7/1/18 #SameHere Hero: Chessa Johnston

Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero: Chessa Johnston. So many parts of this story I find fascinating and take a lot away from. Unlike most Hero stories, Chessa’s centers very little around the topic of life traumas. It would appear as though her anxiety/panic disorder was more rooted in genetics than anything else. Because she wasn’t sure what these feelings and symptoms were, she hid them for years, from family members and even her husband. Family that did know, thought it was her being a hypochondriac.
For some people, getting a diagnosis gives them validation. Interestingly for Chessa, hearing her disorder name made it all the more real (something I’m sure many can relate to). She feared more of the attack’s bc of how real it was – and for those who have faced them, you know she’s not exaggerating when she says she’d do almost anything not to feel them.
Religions is a topic we’ve stayed away from because (especially in a global alliance) so many of us are going to have so many different belief systems and faiths. Different religions, different levels of practicing, some who refer to it simply as faith, a higher power, or spirituality, or some who might not relate at all.
However, the beauty of Chessa mentioning the role religion played in her story is that it grounded her. It gave her a safe space and a safe practice to help restructure her thoughts positively. Ultimately it led to 9 straight years without a panic attack. Whatever your safe space and safe practice is (religious or otherwise) this is a great example as to how one can calm the mind, and take back control. Thanks for sharing, Chessa!
“I had a relatively uneventful childhood as far as major life changes/challenges occurring. The only traumatic event that happened to me in adolescence was the divorce of my parents when I was just 3 years old
Despite the relatively quiet childhood, I started to have panic/anxiety attacks was when I was around 7 or 8 years old. My family just attributed my ‘freaking out,’ to being a hypochondriac, always afraid of something/anything being wrong with me. My heart would beat out of my chest and I would feel the immediate need to leave wherever I was and go home.
As an elementary aged child I would have my dad come pick me up from a friend’s house if I felt panic. It would come on without warning. This continued into high school but I never told anyone except my mom. We didn’t know why I was like this. When I got into my 20’s it became progressively worse. I didn’t know it even had a name until I was watching a commercial one day at home and I had all of the symptoms of panic/anxiety disorder.
I met with a good friend of the family who was a psychiatrist and he said I had classic, textbook anxiety disorder. The fact that it had a name made my anxiety worse. I eventually became afraid of the attacks more than anything else. I couldn’t leave my house or run simple errands with my children by myself. I would cancel play dates and lunches with friends because I couldn’t drive out of town by myself. I hid it from my husband for 10 years before I eventually told him. He was very supportive but he didn’t understand because he had never had an a attack before.
I had a few episodes after tell him, that required my husband to call 9-1-1 because I truly thought I was dying. The panic became so severe that there were times that I wished I would die so that I wouldn’t have to suffer like that anymore. It was torture.
I eventually got mad at what was happening. It was taking over my life. At the age of 26 I realized I had a disorder that I couldn’t control. I didn’t want to be scared anymore and I wanted to live my best life with my husband and boys. I was going to fight it.
I am a believer in Jesus Christ so the first place I turned to was my Bible. I found verses on anxiety and fear and I memorized them and wrote them down on 3×5 cards to take with me wherever I went. I wrote down notes that I would read out loud to myself when I would wake up with panic.
I wrote down: You are not going to die. You have had many attacks and you’ve always ended up ok. God is with you. Nothing is going to happen to you.
It didn’t happen overnight but eventually praying, scripture, and positive self talk made it go away. Our minds are very powerful so I knew that I had to retrain my way of thinking. I have been anxiety and panic disorder free for almost 9 years now.
Its’s amazing how everyone I spoke to about my #SameHere🤙 story was extremely supportive and understanding and many were even open, themselves, about their own experiences.”

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