Lory was a perfectly healthy young woman of 25 years old. She enjoyed walking in the park with her cat, she loved to see the sun rising and never missed a sunset because she said: “every sunset is unique”. And she was right.
Lory lived alone in her apartment. The complex consisted of six apartments and she lived on the second floor. Her apartment was beautiful, nicely decorated with a big gray comfy couch in the middle of the living room. Sometimes she fell asleep on her couch and spent the most wonderful nights of her life. Her cat, Luigi, always laid down at her side wherever she was there.
Lory loved to cook. She made delicious plates she learned from her mother, so cooking wasn’t an issue for her. Also, she was a devourer of books and sometimes she liked to write to.
Everything seemed perfect in Lory’s life. But there was a huge problem that haunted her every day: she was afraid of everything. In her imagination, she could think of her death in a matter of seconds. The most gruesome and disgusting death you could imagine.
She was afraid of water shortages; she thought all the water on the planet was going to end and the world war third would take place. She was afraid of power outages; she would think the electricity would fail and she would have to live in darkness for the rest of her life. She was afraid of fainting in the supermarket not knowing anyone, so she would lay there on the floor until she died. Lory was scared of her own heartbeat. She measured her cardiac frequency almost every 5 minutes. And don’t make me talk about blood pressure.
Lory had a special place in the emergency room at the hospital. But every time she went with a new “illness” the doctors said everything was fine. She returned to her house disappointed doubting the opinion of the doctors. In the end, it was her feelings, and she wasn’t going insane.
Nothing appears to be what it really is. So was the case of Lory, who never showed in front of her friends her eternal fear of something bad happening in the space and time where she was standing. That fear made her isolated herself from the outside world. She was afraid of even taking the trash out. She avoided certain places in her house and certain clothes she never wore.
She would use the same spoon always; she would wear the same clothes even if she had to wash it every day. Even her underwear was always the same. Lory thought these were protective steps against what was happening to her. The doctors didn’t have the answer, but there must be a logical explanation, right?
One night she started to have panic attacks. The sensations and symptoms were so horrible that Lory really thought she was dying. But she didn’t know she was having panic attacks.
As expected, Lory went to her doctor, and as always, there was nothing wrong with her. She couldn’t understand the absurdity of what was happening. How can she be healthy, experiencing those symptoms day after day, moment after moment?
She was so frustrated, that she started to panic at every moment in the day. She wasn’t productive anymore. She was afraid of reading, she was afraid of writing, she, in a short, was afraid of being alive.
There was a tiny detail Lory wasn’t seeing in those moments of despair: what she dreaded more, death, never happened. In her mind, she died thousands of times. But after a couple of minutes, she found herself standing, breathing, her heart beating, she was alive, but her body was exhausted.
In a moment of crisis, she called a friend who suggested she should immediately go to therapy. “Therapy?”, she thought. How would that alleviate all of those symptoms?
But she was trying to find answers so she made an appointment with a therapist. The day arrived and Lory was a ball of anxiety. What if this wasn’t the answer? What if she collapsed in the middle of the room? When she arrived, she felt somehow relieved to see there was a cardiologist in the building. So maybe she would be treated if she had a heart attack.
When she entered the room, she saw it was a nice place, with a desk and a bookshelf behind. The walls were of a soft lavender color. A short woman with a wide smile received her. She presented herself as the therapist, she talked about her experience with different cases of depression and anxiety with different patients. She assured her that everything spoken in that room would be confidential. Lory started to feel calmer. But still, she had her doubts. Anyways, she was there already, she had to talk.
She started telling that she was afraid of aging, in fact, she told the therapist that when she turned 25, her fear intensified. The woman was in front of her, just hearing. But when lory finished explaining the pressure on her chest and the sensation of suffocation she felt, the therapist opened her mouth for the first time to say: “Do you know when people start aging?”
“No”, answered Lory.
“Well, at the age of 25”, the woman answered.
As you could imagine, Lory had a panic attack. And not just that. Lory wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. The air was disappearing, she was going to faint. She was old, she would get sick and she would die.
The woman tried to calm her down, with a sweet voice. But all that Lory wanted was the session to end. Go home, and crawl on her bed, crying because she was soon to die.
The session ended. The woman gave her a book of stories, each one with a moral. Lory took it, but she didn’t know how would that avoid her death.
When Lory was home her thoughts started to invade her mind, shrinking her, devastating her, killing her. She called her mother, who was outside the country and she told her everything.
That night, there was a fight in the neighbor's house, and Lory woke up scared, her heart racing fast. She didn’t know what happened, but she was scared. She saw an ambulance, and she panicked. She thought if somebody hasn’t died, that ambulance was for her.
At midmorning, she called her mother once again. She could barely speak because her heartbeats were so strong, she could hear them on her ears and her breathing was almost impossible.
Her mother took a fly to be with Lory. Maybe her presence would make her feel better. And it did. For a week, Lory felt better.
But once again, the same pressure, the same feeling of suffocation appeared. Tired and angry to keep feeling that way after two months straight, Lory and her mother started to research on the internet. Lory learned she was having panic attacks. She read everything about anxiety and panic attacks. And the last page she navigated said the remedy of what she was experiencing, was to just let it happen.
Lory couldn’t process that idea. How could she just stand there while she was dying? Her mother said she could give it a try. So, she did.
She let herself sink in the fear. She just laid down, letting the symptoms take her body and crush her. At the end of the day, Lory called a nurse, to take her blood pressure and listen to her heartbeat. Surprise, everything was fine!
“Ok, I know what I have and just have to let it happen, I know I won’t die”, said Lory. For several weeks, the panic didn’t fade away as she thought it would. She couldn't understand if she was doing everything, she thought she had to do.
But Lory wasn’t stopping her thoughts. She did not notice, but they came every moment in the day. They told her she was going to die that day, that she would collapse in the middle of the streets and nobody would find her.
Lory developed another fear. She was afraid to be alone in case something bad happens to her. She would go anywhere with her mother, and the thought that her mother would eventually have to go made her panic.
How could she continue to live that way? It was like being alive without being aware of it. All thoughts about dying were impeding her to enjoy her life. She was living thinking about death. With the fear of another panic attack. With the fear of fear.
“We need to find a solution”, her mother said. You can’t continue like that. I can’t leave you that way”. So, her mother suggested another therapist.
Dreading what happened with the first, Lory was reluctant to go to another place where her fear would be intensified. “But maybe this one would work”, her mother told Lory.
With a deep breath, Lory made an appointment with a new therapist.
When the day arrived, Lory was somehow calmed, but then the anxious thoughts popped up on her mind.
When she entered the doctor’s room, she saw a young woman with a sweet smile who offered water, or chamomile tea. “Water please”, Lory said.
Immediately, Lory started to cry, while the young woman just observed with compassion in her eyes. She said, “it’s ok to cry here”. So, Lory cried even more. When she felt calmer, the therapist told her that indeed she was having panic attacks, the peak of anxiety. But she assured her it was common and it was treatable. Those words were all that Lory needed to hear that day.
She kept going to therapy one day per week and the therapist also suggested she would need medication because her brain was lacking serotonin, one of the four “chemicals of happiness”.
Lory was willing to everything because all she wanted was to live a productive and normal life. So, she also started to see a psychiatrist.
Lory feels better now. The difference is from heaven to earth. From time to time she still has a bad thought, but she can fight them without much effort. Of course, her therapy sessions are still necessary, but Lory is regaining her life. She’s finding hope.