‘I was left with a stranger. There was a growing darkness in the pit of my stomach. I held on for dear life. I would keep trying despite the terror and numbness.’

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“‘Honey can you come and pick me up? I think something is really wrong with me.’

Sitting on the side of the road holding my son’s little hand – completely unaware of what was happening to me – I was having my first panic attack. I felt extremely dizzy. I was shaking; I was feeling internal vibrations throughout my body, and my senses seemed heightened. Cars sounded louder, and the sunlight seemed brighter. I felt like the world was closing in on me. I couldn’t focus, and I was overtaken by pure terror. My husband arrived, put me in the car, and we drove home. I tried to brush it off.

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

This was the day my life would take a drastic turn, the beginning of my battle with anxiety. Why did it begin that day? What triggered it? I have no idea.

I wasn’t a stranger to hardships – abandonment, assault, loss, grief, coup d’états, abuse, becoming a teen mom, heartbreak, miscarriages, addiction, financial problems, leaving the country I had been raised in, my home, starting a new life in the United States, evictions, repossessions… all circumstances I faced and overcome. I was proud of my resilience; I was proud of my strength. But that morning, all that would change.

That warrior, that person that stood strong regardless of what came up had stopped showing up, and I was left with a stranger. I crumbled.

From there, I rapidly began experiencing more and more moments of pure terror. We would be sitting in the car, and I would suddenly feel the urge to roll into a ball on the floor – not that I did it – but the fear was so palpable. I would be at the store and suddenly feel the need to leave because terror was gripping at me. I would be at the park and feel like the earth was about to open under me and lose my sense of balance. Things just kept getting worse.

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

As the days, weeks, and months passed, my symptoms got nastier and nastier. I felt strong internal vibrations in my legs, arms, abdomen, and head so badly that I couldn’t breathe properly or use my body the way I wanted. I began developing brain fog and memory loss. I couldn’t remember words or what I was saying minutes earlier. I suffered regular dizzy spells which got so bad that I couldn’t stand.

I had terrible pain in my joints and different parts of my body, pain in the back of my neck that felt like a claw was squeezing me, the feeling that a thousand needles were prickling my whole body, shortness of breath that left me weeks without being able to take a good deep breath, and daily panic attacks that seemed interminable and had me holding on to my bed for dear life.

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

I couldn’t stand any loud noises, always needed the shades pulled in or the blinds down, couldn’t watch television because I felt overstimulated. I couldn’t have a conversation because I was unable to focus. But the worst was the overwhelming sensation of a growing darkness in the pit of my stomach that always gave me the sensation of free falling. This was my very own hell.

I was afraid to go out. I was afraid to leave my bed. I was afraid all the time. The symptoms followed me day and night.

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

I had developed acute anxiety. I was depressive. And, as much as I longed for help, our family was facing tribulations at that point in time that made it impossible to get the help I needed. Time had completely slowed down. I began forgetting who I used to be and was terrified I would never be able to live a normal life again. I was desperate. I was exhausted. I just wanted it to stop.

How could this be happening to me? I had invested years into personal development. I had invested time and effort on changing myself, on being better, on doing better.

I stopped talking to anyone who wasn’t my immediate family. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, hopeless, and alone. Every day, I fought a silent battle, and the people closest to me couldn’t understand what I was going through or how to help me. As much as they empathized, it was hard for them to comprehend it. They wanted to be supportive but had no idea how to help. I cried and prayed and cried and lamented, and, still, nothing improved.

I tried to apply all the advice I was getting or gathering from my searches, but nothing improved. This went on until I forgot what ‘normal’ was. During that time, life continued to unfold with its ups and downs. I lost my grandfather whom I was very attached to. I lost my father. My husband lost his job due to cutbacks, and hardships ensued.

All the time I spent alone in bed gave me time to review my life, to ponder what could have happened. First, I realized that just before that fateful day, the only thing that I had done differently was a heavy breathing meditation… Was that the cause? Or maybe that part of me that had been strong for so many years needed to go and give birth to another me. Or maybe it was karma?  I kept looking for meaning in my experience. I kept digging and looking for answers that could help me. I tried exercising, but that just triggered my symptoms even more. I focused on being positive as much as I could. I tried to look at the bright side of things. I began working on a couple of business projects. I just wouldn’t give up, and I would keep trying regardless of the terror or the numbness.

If I felt good enough to sit up in bed, my laptop was on and I was doing something to distract myself from the chaos. I also began taking daily selfies of myself to keep a record of my days, and I began journaling again.

My family needed me, and I needed to get better. Slowly, I began standing and moving around the house more easily. Then, I started going out for short periods of time (as long as my husband was with me), and I even began socializing a little bit. I was still going through daily panic attacks and continued to be plagued by many symptoms, but I was beginning to stand again.

And then we moved.

We moved to another state. It was an area that was very different from anywhere I had lived before and I felt quite isolated. Me, the loner, the person who always cherished her solitude, this borderline introvert, suddenly felt incredibly alone and lonely. Soon after the move, all my initial symptoms came back, and I began developing additional symptoms. I had terrible ear pain, throat pain, and chest pains. I had a harder time breathing, I developed cystic acne all over my face, I was experiencing digestive issues, and I was feeling weak all the time. I just became very sick and, again, nobody had answers.

I was back to struggling with numerous panic attacks daily, stuck to my bed, holding on to dear life, feeling that I could explode in a million pieces at any moment, and I was exhausted. Once again, I couldn’t do anything, see anyone, go anywhere, and all my projects stalled. I began losing faith. I became depressed. And I felt myself hit rock bottom.

What was wrong with me? Why did others get it and not me? Why couldn’t I do better? Be better? A part of me was just screaming to just give up, while the wiser part whispered, ‘Just take care of yourself.’

As I lay there amid all that despair and questioning, I suddenly realized how abusive I was being toward myself. Maybe what I needed was a break, I thought. I had no idea what I was going to do, but something within me was pulling me toward being gentle, compassionate, and loving toward myself.  I didn’t have a plan and wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. All I knew was that the thought of caring for myself made me feel good inside. And the idea of taking a break from the research, the daily struggles, the books, the advice, etc. sounded gave me a sense of relief.

So, a new chapter began.

From that point on, every day I took steps to slowly reconnect with the wisdom of my heart. I began to listen once again to the guidance of my intuition and cared for the needs of my whole being (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) to the best of my ability. Good days, bad days, it didn’t matter. I intently put my whole energy into making me feel good in the most loving and gentle way. I repeated to myself over and over all the things I needed to hear: words of comfort, love, and appreciation. I gave myself permission to be who I was and where I was at the time, and I did things that felt good to my mind, my body, and my spirit. Back then, I did not think about what I was doing in terms of self-love. I just wanted to feel better.

Before any of this, the concept of self-love was quite foreign to me. I just thought it was a term people associated with getting mani-pedis or facial masks and such. I hadn’t been brought up with the idea that loving yourself was important. I was taught that loving others was holy while loving yourself was selfish. It was frowned upon, not encouraged. Consequently, I never considered needing to develop a healthy relationship with myself.

But here I was. Desperation had brought me to it. Day after day, I followed my inner flow and cared for myself like never before. Very rapidly, I began noticing changes within myself, and in the matter of a few weeks, I was witnessing incredible shifts in my body and in my life.

All my physical ailments dissipated, my face cleared up completely, anxiety and panic attacks became occasional occurrences, and I could breathe deeply and freely. I began functioning normally once again. I felt joyful and grateful and well. I started feeling passionate about new projects and began having dreams and making plans once more. I was living and thriving.

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

Meanwhile, I was uncovering and discovering a lot about myself and I had some difficult realizations. I realized that for most of my life I had been my worst enemy. I had been hard, abusive, unforgiving, and unfair toward myself. I promised myself that I would change that and chose to become my closest friend.

While I began all this purely to heal myself, I was in awe at the outcomes that manifested. Most of the goals I had made for that year materialized (I had never experienced that before). I received several windfalls. Opportunities came my way and a few happy surprises.

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

I was astonished, and I knew I had found something truly incredible. I wanted to share my process with the world. But before that, I decided to put together a study group to see if it would work for others. For the next several months, I created a program and found lovely humans from all walks of life who agreed to take part in my 180-day experiment. I provided the exercises based on what I had done for myself, and they provided feedback. 20% of the participants dropped out quite rapidly while the rest stayed till the end, and the results were awe-inspiring. They all experienced remarkable changes, and most of them decided to continue the process after the study had closed.

It’s been four years since I stepped onto the self-love path, and I still learn, still grow and am still amazed at how my life has changed (and continues to evolve) by simply honoring and loving myself. No, my life isn’t (always) all rainbows and unicorns. And yes, from time to time, I still dance with a bit of anxiety. But I am transformed, and my life has improved drastically.

Currently, I am adding the finishing touches to my first workbook and will be releasing it soon. I am excited to share my process with others so that they too can find their way to self-love. I was always passionate about serving and helping people in any capacity. I think it comes from growing up in Haiti and witnessing so much suffering. However, since my experience, I am more committed than ever to empower, encourage, support, and assist beings globally. My beautiful family keeps me going.

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

If I could offer any words of wisdom from my own experience, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, just begin by caring for yourself in small ways. Talk to yourself lovingly. Tell yourself ‘I love you.’ Be gentle and patient and take it one day at a time. Say yes when you want to say yes, and no when you want to say no. Distance yourself from toxic individuals and forgive yourself and others. You are extraordinary. You are powerful. You are worthy. You deserve the best. But it all starts with loving yourself.”

Courtesy of @rohrmelody

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melody Rohr of Virginia. You can follow her on Twitter here and Facebook here. Submit your own story here. For our best stories, subscribe to our free newsletter.

Read more about overcoming your anxiety:

‘She’s not broken’: To the man whose wife or partner has anxiety

‘I wonder why I wasn’t invited. I wonder why I wasn’t included. I walk up to people and get that sinking feeling they were just talking about me.’

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