Panic Attacks and Dreams

Panic Attacks and Dreams
Monday June 02, 2008

Dear Alice

I am the child of two very sad, abused, heroin addicts, both me and my sister were born addicted. Luckily both my parents knew that they needed to change and moved escape their drug scene. When I was 7 we moved to a ‘hippy housing co-operative’, so although my parents were still very disturbed, I had enlightened witnesses, who helped me. Consequently I have a good job, a house and relative stability. If I had not had this, I know I would have fallen into the hands of the medical profession and been diagnosed as Bipolar and would be on medication like most people with dangerous childhoods. However I am still very shut off from my emotions.

My first breakthrough with my emotions came when I stumbled across one of your books in the attic of a house I was living in. Being an avid reader of self help books, I read it, and it rang true, so I then went on to read the rest of your books. But up until the last year I was not getting in touch with my emotions, I was merely intellectualising what I read and avoiding situations that upset me. I realised I knew the theory but was not putting it into practice.

For a long time I had pictures that appeared in my head but that I didn’t understand. A confusing and reoccurring picture I had was of being in a museum looking out onto a picture postcard Italian plaza, which should have been alive with people and pigeons, but instead was empty, and I am always hidden in the corner of the museum looking out on the emptiness. I was re-reading one of your books where you described how your mother abused you by withdrawing emotionally into silence, when all of a sudden the picture of the empty plaza started uncontrollably firing in my head over and over. And I then knew what it meant…Childhood loneliness. It was an astonishing moment. I asked my sister if she had similar pictures and she said she sometimes had visions that she was encapsulated in an egg on top of a mountain, on a barren dusty moon like planet.

I have for the last year been seeing a counsellor and been attempting to get at my emotions with her help. I learnt from a good book how to interpret my dreams and this has been invaluable in making decisions. Because even if I don’t consciously know how I feel, I get big dreams whenever something important is happening and can then make good decisions. Getting in touch with my emotions takes a lot of solitary thinking, it has become almost an obsession.

One of the consequences of burying my emotions has been panic attacks. At first they just happened when I got into relationships with people who deep down I knew were bad for me. but now they happen whenever something scares me. My friend who I trust said that panic attacks can be learnt and that once something has caused an attack, similar situations feed further attacks, in negative feedback. But I have been doubting this for sometime.

Last week my boss offered me a more challenging job, because my high flying colleague was leaving at a very difficult time and they needed someone to cover for 3 months. She said she couldn’t think of anyone else that would be better able to cover. Since then I have been having difficulty breathing, (I feel like a fish dying on the river bank) and uncontrollable tension. It got so bad I took myself to the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack, my family have a bad history of heart problems, my grandfather dropped down dead aged 32, and I am 36. I also had a dream of a black building with bars! Logically the job would be good for me as it has more opportunities, and so I said yes to my boss. It would mean moving from my job I like which I have been in for 6 yrs and in which I have lots of freedom, in to a high pressure environment in a cooped up office and into the shoes of someone who was very good.

I spoke to my boss today and she said she had another person that could possibly do it instead, and instantly my breathing eased, my tension lifted.

Am I scared of the unknown and challenges, am I suffering anxiety which I could control or are panick attacks to be listened to seriously, as the body saying NO?


AM: Exactly! You got it! It seems that your panic attacks can become your guides; they can help you to take your needs seriously. Why should you change and give up the job you obviously like? Because somebody asked you to do so? Sometimes our body knows better and quicker than our mind what we actually want and need. The mind may be busy with wanting to please. Congratulations for becoming aware of what is going on.