Matt thought he was doing pretty well until he went to bed on a Sunday night and woke up the next morning thinking he was having a heart attack. His heart was racing, he was sweating like he was in a Monty Python movie, and he was freaking out. He jumped in his car and drove himself to the doctor’s office. Not the best idea to drive a car when you think you are having a heart attack, of course, but he needed help.
After examining him, the doctor concluded that he wasn’t having a heart attack, rather he was having a severe panic attack. The doc told him to just go home and rest, and he should feel better in the morning. Well, that didn’t work, and it didn’t work the next day, week, or month. His life began to shut down. His parents had to move in with him. He couldn’t function, drive a car, eat, or sleep. At night, he couldn’t look out the windows because he thought the sky was falling. His “dream” life was literally crashing down. And, he had no idea what happened or how to fix it.
Fortunately, he was introduced to a therapist who changed his life. During one of his first visits she handed him Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Life, and told him to read the first sentence, which says, “It’s not about you.” The sentence didn’t make any sense to Matt. Again, narcissism won the day. Then she told him that he would never feel better until he understood that concept.
That got his attention because it was like a final life raft, something to grab onto, something to help. Just four simple words were all he needed to read. They echoed in his head every minute of the day, partially from a place of gratitude and partially because he was unsure and confused. But, he was determined to put in the work and find the meaning.
She then prescribed a heavy dose of volunteering. Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m., Matt would go out and pick up litter, paint over graffiti, feed the homeless, etc. At first, he didn’t understand it, but one day it clicked. Saturday mornings were his favorite time of the week. They provided an opportunity to go out and serve others and it was “not about him.” It was the best he felt every week.
All I say to those who have experience Panic Attack/ Depression in their lives, is that it is undoubtedly a rude wake up call.
- A wake up call that tells you that there is something fundamentally amiss in the way you are currently approaching life.
- It is a call to wake up and acknowledge the reality of life.
- It is a call to search and find your answers.
- It is call to have faith in your own self. It is call to believe.
- It is a call not to give up.
- It is call that will take you to a beautiful journey, however frustrating and however exhausting it is for now.
- It is call that will take you to your highest goal.
- It is a call that is begging you to go deep into your own self to find the answers to the question that are being posed.
And that answer comes only through the practices of being in touch with your deepest self.
My Master – HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – prescribes – Sadhana (spiritual practices such as Sudarshan Kriya, Meditation, Yoga), Seva (selfless volunteering) and Satsang (literally the company of truth) as a way. And I can testify to the efficacy of this simple 3S rule. It worked for me and I am sure it will work for all.
[PS: I know how tough and challenging dealing with Panic Attacks and Depression is, been there, dealt with it for close to 13 years and came out of it a much stronger individual, this is no way to trivialize the challenges or to put the blame back on individual. Deal with it, follow what your therapist or medical practitioner prescribes. Believe in yourself. I believe a more lasting and permanent solution is found through the practices of meditation, Sudarshan Kriya and Yoga – give it a try]