If you are a married woman who suffers from panic attacks you know how difficult it can be to navigate the marital issues resulting from frequent panic attacks. Lack of participation in family outings, too anxious or too exhausted for intimacy, feeling out of sync with the rest of your family, and isolation from family friends, just to name a few. If you’ve gotten as far as seeing your need for self help for panic attacks, then the next challenge is to get ready to pull it off.
Getting ready to launch your program of self help for panic attacks includes bringing your family members on board. In particular, it’s good to have your husband’s support. But before he can offer support he may need to understand more of what it’s like. Here are three simple steps to begin doing just that:
1. Listen Carefully to the Bad News
First, muster the courage to ask about the impact of your panic attacks on him and on the family as a whole. The most important thing here is listen without making it about you. This is difficult because it may feel overcome by sadness and regret while he is talking. Make sure you keep you focus on how this effecting him and not how sorry you are, how ashamed you are, or how much more suffering you have with your panic attacks. It’s not a competition. Furthermore, if you really listen to him you may find that it strengthens your resolve to start your program of self help for panic attacks.
2. Put Yourself in His Place for a Moment
Second, empathize with him. Try to put yourself in his place. Here he is, married to a woman that seems to have a chronic condition that makes his life more difficult. Just as you never know when panic will strike, so also he never knows when it will strike. He never knows when he will suddenly have to do something that you both assumed that you would be able to do (picking up the kids from soccer practice, making dinner, etc.). If you can find it in your heart to have two seconds of eye contact where you tell him you sincerely wish you could block the effects on him, then you have done this step. If you have a family, then both your panic episodes and your efforts at self help for panic attacks have huge implications for the people you love most.
3. Learn About Fearful Times in His Life Without Comparing
Third, ask about a few of the most frightening experiences of his life. Make sure you ask clarification questions to bring out the details of his story. Try to dig deep inside your heart to find some compassion for him in the experience or incidents he describes. IMPORTANT: Do not refer to your own experience of panic and don’t mention your program of self help for panic attacks during this conversation–that must be in a separate conversation and on a different day. It’s also good to think about what he said for a day or two and send an email (or write a note) telling him you have been thinking about your conversations with him and the fear that he must have experienced earlier in his life.
Getting ready to start a program of self help for panic attacks goes more smoothly if you have the right kind of support. You don’t need your husband to be telling you what to do. You don’t need him to participate every step. But you do need his spoken and unspoken encouragement to keep going. Most importantly, you need him to understand that this is a major challenge for you. If you do these three steps you may be glad you did when you embark on a journey of self help for panic attacks.
If you suffer from the symptoms of anxiety attacks and don’t yet have a specific program for self help for panic attacks then take a look at my 4 week online course: The Cure Panic Attacks Workshop.