I had my first panic attack at 26-on live TV. I opened my mouth and the words breaking news tumbled out. All I heard were my thoughts: You’re screwing up, you’re going to get fired, what will people think of you?
Determined to advance, I traded parts of myself for what would make me the ‘perfect’ broadcast journalist. They didn’t like my laugh, so I stopped laughing. They said red lipstick wasn’t my shade, so I got rid of red everything. I needed to be liked by my boss and viewers; I’d spiral over the fear of messing up.
From then on, the attacks would happen like clockwork before each show. And for two years, I allowed this cycle to continue, until my husband encouraged me to get help.
Fast-forward 20 years: Hours under those bright lights had left my eye in intense pain. Devices only made it worse, and eye drops were futile. Finally, a diagnosis came: a corneal ulcer, a condition that required surgery and threatened blindness.
I spent weeks off-air, sequestered in darkrooms, with no idea if my eye would work again. In the past, this would’ve been devastating. Just the fear of ‘what could be’ had been crippling. But instead of letting my mind run rampant, I used techniques to keep myself centered. Over the years, I’d learned how to be present, grateful, and not liked.
I could now pause before panic and think: You’re more than this experience, job, or eye.
Eventually I returned to work, at first just for an hour, then two. And it’s all thanks to my panic attacks. They taught me how to handle curveballs and continue my growth.
Robin Meade is the host of HLN’s Morning Express and author of Morning Sunshine!: How to Radiate Confidence and Feel It Too.