circumstances. There can`t be a “ready-made” formula or a certain rule to deal with panic disorder, as there is no universal recipe for happiness. What I share with you is nothing else but my experience which comes to prove you that IT IS possible not only to learn how to live with panic disorder but to teach us how to live this Life. Wordplay, but not quite… I hope that knowing my story you will feel the need to search, explore and find your own way, your own answers and your inner motivation for a Change. I know that each and every one of you is desperately seeking and waiting for it. Every one of you needs to find his own personal reasons for what`s happening in his Life in order to cure these “damaged” links. For each of us the answers and “the recipe are different and unique. I guess most of you are already convinced that there is no magic pill to remove this “hell” from your Life. Perhaps there is one that relieves your state for the moment, but the question is: for how long? Even if they do lead to actual physical sensations, panic attacks are rarely related to physical illnesses. Panic attacks are not the root cause for your state. They are nothing but a consequence... A consequence of a false attitude towards Life… An effect of non-acceptance of ourselves, as we are. Taking only pills does nothing more than curing the symptoms but not the cause of the “illness”. I use this word conditionally.

Do not consider panic disorder an illness. It is an alarm.

It is a signal coming from our body and subconscious mind to alert us that we have chosen a wrong path. Through panic attacks, our whole being “cries out” that it is time to become aware of what we truly are and change.

The cure you need is right inside you.

Break away from your everyday routine for a little while! Give yourself enough time to read what I have written for you. I will tell you about my Life as a hostage to panic disorder, and the time it took me to accept it as... my friend. Probably most of you will be confused and ask themselves: How can she talk about this nightmare as a friend?!?”; Obviously she has not been in such a severe state as I was”; She has not experienced the most horrible crises...”; “It is easy for her to talk... I understand your distrust. I used to think like you, a while ago.

From the very outset, I would like to make it clear that nowhere in the book will you find a statement or even a hint that once you have read it, you will forget about the occurrence of panic disorder in your Life.

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” Sara Shepard

It is more important not to forget but to remember why and how we ended up here. What`s essential to learn from this experience is how to grow in confidence day after day, step by step, training ourselves to face the inevitable challenges of Life.

I hope my story will be a strong enough provocation so you would look at yourself, at your Life, even at panic disorder, from a different perspective. Thus you will be better prepared to cope with it when is needed. All this will help you to get through till the day when a possible occurrence of a panic attack will not be such a bother as to make you numb. The moment you stop expecting those attacks with such tension and fear, you will be free. You can be sure they will not recur unless you “change course” and once again turn it against yourself. I will tell you what I have learnt and come to know while living with panic disorder through all those years, but what you are to achieve is entirely in your hands.

I have learnt to live again by accepting panic disorder as part of my Life. I had no magic eraser to remove it and the only thing I could do was to change my attitude to it. The change in viewpoint brought me the long-expected relief and released me from the terrible panic attacks. I am filled with boundless joy, which is exactly what urged on me the necessity of sharing my story with you. I use abbreviations for panic disorder /pd/ and panic attack /pa/, as I deliberately write them in lowercase and do not use inverted comas. The uppercase is for the important things in Life. I spell Life with a capital letter, for I have learned to love and respect it. Since the advent of pd, I came to appreciate every bit of the so-called “normal Life”. I want to love, cry, make love, scream with delight, hug my child, listen to music, feel the sun on my face, and do anything that would make me feel ALIVE. When I realized what a gift Life really is - how unique and colorful it can be - I was ready to accept pd as part of it. I do not use negatively charged words, such as “problem”. I would advise you to also carefully choose the words you use!

Probably you often say: “I want my Life back!”, but it is impossible to live in the “old” way and you know this very well, right? And besides, didn’t you end up with pd just because of it?!? Because of the mental model you had maintained for years?!? Moreover, you have lived like this for a whole lifetime. You do not expect “the healing” to happen quicker than getting “the sickness”, do you?!? Abandon your old Lifestyle, for something better is ahead of you.

You don`t need healing. You need a Change!

Unfortunately, Change does not happen by just using beautiful words. It takes 24/7 of hard work to change yourself, and hence your Life. Change is an action, a forward movement. It is the specific steps you need to take. Open yourself to Change and do not hesitate to experiment until you find what makes you feel good.

Let Change into your Life.

Allow yourself to be happy. Repeat to yourself that this is possible and it`s never too late. Regardless of your age, sex, social status or condition - start your Change step by step, day by day. Don`t be afraid of it! Change is a synonym of Life and is the only constant in it. Remember, Change does not always mean you need to become a different person. Sometimes you need to accept who you really are.

... “My first encounter with pa was in January 2000 when I was 22. But the truth is that it began further back in time. I was destined to be born into a family of two people who could hardly be in one room without quarrelling. To say the least, they did not get along with each other. Recently I found a diary my mother kept when I was a baby. I was amazed by what it read. Even though I had not turned one yet, whenever my parents quarreled, I cried inconsolably. I just reacted.” …

Throughout our infancy and childhood we expect adults to take care of us, to “show us the way”. When it does not happen - we choose randomly our own direction – it is a shot in the dark. It is not until later that we become aware of the choices we have made and many of us think it is too late for Change. We subconsciously adopt the pattern of behavior of our parents and authorities. We absorb their convictions and beliefs. Their truths become ours and based on this we build our own “Self”.

I would like to assure you that I am not planning to tell you a sad story here. It is not my purpose. Everyone has their own issues, not necessarily the same as mine. It is possible to develop pa without having experienced violence, bereavement or a major negative change in Life. Maybe in our childhood we had all material things, but we didn`t have the love and affection needed for each kid. Or exactly the opposite – our parents were so protective, that the first interaction of ours with real Life was experienced as a true disaster. The first pa might have occurred after a severe physical illness or intensive medical treatment, a large amount of alcohol or drugs. More often the reasons that cause this condition are multiple and complex. It is likely that you have undertaken too many tasks in your Life, more than you can cope with, but you keep on “pushing” yourself relentlessly. Possibly, someone from your past, or present, has been doing things that have been controlling you, hurting you... For too long... For quite a while you have not paid attention to the feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness; to your body’s signals. You have not dared admit that what has been happening in your Life... has not made you feel good, being different from what you had believed in, what you had imagined.

There might be many different reasons for developing pd which all boil down to a single incorrect attitude, not to something or someone else - but to us.

To get a pa after such physical and emotional exhaustion is quite a logical consequence, not a coincidence. Pa does not occur out of the blue. It does not just overtake us accidentally. There is always a story behind it. Often pd has deep roots, tightly woven into the fabric of our souls, sometimes unnoticed even by us. Deep inside, you probably have some guesses what might have triggered this state. If you are still unaware, look again – dig deep down more! Be completely honest. You owe yourself at least that much.

... “When I came of age, I was admitted to a university in another city. Those were some great years. For the first time I felt free, strong, confident - even overconfident... After many years of fear and constant tension at home, I could go on with my Life. I was determined to never allow anyone to insult, humiliate or control me again. Nothing and no one could stop me from being what I wanted to be. It was all in my hands and now I set the rules and rhythm of my Life. I really believed so, until that horrible cold January morning in the year 2000. It was then when that happened for the first time. I was on the train, heading to visit a friend of mine.”…

The illness tells our story

Years later, when I came across Alexander Sviyash’s theory of sickness as spiritual educator, and more specifically of the so-called “idealization of independence”, I found out why pd came to me at that particular time of my Life.

Idealization of independence” is mostly typical of people, aged 14 to 20. It manifests itself in hysterical struggle for complete independence from any form of control - by parents or others. Sometimes this struggle has unexpected results - after having escaped from the control of parents - one falls under the control of an illness. With its onset, the person is deprived of the opportunity to achieve the result he had idealized. According to Sviyash, Life will always present us with an illness that will best serve for the destruction of specific idealization. Or even a group of idealizations, as is usually the case.

Pd occurred soon after I left my parents! Just when I was “free” from their control and “depended” on no one... Just when I had simplified things as much as possible: I would “throw” out of my Life anything causing me sorrow the minute I sensed it - without asking questions, without giving it a second thought. I was direct, tough and determined. Just when I was finally away from everything I ever wanted to escape from for years… Just when I finally did it... the first pa occurred. At that very moment I became subject to another type of control – the one of my “illness”. I still called it so back then. I was no longer under my parents’ control… I was controlled by pd…

Only when I became aware of my “idealizations”, I realized that this particular “illness” was not randomly chosen by Life (i. e. by me) for me. What better than this could keep me in a state of dependency on my closest ones?!? How else to provoke me to “repair” my relationship with them?!? I would have not “voluntarily” agreed to find a way back to them so we could forgive each other and move on.

No doubt, I was extremely stubborn – so it took me some time to get the “message” Life sent me through pd. What didn`t I do to myself - only to avoid this painful step! Going back to my “controlling” parents was not an option I was willing to choose. I could not see that it was my unprocessed anger that kept me from experiencing recovery.

So, think of what your idealizations are. You can call them “your principles”. What is encoded in your brain that you should not transgress? How many “musts” are adopted as “landmarks” in your Life! How should you behave, how to react..., how to live! All these patterns are idealizations. What do you believe in unconditionally? For example, you might believe that good “should” always win... According to Sviyash, in this case, Life will provide situations or illnesses by which you will be forced to “give up” and accept reality as it is - a marvelous mixture of good and bad, and exactly that ambiguity makes it wonderful!

… “There are no adequate words to describe my feeling when the first pa stroke me. It was like my body just refused to breathe. As if it forgot to do what it had been doing since the moment of its creation! I tried to breathe but the air only got to the top of my throat and refused to come down to my lungs. Everything was spinning. My ears were ringing. My limbs were numb. My legs refused to move. I had a terrible feeling I was going crazy because I could control neither my mind nor my body. I will never forget that chilling feeling of helplessness and horror that people could see me exposed. I saw and heard nothing. I only knew that I had to get off the train immediately. My whole being was hectic. My stomach sank. I felt really sick. My heart could barely keep up because there was not enough air …

It was, and still remains, the worst day of my Life. I was shocked by what had happened to me. I did not have the slightest idea what this “thing” was. I only knew that I did not want to experience it ever again. Years later, whatever sickness I would hear of, I would really feel I had the exact same symptoms. Sudden changes in blood pressure, problems with the vestibular system, terrible chest discomfort, rapid heartbeat, etc. I had symptoms of so many diseases! And each time I would go to the doctor, I would find myself... HEALTHY! At this stage, no doctor - even for a moment - assumed that it might be a nervous breakdown. Everyone was seeing me as a confident, stable and very strong young woman…

Of course, after the first pa, Life continued, but I was no longer the same. And I was never going to be. The next pa reoccurred while travelling in a vehicle and it seemed to me that I had a travel-related disease. I tried everything! I tried to travel with my eyes closed, to sit in the direction of movement; even sedatives did not help. That “thing” did not leave me alone. It sneaked up on me and attacked me time and again. I admit - I felt like a helpless victim. Day in and day out my whole being was as taut as a string of a bow. Each little noise, that others did not even notice, irritated me. The helplessness and despair crushed me. Life put me on the ring against the greatest challenge - to stand face to face with myself.

Soon afterwards, agoraphobia came to join pd. Unfortunately, the experience is not as melodic as its name. For those who still do not have a definition of it – it is a fear of open spaces where there are many people. Agoraphobia, along with the fear of another pa, holds us hostage in our homes. It is terrible not be able to go to the local shop, to go for a walk in the park, as “normal” people do. Living in such isolation is terrible for anyone, especially for a young person. I did not go anywhere. If I had to, I was always accompanied by someone, with sedatives in my bag and plenty of water. I saw no way out and still did not understand what was wrong with me. Suddenly... The only place I was not experiencing pa… my home... Another attack occurred right there. I had no shelter anymore. As I was talking, all at once, I began to laugh. I do not know how it happened. Is if I was out of my body looking at the girl on the couch – looking at myself. She laughed madly, then burst into tears ... Then she laughed again. I did not know that “crazy” girl... After that laughter incident I did not dare laugh for years! I shuddered at any mention of the word “insane”. I was so afraid that I would go crazy... Later I began to experience a number of fears… Fear of the unknown... Fear of death... I was afraid to close my eyes. I was not sure if I would wake up... Until finally… I was not afraid of… anything… but fear itself, which was more than enough to keep me trapped in a vicious circle.”…

What is fear?

Fear is the most devastating emotion one could experience. Fear is the genesis, the root cause of all our negative feelings.

The truth is that fear is part of our innate self-preservation instinct. At the first inkling of danger, warning signals are sent to the fear centre in our brain – amygdala. This prepares the body for action. This is referred to “fight-or-flight response”. The next impulse is sent through the spine to the adrenal glands, which release the necessary adrenalin, which fills the body in seconds. When it reaches the lungs, we start breathing rapidly and inhaling more oxygen, our pulse gets faster and blood pressure rises. Our blood, full of oxygen, rushes to the muscles and they are ready for either a fight or a flight.

Of course, this “fight-or-flight” body response could be lifesaving if being chased by a lion, but… When our Lives are not really threatened or endangered, as is the case when we are under a pa, and we are still numb with fear – then we talk about an irrational fear. Though we clearly understand there is no reason to fear, our body gets ready either for a fight or a flight. Our brain cannot assimilate this disturbing discrepancy between body signals and reality, and the pa quickly overwhelms us. During pa our body systems are not working as a team, nor in harmony. We lack logic and that is why we feel confused and unable to cope with the situation, which makes it even worse. In a split second hysterical thoughts invade our mind - for example “I`m dying!”, “I`m going crazy!”, or “I`m going to embarrass myself in front of people!” etc. The truth is we are not overwhelmed by pa each time adrenaline fills our body and prepares it for а fight or а flight. Otherwise it would mean that everyone being chased by a lion in the jungle is a pa victim, right?!?

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