Hello, I have Panic Disorder: Beginning a journey of healing

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(Caption from Instagram) Goodbye Korea! I didn’t think it would be like this. Twenty stripes. Twenty panic attacks in six weeks. That works out to an attack almost every other day. Some days were fine. Some were so, so bad. .

Mental health is never easy to talk about. Never easy to admit to having trouble with. I don’t know what caused it. Maybe it was something that built up over a long period of time. Maybe there was some unknown trigger that started it all. The doctors couldn’t say for sure. Maybe I’ll never know. .

Panic attacks. Anxiety disorder. Insomnia. Paranoia. Claustrophobia. Agoraphobia. In the past few months I’ve run the gamut. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed either. It happens. People get sick. I’m lucky I can go back home to heal. I’m sad to leave Korea in this state, when it’s unavoidable, but I will be bringing with me many happy memories.
Thank you to everyone I met, everyone who impacted my life. I’m grateful for the lessons learned, the experiences, the good times and the bad. I’m living, I’m growing, I will get better.
Here’s to you, Korea, and here’s to me, and a brighter future!

It’s funny that the last post I had up on here was on October 10th, the day my life went all to pieces. I think I had it scheduled because what happened at 3am that day would not have let me post it in any kind of frame of mind.

Let me back up.

On October 10th, at 3am, I woke up having my third panic attack in my life. It had been nearly four years, so I’d forgotten what it felt like. And because panic attacks make you PANIC, I thought I was having a heart attack. I was convinced if I didn’t get medical attention at once I would die.

So I went to the ER. Nothing showed up on the EKG or any other tests, and by then the panic had subsided and I figured I must have had some kind of attack. I was given some medicine and told to see a psychiatrist. O-kay.

I didn’t go to work that day. I went the next day, had a panic attack that night. Had one the next night, and then three over the weekend. Cut to December 22nd, the day I came home, and that number had reached 20. Twenty panic attacks in just over two months. Not a fun time. Especially as I decided to work through the end of the semester.

I got on medication about a month before I left, which helped, but also didn’t help in learning that addiction to those medications and coming off of them can be just as terrifying as going through life with the attacks.

I don’t like talking about my mental health. I don’t like admitting I have a problem I can’t handle. I made the above post on Instagram and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done to post something like that so publicly.

But I think I was also really brave to do it. Mental health still gets a bad rap. People on feel-good medication are still treated like they’re just not trying hard enough. I bought into that until I dealt with depression in my teens and early twenties, and even then the measures I took were by half. So my anxiety ripened and got worse.

Here’s the thing though. I’m INCREDIBLY grateful this happened. Like, so, so glad. I was in a position I didn’t like, doing work I didn’t feel committed to, living in a way that didn’t let me pursue what I wanted. I had a lot of pent-up emotions and anger that had never been expressed. But I wasn’t doing anything about it. I was too scared/lazy to change jobs or move anywhere else and was seriously just going to stay at the same job for another few years. Exactly the trap I had been so adamant about not falling into.

I had been praying for direction but had turned my face to the wall. So I think God gave me a kick in the pants and, well, let the consequences of me not facing my anxiety or issues EVER happen to me. I’m an HSP. An INFJ. An empath. Repressing things makes my body not well. Eating poorly and not exercising makes my body not well. Internalizing the negativity of the culture around me makes my body not well. Having no boundaries with my self or others makes my body not well. I didn’t listen until I had to. So I’m glad it happened.

Yes, I’ve had to move back into my parents’ house and start a process of healing. I’m going to have to go to *gasp* therapy and figure out what’s causing all this crap. I’m going to have to admit this to you all, which is very, very hard.

But so is dealing with agoraphobia, insomnia, claustrophobia, panic attacks, and anxiety of many kinds.

That’s why I have been offline since, well, the Day.

But I’m happy. Happier than I have been in a long time. I’m home, I get a chance to get better, really get better, and I can have some downtime.

I’m sharing my journey to recovery because while I was waiting to come home, I read a lot about anxiety, and hearing people’s stories was encouraging. I hope mine will end well, and I hope it will help anyone it can.

I’m building my own ladder, one rung at a time, celebrating the small victories and eating all the Mexican food I can (verified therapy food, right?).

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Hello, I’m a Multipotentialite: Discovery Series

I am a Multipotentialite, MP for short (Military Police, Member of Parliament, Multipotentialite, all basically the same thing…).

I was going to start off this post talking again about how uncomfortable I am adding all these labels to myself, as if trying to apologize for my uniqueness. As if trying to explain away the part where I’m justifying all my odd behavior.

That’s a terrible thing to do, especially when part of the purpose of the discovery is becoming MORE comfortable with me.

Here we go then.

What is an MP? This is the simple definition given by MP hero, Emilie Wapnick, on her site Puttylike.

A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits.

(If you want to read more or think you are one, head to her website. Seriously, I could spend hours there.) 

An MP has many interests, and those can be far ranging and disparate. They don’t have to match or verge on any scale.

There are different kinds of MPs. Some pursue one passion for a while, then completely switch to another, while some pursue many at the same time and some switch between these two paths.

I learned I was an MP when I heard Emilie’s TED talk. It was serendipitous. I wasn’t looking for it. In fact, I think I was so bored I resorted to TED to pass the time. But when I heard her describe Multipotentiality, my brain sat up and took notice. Yes! I cried. Yes YES! This is me!

All my life I have felt like there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Something ingrained in me that was just…off. I could never settle on any one passion or hobby. When I was young, I was very artistic and hands-on. I did knitting, jewelry-making, needlepoint, quilting, doll-making, woodworking, and any other kind of handiwork. I basically lived at Hobby Lobby.

As I got older, my interests expanded to be more academic as well as artistic; I got into 2D mediums like drawing, started reading about science, linguistics, history, politics, and scoured every shelf of the nonfiction section in my library.

From there, it has continued to expand. Self-help, comic art, philosophy, feminism, spirituality, herbalism, holistic living, Asian culture, team building, the psychology of creativity, dream meanings, and so on.

Right now, I would put my biggest passions as writing, blogging, self-discovery, and multipotentiality itself (exploring what it means).

That’s a huge list. You can see how frustrating it was to bounce back and forth and think each new “thing” was “the thing” that I was meant to do with the rest of my life. I kept thinking I needed to settle down and find my “soulmate” of a career. Never mind that I never believed in romantic soulmates either…

When I never could settle, when my passion inevitably wavered after a month or six months, I felt like an utter failure. A short period of bluesy depression would fall upon me. Until the next passion hit, and I was off again, convinced that I had finally found it. And thus, the cycle would repeat. I thought I was a flake. I thought I lacked grit. I thought it was just laziness.

Now I know it’s not. Now I know that in reality, I’ve been embracing and living out my life as a multipotentialite. A scanner. A renaissance woman. I learn what I need to, and I move on. I enjoy this life. It’s not like having all these interests has ever stressed me out. On the contrary, I love that I can talk about raising horses, WWII politics, quantum theory, language families, and whatever else. It makes life a heck of a lot more interesting.

I could never thank Emilie enough for opening my eyes. It has given me new direction in life as I try to understand how to leverage my strengths and varying passions for a new kind of career. It has also given me comfort. I don’t hate myself every time my interest in something wanes. I don’t feel guilty for letting something go, even when I’ve spent tons of money on it. I don’t feel like I have to justify myself when people say, “Weren’t you going to do/be this?” Most of all, I don’t feel pressured to settle on one thing, an idea that made me feel suffocated.

I want to share more about this. I want to talk about it until WP has to impose a new word limit on posts. I want to hear about your stories. I want to spread them all, and let the hidden MPs know it’s okay to be you. I want the world to accept us, accept our way of life and thinking, and make it a little easier to live our way.

My next post about Multipotentialits will be about how I’m seeking an Umbrella – a general theme or idea that links my passions together. And when I have it, I can think about a business that will use them.

It’s an exciting life, and I’m grateful to be excited again!

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More in the Discovery Series:

Hello, I’m an INFJ/HSP

P.S. For more information, head over to Puttylike. Or read Emilie’s book, How to Be Everything. There are other books and resources as well, but I’ll try to make a neater list and share that seperately.

P.P.S. I was on vacation in Middle Earth recently. I’m still going through pictures, of course, but you can expect some amazingly awkward stories coming soon!

Hello, I’m an INFJ/HSP: Discovery Series

“INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally “doers” as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.

“INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts…”

Human Metrics*

 

“Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait, a high measure of which defines a highly sensitive person (HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity.”

Wiki**

Hi, everyone. My name is Audra and I’m an INFJ/HSP.

I found out I was an INFJ about 5 or 6 years ago, and I can remember the exact moment I read Elaine Aron and discovered I was also an HSP, about 3 years ago.

My inner life changed in hugely dramatic ways both those times, and it has continued to shape the way I live and the way I write, and even more, the way I feel about writing.

Living as an INFJ/HSP, which I will call “empath” for ease, is not easy. I had a total breakdown when I found out I was one. Feelings of intense relief, that I was not crazy, or weak, or nearly as alone as I thought, were coupled with anger that I would have to suffer. Because it felt like the world was designed for those not like me, and I would have to adjust. I had always figured that, but hearing that it wasn’t fixable, shouldn’t be fixed, but was in fact a gift, angered me. Why me? It’s a question I’m sure every empath has asked at some point. Why us? Why are we chosen to feel for the world? Why do we have to go through this intense trip when others seem to have it so much lighter? Why can’t we surf along the waves instead of drowning under the water?

Coming out of the closet as an empath is scary. I’m revealing that I am this squishy marshmallow creature, and that’s scary. Because I still resist. I still like to pretend I am not what I am.

In fact, through high school I tested as INTJ, that cool customer who is so calculating and logical and gets things done ON TIME and EFFICIENTLY. Anything to do with sappy, useless feelings I tossed aside. I insisted I hated pink for years too. And probably fluffy things. And I was clever enough to pick answers I knew would get me the result I wanted. I knew what I wanted to be – the boss.

Perhaps somewhere in my life someone said that being sensitive was bad. I don’t recall. I don’t have any memories of other people telling me to toughen up or get over it. It was only ever me who told me that. In my room, hiding from conflict, I berated what I saw as my enfeebled and childish reactions to every tiny thing. I will be stronger when I am older, I thought. I earnestly believed that my sensitivity was something I would and should outgrow. And when it did not happen, I think some inner panic started that took a few years to let go of. Not until the movement accepting introverts and then, slowly, sensitivity began did I start a soul search to help myself out.

So then I retook the test and was honest for the first time. Or I read about INFJs and couldn’t believe someone had painted a picture of me. Or perhaps I got tired of lying that I didn’t like pink. Whatever the case, I found it out.

I was happy with that identity. Finding out I was an HSP was a bit harder to deal with. When I’m sick or tired or otherwise drained, noises and lights physically hurt. It means I have to be a bit more conscious of myself so I don’t turn into a raging, shut-down emotionless machine as a reaction to too much exposure.

Admitting that I am an empath is tough. So I have to thank Lauren Sapala and this post for helping me do it. Even the phrase in the title, “I thought I was sick or crazy,” let me know I had found one of my tribe. Her story echoes mine in many ways. I feel lucky that I was able to discover the reasons for myself earlier than she did, and in a world already a bit more comfortable with introversion as a whole, but our stories are still frighteningly similar. The physical reactions, the self-doubt, the wondering and hoping if one day adult life would toughen me up into a normal person.

I especially love the part in her post about the definition of empath. One reason I’ve always shied away from that word is its mystic, New Age-y connotations, which is code for “not real and not valid.” Perhaps that’s part of the reason I was so resistant to letting myself be an INFJ and HSP. Too close to ESP, which had no place in my logical, rational, hard-boiled upbringing.

All I want to do today is say I am an empath. There’s a lot to say on the subject later. I want to talk about what it means for me as a writer and what it means for me as an expat.

But for now, my name is Audra, and I’m an empath.

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*Here are more sites dedicated to the INFJ personality.

https://www.16personalities.com/infj-personality

http://www.personalitypage.com/INFJ.html 

**Wikipedia had the simplest definition, but definitely check out Elaine Aron’s site for more detailed information.