Goodbye Panic Attacks #2

Overcoming Misophonia, Anxiety, Panic, Depression, Self Doubt, & More

Goodbye Panic Attacks #2

TL:DR – As a child, I misinterpreted the pressure my parents put on me to succeed in school as them not loving me. As a result, I developed some severe insecurities around my intelligence and a desire to be “cool” instead. This resulted in me caring way too much about what others thought of me. I started having panic attacks in college after years of feeling like I had to act a certain way to fit in. One of the main methods I used to overcome panic attacks and anxiety stems from the work of Dr. Jud Brewer. Useful links and my personal spin on his method are at the end of this post.

Picking up where we left off on Goodbye Panic Attacks #1 – it’s now the summer before my senior year of college and I’ve had my first few major panic attacks. I developed a significant fear of the fear and became constantly worried about having another panic attack, or worse that people would find out I was having them. I felt so much shame and guilt around these panic attacks. Am I having them because I drank too many beers in college? Am I having them because I’m a terrible person and God is bringing down his mighty wrath on my brain? What the helicopter am I going to do to get rid of these panic attacks?

Before you read any further - know that you are an incredible person. What you are experiencing - panic, anxiety, or something else is completely normal. It’s going to be okay and you will be able to overcome these issues. Additionally, I want to say that I love my parents. They are truly amazing people and we have an excellent relationship now. The following anecdote is for you to understand what I felt led to me developing anxiety and panic attacks.


Growing up, I felt a lot of pressure to do exceptionally well in school. Around second or third grade was when I started really slipping behind in a few of my classes in my mom’s eyes. I remember I had a C or D in a math class and for the life of me could not figure out how to do the homework. I remember sitting in class while the teacher explained the lesson each day and feeling like everything was going way over my head. This was an advanced math class as my mom always wanted me to be in the most advanced classes. I now know this is because she really loved me and wanted the best for me.

I would voice to my mom that I was struggling and couldn’t figure out the homework, and my mom would say things to me like “well you better figure it out” and that my grades weren’t going to cut it. I remember spending around a week one night crying myself to sleep because I thought I was going to be a failure, whatever that meant. This math class performance led to a series of massive fights with my parents. I would be so frustrated at my inability to figure out my math homework, and felt like my mom didn’t care at all that I was struggling. I would mouth off to my mom, and she would call for my dad, who would rush into the kitchen and punish me. I would run away from him, eventually be caught, and receive some tasty soap in the mouth. If you’ve ever were soaped as a child, you know how much of a thrilling experience it really is.

This continued for some time, not being able to figure out the math homework, arguing with my mother who I thought didn’t care about me, and my dad coming in with zero context and spanking me, soaping, etc. I became terrified of my dad. For some reason, I was always afraid of voicing my issues to my parents, so I never told my dad what I was feeling or experiencing. I now wish at the time I had had the confidence to open up to my dad about what I was going through in school, as I think my perception of him and my childhood and early adulthood experiences would have been drastically different.

This period of really feeling like I was going to be a failure lasted around two years. I developed the mentality that my parents didn’t care about me. Additionally, I had an older sister who exceeded my parent’s expectations in every way possible. Straight As in all honors classes, awards for this and that, she was their perfect and favorite child was how I felt. I developed this deep anger towards my family and remember making a decision that I was going to be the cool kid. The smart successful kid was already occupied by my sister so in order to get love I was going to have to live life differently.

Well unfortunately this identity of “being cool” was something I relied on externally based on which social circle I was in. In middle school, a girl told my friend that she thought I was really ugly. My friend courteously passed this information along to me saying “She said you are so ugly.” Well, given the low self-esteem I already had due to my misinterpretation of my parent’s desire for me to be successful as them not loving me, and the new identity I had developed as being the cool child, this news completely shattered my world. I remember thinking this sucks, this is awful, my parents don’t like me and think I’m stupid, girls think I’m ugly, what am I even doing here?

At the time, I didn’t even know what therapy was and I can only imagine how much it would have benefitted me at the time to talk to someone about everything I had been experiencing. I was a closed book and kept everything I was struggling with inside.

High School & College

Life continued and I held onto this desire to be the cool kid. Given my new perception that I was ugly, I went to great lengths every day to make sure I looked okay. I would cut my hair differently, gel it, straighten it, whatever it took so that when I looked in the mirror I thought I looked okay. I developed this habit too where every time I walked by a mirror I would look into it, and ridicule myself thinking thoughts like “I wish I was better looking.”

In high school, the being “cool” mentality, fortunately, worked out for me. I felt like I eventually made friends that I thought were cool and fortunately, these also happened to be friends that I really loved and still keep in touch with today. However, when I hit college, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I worked my ass off in high school to get good grades and to be able to get into a good school and ended up going to USC in Los Angeles. When it came time for me to start at USC, I was still carrying this need to be “cool” identity with me.

I planned on joining a fraternity, and there were a few fraternities at USC that were the “cool” fraternities. If you don’t know what a fraternity is - it’s an exclusive organization for men that are part of some universities in the U.S. I dressed and acted the way I thought was “cool” and was accepted into one of the fraternities that was considered “cool.”

Immediately, imposter syndrome set in – “You’re not good-looking enough, you only got in because of your connections, you aren’t cool” I was constantly telling myself these lies in my head. In hindsight, I can’t believe the way I used to speak to myself. Anyhow – I was extremely self-conscious in college – worried about fitting into this fraternity I had joined. I tried to act, dress, and talk a certain way that in my head I thought would deem me “cool” and allow me to fit in.

Fortunately, similar to high school, I was lucky and actually made some amazing friends in this fraternity that I realized loved me for who I really was, and contrary to what I thought, I didn’t have to please them by acting or dressing a certain way. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. Years of pretending to be someone else, suppressing my real thoughts and emotions, and not feeling good enough are what I believe led to my nervous system’s snap and resulting panic attacks.

I share the above story in case you have been through a similar experience, or struggle badly with social anxiety, panic attacks, etc. and deem it might be the result of never feeling like you could be your true self.

Thank you for sharing Mental Martial Arts!

Getting Over Anxiety & Panic

Now – let’s get into how to get over all of that “I’m not good enough” bs. If your panic attacks are a result of a different set of circumstances – say – a specific traumatic event – the following tips will still apply.

As humans, we are creatures of habit, and our brains love patterns. Sometimes we have great habits like exercising and meditating and other times we have bad habits like sniffing our own farts or drinking too much – here’s the point: chronic anxiety, panic attacks, etc are a habit.

This concept was first introduced to me by neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Judson Brewer. The following are a few links with articles and videos explaining how you these anxiety and panic habit loops are formed and some things we can do to break out of them.

If you don’t have time to read or listen to the above – here is the spark notes summary of my takeaways from Dr. Brewer’s teachings:

Chronic anxiety and panic attacks are habits we develop over time. There may be a specific instance that sparks the initial experience with either panic attacks or anxiety, and afterward, we develop this fear loop into a habit by feeding the fear of the fear. “What if I have a panic attack at work? While talking to my crush? While giving a presentation? What if people find out I’m experiencing this?” Ever had any of these thoughts? Lol.

Here's the fun part – breaking the habit loops. It’s extremely simple, and does require a little bit of patience – but it worked for me. Curiosity. Yes, curiosity is the antidote. 

Here is your homework: over the next few days or weeks – become a detective.

Whenever you start to feel panic or anxiety look within with curiosity – ask yourself “Where is this coming from? Where am I feeling it in my body? What is my body trying to alert me about?” Work on identifying if you have any common triggers that start the fear loop triggering anxiety, panic, etc. This is a very empowering exercise that will start you on your way to regaining control over your mind and eliminating your fear of insanity.

Additionally – while practicing this curiosity detective work – remember to work on shifting the perspective towards anxiety and panic from fear to excitement. When anxiety spikes – work on shifting your internal dialogue from “Omg what’s happening to me ahhhh everyone will find out, what if it happens again, what if I die ahhhhh” to something like “Wow, this is so exciting, my body is functioning properly and trying to alert me of something. Awesome! Thank you body.”

Here's how this exercise looked for me initially: Anxiety would spike and a few different mental processes would occur – 1. Past memories from college would pop up where I felt pressure to fit in, and I would feel anxious about running into people from college, or people finding out I wasn’t “cool.” 2. I would think about my parents, and how much trouble I was going to get in for screwing up my brain (lol – I didn’t screw up my brain – but it sure felt that way). 3. I would worry about going insane and ending up on the news.

My process for overcoming the anxiety and panic loops was the following: whenever one of the panic/anxiety patterns began to loop I would immediately respond internally with some humor – something like “ohhh yeah baby here we go again haha” to shift my emotional state out of fear – and I would proceed by asking myself one of the following questions:

Btw – these were my top 10 curiosity-provoking-anxiety-loop-breaking questions to ask myself, however, yours may be different. When asking these questions – allow them to marinate in your mind until you notice a positive shift in your anxiety or panic.


1. Where is this sensation coming from?

2. Where do I feel this sensation in my body?

3. What is this sensation trying to make me aware of?

4. What do I need to learn from this sensation to allow it to go away?

5. What do I need to express in order to allow this emotion to go away?

6. What does this sensation feel like?

7. How can I give myself enough love to release this sensation?

8. When did I decide to think this way? – this one is great for specific cases like feeling as if people don’t like you or won’t like you etc.

9. If you have memory-specific triggers – ask “What are the positive lessons I can take away from this experience?”

10. Where does this sensation start and end in my body?

When I initially started using these questions sometimes scary memories would come up – in this case – I would take a deep breath and go through the above list of questions. I noticed I would sometimes reach for a distraction like my phone when the painful memories popped up, however, these memories were the ones I needed to process in order to break the loops. Asking the above questions while holding these memories in my mind allowed me to shift my perspective on the past, and move from a scared, stuck, fight or flight state to an empowered, confident, happy state.

One more step – after noticing a shift through curiosity and questioning – I would speak to myself with positive affirmations either in the first or third person, sometimes both. For example “I am more than enough” or “You are more than enough, Chris.”

One final curiosity exercise for you that helped me immensely was sitting with feelings of anxiety and asking myself “What emotion am I feeling now?” Then labeling the emotion – usually fear, sadness, guilt, shame, or anger. Then asking myself “Is the sensation still there?” – referring to the physical sensation in my body associated with the labeled emotion. If yes – saying to myself “Great” and repeating the initial question “What emotion am I feeling now?” Repeating this process roughly ten times would usually result in a great reduction in whatever negative emotion I was feeling.

If you have any questions on the above or want to share your story – feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected].



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