#leapfear Day 18 – Shannon

Shannon has a permanent grin on her face.  She laughs easily, moves with confidence and and is warm. That is why this story catches people off guard. Further proof that so many of us keep our struggles deep inside.

What I admire about Shannon, besides her infectious energy, is the fact that she is so open about what she has gone through.  I think she gives the rest of us courage to not be limited by our fear of judgement.  Because ultimately, the only person we have to live with, is ourselves.

 

Shannon chose to write her story in this format rather than answer the questions directly.

For most of my life, I was living in fear but wasn’t aware of it until about 8 years ago when I was debilitated with a panic attack and could not get on an airplane for a vacation with my husband, sister and brother in law.

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After the birth of our son in 2006, I fell into postpartum depression and that was the turning point in my life as it is today. Struggling through postpartum depression and then leading into anxiety attacks; which ended up in a debilitating panic attack, has forever changed my life.

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Looking back into my childhood, I recognize that my anxiety has been with me my whole life but was never diagnosed. At the point of my first recognized panic attack, with the support of my husband and family, I started on the path to taking my leap. Through many sessions of cognitive behavior therapy and then finding my saving grace, Jennifer Alexander, who teaches mindfulness, my life started to turn around. I will be forever grateful to have found Jennifer, who guided me to recognize that my way of life, living with the fear of anxiety and panic attacks, was not how I wanted to live. There was so much that I was not enjoying in life. So many opportunities that I would let pass by for fear of having another panic attack. Jennifer came into life and taught me how to be present in my life, to be compassionate with myself and to others in my life and to give gratitude to the journey I have taken. Most importantly, she taught me how to live a mindful life. I have learned that my thoughts and feelings are okay. They are there, I accept them but I don’t let my anxiety control my life anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there are still struggles. This is a journey to find who I am and how I want to live my life. Through the channels of therapy, I have found myself and my voice. I feel that there are too many people who struggle with mental illness, especially anxiety, panic and depressions, that sit in silence. The most freeing moment was when I finally spoke about my struggles freely and openly without any fear of judgment.

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There are so many things that I have learned to let go of. Most importantly, I let go of the fear of being judged because of my mental illness. People may look at me and see a person that has nothing wrong with them and I am okay with them thinking that, because I know that I have struggles….and that is okay. I am very open about my struggles when I am going through them. The best thing I have done is talk. Talk about my struggles and fears. Talk about struggles and fears of my anxiety and panic attack with others. It was astounding to find out how many people that I know and talk to have the same issues.2016-02-18_0007.jpg

 

Life is all about what you make it. I don’t want to live in the fear of anxiety and panic. I don’t want to live with the fear of lapsing back because it is a journey. It will always be a journey. This journey has made me into the strong person that I am today. One that I never knew was deep down in there. For that I will be forever grateful.

For anyone who is sitting in silence….know you are not alone!

 

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