My FIGGI Life with Jeanne

What is Panic Disorder & Anxiety

Episode Summary

Jeanne shares her personal Panic Disorder diagnosis and discusses what it is, and the challenges it entails, with her psychologist Hennie van der Walt.

Episode Notes

Jeanne shares her personal Panic Disorder diagnosis and discusses what it with her previous psychologist Hennie van der Walt. She sheds light on her personal journey and what led to her diagnosis. Hennie assists with the conversation by explaining what Panic Disorder is, what an anxiety disorder is, and how these are different from normal stress.

Hennie takes us through the symptoms of Panic Disorder, the behavioral traits of those suffering from it, and parts of Jeanne's therapy journey. He also sheds light on how this is perceived by society, how to cope with this Disorder, and how to ultimately live a quality life.

Jeanne also explores the questions of psychotropic medications with Hennie, how these can help those suffering from a Panic Disorder live a quality life, and why there should not be a stigma about using these medications if prescribed.

You can email Hennie at and also find him on LinkedIn.

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Episode Transcription

Hennie vd Walt - PANIC DISORDER


[00:00] - Jeanne

Today is a special episode on My FIGGI Life podcast and one that is difficult for me to record. I'm taking you on the journey through panic and anxiety disorders and what this looks like for me. To help with the conversation, I have asked my previous psychologist to join the podcast and help answer some of the questions you may also have and explain some of the initial hurdles I experienced with my diagnosis. Please be aware that some listeners may experience triggers in this episode, so always talk to your health care provider and reach out to your local depression and anxiety support centres if you need to. 


Hennie is a clinical psychologist registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. He studied at Northwest University and obtained a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Hennie started his career in the South African Medical Service of the South African Defence Force and was stationed at military hospitals and other military units. During his term of service in the military, he also registered as an industrial psychologist with the HPCSA. His interest in industrial psychology led him to join the corporate world, where he did organizational development, change management, and human resource management.

In 2012, however, he decided to return to his first love, clinical psychology. He set up his own private practice and found purpose, meaning, and joy in delivering therapeutic interventions to individuals, groups, and couples. He also found meaning in experiencing his patient’s growth, healing, and helping them to realize their full potential as human beings.


[01:42] - Intro

Welcome, Goddess, to your sacred space. This is the My FIGGI Life podcast, where we openly discuss life's wins and losses on our journeys to self-discovery. This is your best life. This is your FIGGI life. And now here's your host, Jeanne.


[02:07] - Jeanne

I'm so happy to welcome Hennie to the podcast today. Thank you so much for being here and thank you for granting us your precious time.


[02:14] - Hennie

Thank you, Jeanne. It's really a privilege for me to participate in this podcast with you.


[02:21] - Jeanne

Yeah, and I think we've had such a lengthy journey together because maybe I can just give a little bit of background. When I did the introduction, I referred to you as my previous psychologist, but just to explain that Hennie was my treating psychologist from the moment I was diagnosed in 2015 up until 2020, when we decided to move to another country, being Portugal. So, I had to move my health care experience to my new home or my new country. But I would say the most difficult part of this path I probably shared with you because you were there from the beginning.


[03:01] - Hennie

We were associated for quite a number of years over which I did see a lot of growth. And I think that at the end, at least, you were back to sort of the situation where you could realize your full potential again.


[03:17] - Jeanne

Yes. Thank you so much. That means a lot to me because I think we will talk about that through this episode. One of the most, I think, difficult things with anxiety disorders is losing your sense of self and your self-confidence in many situations. And if you listen to the My FIGGI Life podcast and you're part of our community, you would know the episode we did on The Birth of FIGGI and how FIGGI came about. And I shared with you in detail my first experience with my very first panic attack when I was alone in a hotel room working away. And this was a very traumatic experience for me, of course, but as I explained to you in that episode, I actually just went back to my life as I know it. I didn't make any real changes. I just thought everything would be okay. And this led into another series of really, really hectic panic attacks, not really knowing what's happening with my life. And I was very lucky to know a really good doctor who referred me to Hennie to help me to understand what was happening with me in that moment. So Hennie, I have some questions I would like to ask you today about panic and anxiety disorders and also my journey with it. And I hope you can shed some light on that for us.


[04:33] - Hennie

My pleasure. I'll do that as far as possible.


[04:36] - Jeanne

So when I first came to meet you, I think we can safely say one of the biggest challenges I was having at that period was if this kind of thing happens to you and you've never really encountered something like an anxiety disorder, if you don't really know what it is, one of the biggest things that really gets you down is that shift in your reality. It feels like your normal or your version of normal has been completely taken out from under you and flipped on its head.


[05:06] - Hennie

Of course, being sort of a very, very traumatic experience that you had in the hotel in Durban. Obviously your world was shaken. It was very traumatic. And I also think that at this stage, you did not completely understand as to what has happened to you. You were just in the aftermath of this first terrible traumatic experience and you really don't know how to move forward. What is perhaps a point from which we can deport is really, and in that case as well, is to first just understand what is panic, what is anxiety, and how this really relates to the experience and everything you had to go through up to this point and this time today.


[06:03] - Jeanne

I think it's super important to explore that a little bit because when you have no idea what it is, you tend to think that it's just stress. Everybody has stress, so why is your stress significantly different? And I think one thing I also kept telling you in the beginning is when am I going to be normal again? When will I go back to normal? You keep getting stuck on what you thought your normal was. So, for us to lay a foundation, can you maybe tell us what is the difference between an anxiety disorder and just being stressed? Why can some people just be stressed and get over it, and others find it so much more severe?


[06:40] - Hennie

If I can explain this in layman's terms, I think one could in general say that stress is just defined as a state of mental or emotional strain caused by adverse circumstances. In other words, the level of anxiety is not as high as in the case of other anxiety disorders. It can also have emotional and physical symptoms, but the person is normally able to control his or her level of anxiety. If one then compares this with let's just also decide or get the information as to the whole concept of anxiety, which is usually related to the anticipation of a stressful situation, an experience or event, and it would mostly come on gradually. And of course, anxiety is a symptom of quite a number of psychiatric disorders. If we focus on definitions, it is just defined as a sudden empowering teller or fear that prevents logical thoughts or behaviour. So, you can actually see that the difference mostly lies in the level of anxiety that the person would experience.


[08:03] - Jeanne

Yeah, that's super important that you're saying that, because that's something that helped me a lot in the beginning, because the level of panic and the level of anxiety that you experience, especially during a panic attack, is something that's really difficult to describe. It's so difficult to be logical and rational in that moment. You're completely overwhelmed by what's happening to your body and your emotions and your mind. It's not something that you can control. You're completely taken aback by it. It's like something hijacked your body almost, and you're like an unwelcome visitor.


[08:42] - Hennie

Oh, yes, of course. Therein lies also the trauma of an anxiety attack, because the subjective experience somebody who has an anxiety attack has is that of imminent death. I am going to die. I have all these physical symptoms, and I think it would be good if we just look at panic disorder. And let me just go back to the DSM 5. The diagnostic criteria, therefore, is recurrent unexpected panic attacks. And that panic attack is an abrupt surge or intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four or more, and this is important of the following symptoms occur. Now, I'm just going to quickly read through them. First of all, palpitations pounding heart or accelerated heart rate, sweating. Second one third trending or shaking. Fourth is sensations of shortness of breath or smothering. Five feelings of choking, chest pain or discomfort. Seven, nausea or abdominal distress. Eight, feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-hearted or faint mouth, cold and heat sensations. Ten, numbness, tingling sensations. Eleven, derealization. In other words, feelings of unreality or depersonalization being detached from oneself to our fear of losing control or going crazy. Thirteen, fear of dying. Yes, that's a long list, but normally it's not to say if you have four of those symptoms, then obviously you qualify for the diagnosis.


[10:51] - Jeanne

And just to be clear, here we are saying that please don't self diagnose. My dear FIGGI listeners, please go and see your healthcare professional to properly diagnose you. This is just to inform you and this episode is just to give you more information, but you should always talk to your health care professional.


[11:11] - Jeanne

Obviously, that is very, very important. People go to Doctor Google and I must say they start identifying symptoms, they start acting and living according to suffering from that. And sometimes even the self-treatment they then do is not always applicable.


[11:33] - Jeanne

Yes, for sure. And you said something very important when you were defining panic disorder. You spoke about the subjective experience of that. And I really want to highlight that because I think this is one of the most important things for me in my personal journey, in helping others around me understand what's happening to me. Because you will remember I am very, very lucky that I have an amazing support system in my husband. But it was necessary for him to also understand what I was going through. And it is a difficult thing to describe because it is a subject of feeling. You know, other people may see it from the outside and think it can't be this bad, or how can you think you're choking? How can you imagine you're going crazy? Why could you feel like you're dying? But in that moment, to you it's an absolute truth. It's not a maybe or an if or am I imagining it? It's an absolute subjective reality to you in that moment.


[12:30] - Hennie

Yes, of course. And that reality is also one of the characteristics because panic disorder has a persistent concern or a worry about additional panic attacks or the consequences. In other words, that feeling of losing control or having a heart attack or going crazy. And with that goes certain changes, sort of maladaptive change in behaviour that stems from previous attacks. In other words, sufferers exhibit behaviours that's designed to avoid having panic attacks, such as avoidance of exercise or unfamiliar situations, which in your case was quite true. I remember one of the symptoms that you had, even though we recognized that you were exercising at that stage, and you wanted to exercise, but that feeling of choking or not being able to swallow actually created more anxiety when you went exercising. And of course, also accompanying this was going away, having to, you were delivering talks in different locations at that stage. Traveling, staying in foreign places, which also just heightened this and the fear that you would be on your own having one of these fatal attacks.


[14:00] - Jeanne

Yes, that's very true. I was extremely fearful of this. And even now, still, if I'm going through a period where I may have a little I don't know if this is the correct term for it, but relapse or a period of anxiety where I know there are things I need to look at again, these triggers or symptoms are the first ones that come back. I'm fearful of going out alone. I don't want to travel. I get really anxious when I exercise. And you have like a cardio workout with the heart palpitations. So it's something that kind of remains with you. Now. I can identify it. Back then, it was just again, when am I going to be normal again? When is everything going to be fine again?


[14:42] - Hennie

That is quite true. That is the debilitating aspect of panic disorder. The fact that you are so fearful for the repeat of an attack, panic attack, and therefore you try and avoid it at all costs. Which of course, affects your functioning because you cannot fully function as an individual.


[15:08] - Jeanne

And again, going to the definition that you just shared with us and the whole aspect of it being subjective, this is also an interesting thing I wanted to discuss with you. You will remember, for example, before I came to you for the first time and we were still trying to figure out what was going on, I was submitted to the hospital for a bunch of tests, and unfortunately, I didn't have the most sympathetic doctor at that time. He just told me, you know, stress didn't help, has never helped anybody, drink these tablets and feel better. And I remember I still told you how devastating that was to me because in that moment, I was so scared to go home from the hospital because I felt like I was not going to have any help at home. What if something happened to me? What if I stopped breathing? And how can even a doctor be so kind of insensitive to what was happening to me at that time? But I think people don't get it. They don't understand how debilitating this is for you to experience. It's not just stress. You're not just stressed. It's so much more than that.


[16:11] - Hennie

Of course it is. It's so much more than just a diagnosis or the result of a thorough examination and tests on you. There is really nothing physically wrong with you. So just pull yourself together and know that you're bringing this on to yourself. And especially, unfortunately, some of our medical colleagues have a very clinical approach, whereas somebody who is suffering from panic disorder really needs a lot of care and a lot of support, especially emotional support and acceptance of the fact that what they are experiencing is really so traumatic and so intense if you feel that you feel like you're going to die at any moment. I mean that confrontation with death is just something that no one of us would actually really like to go through and endure, especially if it repeats itself.


[17:19] - Jeanne

Yes, it's exhausting.


[17:23] - Hennie

And of course then also the influence it has on the people around you, your loved ones and so forth, I mean they see you having these symptoms and there is not much that they can really do. It's not like they can just say do this and it will be over. Or let me just quickly give you this, put this under your tongue and this little tablet and you'll be okay. Yes. They almost suffer sort of almost like some of them secondary trauma when you experience the trauma of an attack and that is also why in their response they do get traumatized and they don't really know what to do or else they just put up their defence mechanisms and say: “You know. Pull yourself together. This is going to just pass. It's not going to kill you. Nothing is going to happen.” Or just remove themselves from the scene hoping that by the time they get back to you, you'll feel better. Which of course does not in any way help you regain control of uncontrollable experience and the feeling that you are really heading for total disaster and death.


[18:41] - Jeanne

Yes, that's very true. So there are so many things I would still like to explore but let's just take a quick break and we will be right back to talk a little bit more about panic and anxiety disorders. My then treating psychologist Hennie van der Walt. Stay tuned. 


[18:41] - Break

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[18:41] - Jeanne

So you are telling us that this is a very traumatic experience? Of course. And it's a subjective thing we said already that you really need to get diagnosed. We are just giving some general guidance and information and I'm sharing a little bit of my personal story. But you told me one thing that really helped me a lot when I was in the initial stages and I remember I kept telling you that I cannot understand, one, why I can't be or when I will be normal again and two, when is this going to stop happening to me? Why is it continuously happening? Because I'm doing all the work and I'm trying and I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing. And you explain to me what happens in the mind when you have a panic attack. You explained the trauma of that to me and that helped me a lot to understand what kind of the aftershocks that my body was going through. Can you share a little bit of that with us?



[20:14] - Hennie

A lot of research has been done since we started with your treatment and we know that it's not just the mind that remembers this, but that the body also remembers and that this also gets ingrained into the body. It's not just a matter of trying to treat the psychological trauma, the thoughts and everything that would bring on or have a bodily reaction, but also treating the body in such a way that the body does not bring on the psychological or the mental symptoms and experience of panic or anxiety. The fact that it's recurrent, in most cases, that recurrence, obviously with each incident, it sort of becomes almost more ingrained. And the anxiety level and the anxiety, the fear of it happening again, that level rises, which of course, if you're anxious because anxiety and panic can overlap, I mean, you could be in a state of anxiety already. You are anxious that you will suffer a next incident, so you are really anxious. And then something just has to happen which would just push you over the threshold into a full blown panic attack. So one needs to apart from trying to process the trauma of the panic attack.You would also need to bring. To lower the level of anxiety. The baseline of anxiety in the person in order to ensure a different outcome whenever there are more stress and more pressure and the level of anxiety arise. But to prevent it from going over that threshold into a full blown panic attack.


[22:31] - Jeanne

This is very important because I think there are so many things that you have to make peace with and that you have to try and accept when this happens to you. Because we all have our idea of normal. I mean, a very simple explanation or example of that would be COVID, right? So many people said, oh, when is life going to go back to normal? When are we going to go back to normal? All of us have an idea of what our normal is when you're starting to deal with this. Something that was definitely a big stumbling block to my recovery was the stigma that I think still exists around anxiety disorders because we live in an extremely fast paced world, especially when you are in the entrepreneurial space or in a high pressure professional space. There's no time for this, in quotes, nonsense. Everybody is stressed. And so many people told me that when I was eventually at a point where I could say, listen, I'm sorry I have these anxiety issues that I'm coping with, that I'm dealing with. And so many people would say to me, yes, but you know what? You just stress too much.You've always stressed too much. Just stress less, just exercise more, just meditate more. It's so difficult to deal with that in a professional environment when there is a stigma attached to almost saying how can you not be okay and everybody else can, what would be the advice that you give your patience in terms of that and how to kind of handle that kind of stigmatization of it.


[23:57] - Hennie

I think that there has been a softening of attitudes due to COVID. During COVID people or more people, let me put it more people or anxiety became more prevalent in more people because of the isolation, the threat in terms of life. A lot of people I think who previously did not grasp anything about this has now developed at least some compassion for somebody who suffers from that. But yet you're quite right in the entrepreneurial world and the corporate world, I mean it's just this binary thinking of are you on the bus or aren't you on the bus?


[24:45] - Jeanne

Yes, that's the perfect way to fit it.


[24:48] - Hennie

And the thing is if you say yes but just keep the bus for 5 minutes, I just take a little bit longer to get on board. And I said no, but the bus has a schedule, and it must be at the next stop within so many minutes. So I mean, we can't wait for you, we must leave you behind. Which of course now creates this feeling of worthlessness, of well, there is really something totally wrong with me and I should just be ashamed of the fact that I'm not making the grade. 


And unfortunately, that is one of our worst enemies at this stage is this whole concept of we must all be perfect, we must all function and perform above our abilities. It's always 120% and if you're not there, well you're not good enough. So, you end up with you're not good enough kind of feeling. Which of course creates more anxiety because now you're worried am I going to make it? And what if this happens again? So obviously the first and foremost that you can do is to provide these people who are sort of holding up the stigma some information as to what panic disorder is. And even they sometimes will have to admit that anxiety is a universal human trait. 


So, one can start off with sometimes you do feel pressurized. Sometimes you can sense that somewhere in your body or your body tells you that your stress has gone awry somewhere out in the stomach or you develop a migraine or whatever. So yes, it is a universal thing. Most people, well 99% of people do develop some symptoms, especially when it comes to stress. I think it is always difficult to get them to acknowledge that. But I think the first and foremost would be to provide the required information in a sort of nonthreatening setting where you can relax, where you can be yourself, where you feel that you can talk about this, you're not stealing their time or whatever. 


And so give them sort of a little bit of a psycho indication on what is happening. And this is what I am experiencing. And I must say I think even especially in the corporate world I find lately with my patients that management seems to be more accommodating to some extent as I say I think that COVID in general, has given us much more sympathy with people who are suffering from certain ailments and certain illnesses and that we should actually be more accommodating and be more supportive.


[28:10] - Jeanne

That's really a good thing. That came from many good things I think actually ended up coming from COVID But I think that comes after what we're discussing now. And I think that actually leads to something that I experienced a lot of challenges with, and that is the impatience of getting better. As you've already explained, you're already in the space where you feel others, especially in a professional space, don't understand the challenges that you're going through at that moment. And I was in such a rush to get better and to just be back to my old life. And I remember you kept telling me that this doesn't just happen overnight. This is years and years and years of suppressed anxiety and stress that have all come to a point at this moment. It took your body years to get there. So, it only makes sense that it's not going to be better overnight. And I know I was dealing with childhood sexual abuse. I had many difficult and complicated familial relationships, which all I think led to this. But how do you deal or how can we deal with that impatience of just being better and being okay? How do we walk through those steps to understand that it's not a 24 hour thing? It takes time in most cases.


[29:28] - Hennie

And I think you also experience that if you don't deal with the situation in a constructive sort of way and there are a number of things that one should do and we can get you that, you will have the inevitable relapse, but you'll have it so much sooner because your body has actually given you a message. It says, hey, you are burnt out. I am pulling up the handbrake. I am not going to allow you. I'm going to immobilize you so that you will not be able to go out and function and stress yourself. 


So yes, you might think that you can just get back into everything, but you soon have the warning signs and if you ignore them, you won't just have a repeat of the experience or the situation that you've just gone through. It is very difficult, I know, because there's also a lot of, let's say, job insecurity and you feel that I must get up and running because else they're going to fire me or retrench me or do something. I'll have some disciplinary action taken, which of course, in some cases may be true, but sometimes one must also realize that through suffering from anxiety and panic, your emotion to a large extent determines your thoughts. It acts like a filter for your thoughts. 


If I am anxious and I'm worried and so forth, my thoughts are also going to reflect that. And that goes two ways. The one way is, well, if I don't pull up my socks, if I don't get moving quickly, I have this job insecurity and I will be fired. So, I need to get going. On the one hand or on the other hand, of course, I am not able to function at all and I must just sort of almost take leave of life and just again sit somewhere in the corner and maybe someday I'll get better. 


One can understand that, especially with highly driven people. But I also think that as they get more and more information, which they should do, go gather some information on the disorder, they will perhaps come to the realization that it is going to take time to again get all the different aspects of your mind and your body returning to a normal level. Apart from the fact that I suppose we'll get to that, what can you do to improve your situation or your condition or your disorder and reduce the risk of having another panic attack or flare up in the disorder?


[32:33] - Break

You're listening to the My FIGGI Life podcast. 





[33:15] - Jeanne

I think this leads us to probably the question we struggled with the most. And one of the things obviously that you can do is if you have been prescribed some SOS or coping medications from your healthcare provider, this can help you. But this was very difficult for me to accept. I had so many conversations with you where I asked why do I need to take this? Can I not fix it myself? Why is this going to help me? It was really one of the most difficult things I had to make peace with. How do these medications help you and why can it help you still live a quality life?


[33:15] - Hennie

We all know in my profession; we know that a combination of medication and psychotherapy normally gives us the best outcome. So, one has to ask yourself the question, when you break a leg, and put in plaster, we give you crutches, and you don't question that. It's not like you're going to say, I am just going to start walking without them. Because, yes, you can sense the pain and you can see where the leg has been fractured in most cases. So, it is concrete, it's visible and therefore you comply. 


Whereas when it comes to mental status, it's not always so visible and therefore people feel that they'll be able to cope on their own. It's just a matter of pulling themselves together and especially if they are in an unsympathetic environment, that is obviously what they're going to do. But what we do is we give you something a little bit of a crutch and that is the medication. So, we must, first of all control the level of anxiety and we must prevent that you exceed the threshold and that you have full blown attacks because with each attack, obviously your level of anxiety just rises and you do expect that it will happen again, and that would sort of become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


So first of all, we have to chemically bring down the level of anxiety or your experience of anxiety so that you can go into demanding situations or start dealing with more demanding situations and challenges without your anxiety level getting through the roof. Some people we must accept. Some people are just more susceptible to anxiety than others. So, there may be people who will, for the rest of their lives, take a combination of antidepressants and anxiolytics because that keeps them going. 


If I have had high blood pressure and I take a tablet for that every day for the rest of my life to prevent me from having a stroke, there's no shame in that. No, it's accepted. And okay, if I'm overweight or obese, obviously that's something that I can work on to improve my general level of health. That is just a given. But when it comes to psychotropic medication, then people say, no, but I'm not going to put all these chemicals, they are really bad. With psychiatric medication, you experiment a lot because we you give the first one, it doesn't work, then you give me another one, it's got that side effects, etc.


But we also forget that even with normal medication, let's say for headache, the one kind of medication works wonderfully for one person, but another person says, well, it doesn't even feel as if I'm taking something. So, we accept it in other spheres, and yet we don't when it comes to psychiatric disorders.


[36:47] - Jeanne

And this is important because this is also, I think, something that has big stigma around it, not just from the professional sphere, but others also because I've had many social relationships where I would be more relaxed and open about my situation. And people will often tell me, oh, but do you know what you're putting in your body? Do you know what it does to you? Have you tried holistic medication? Why don't you just meditate? And it really breaks my soul when people say that, because I honestly feel like, first of all, they don't understand your journey and what got you to where you are right now. And I think the most important thing is one of the things that you said to me is living a quality life. There's no shame in that. Like you just said, if you were taking medication for blood pressure to live a better-quality life, nobody bats an eye. But when you're taking psychotropic medications to live a better-quality life, there are all of these opinions about it, and it makes it even harder for the person suffering from it.


[37:46] - Hennie

You have to take a pill to be able to function, to be a productive individual, to be a good spouse for your partner, to be a good mother, for your children, to be an excellent employee or an entrepreneur. Why would you refuse it? On grounds of what? Because the alternative is just unacceptable. I mean being unproductive, being sort of carved out, not being able to function. Why would you choose that? 


Medication obviously is a very important element. But then again there are obviously also the others, let's say the softer kind or the less biological kind. And let's talk about that because in order to improve your condition you need to maintain some healthy lifestyle. It just is so important. A healthy lifestyle is just also so simple and yet so difficult to sometimes lead or execute. And it starts off with obviously enough sleep. If you don't get enough sleep, you cannot you don't have to suffer from panic disorder. Anyone without any disorder needs enough sleep. Same with healthy nutrition. That is so important. If you are sort of a coffee addict and you drink nine or ten cups of coffee caffeine per day, obviously you are going to suffer perhaps a panic attack. At least your level of anxiety will go up because it is stimulated so much. 


Add to it some sugar and you will see what way you end up. And then something that's just equally as important is the question of doing exercise. It is very important. You secrete feel-good hormones. It lowers the anxiety level and it also provides a sense of achievement because it takes something to go and exercise. So that is just as important. The next thing is of course the question of support. All the significant others in your life, your family, your friends, you need to build those relationships, it will also ensure that you get that aspect of your life in place and that you can really in times of crisis or stress or anxiety, you have some lifeline somewhere. The support also of course includes if you have therapists, psychotherapy perhaps regularly, if you're on medication, see a psychiatrist or a medical person, fine. You also need that. 


Then the next thing you must build in islands of sanity for yourself. In other words, you must create opportunities to do some kind of activity that really makes you relax whether it is reading a book or going out in nature for a long time.


[41:15] - Jeanne



[41:17] - Hennie

Meditating. Yes. Mindfulness. Mindfulness. There is a lot to say for mindfulness because mindfulness grounds you and of course it relaxes you and you start concentrating on for instance, your breathing. And then of course with somebody like you driven and all that to control the pace of your life and not to over commit yourself.


[41:44] - Jeanne

A good one. That one is a difficult one.


[41:47] - Hennie

I know it is, but we all need to I mean either you pull up the handbrake or else your body will do it for you. It's really one of those situations where you really don't have a choice.


[42:03] - Jeanne

So I think what we've been discussing really leads into this next one, which is the inevitable relapse. It does happen sometimes. And what can you tell us or what advice can you give us? What do you do or what can you do when that happens, especially when you've been on a really good path for a while and you haven't had a panic attack and you haven't had overwhelming anxiety and all of a sudden it happens again. For me personally, I feel so demotivated, or I used to, because you think I'm doing everything right, I'm taking the medication, I'm meditating, I'm exercising. You have such a sense of guilt and loss when that happens. What advice can you give us to help us just get back on the right track again and maybe to not judge ourselves too harshly.


[42:49] - Hennie

I think you have touched or used the correct word there because it's a sense of guilt, the feeling of guilt. I have failed myself and I have failed whoever put their trust in me. And that, of course, is a very difficult one to deal with because failure and relapses are part and parcel of life. It implies a change in lifestyle because if I change my lifestyle, I reduce probability of having another attack. But should I have one? I should not just go and sit in the corner and just mourn the incident. 


And here mindfulness comes in quite strong, don't keep yourself busy with the loss because there's nothing you can change. You're either going to feel guilty or idolize the past. So why waste energy in feeling guilty? On the other hand, okay, because I've had a relapse now, my level of anxiety has now gone up. It also affects my thoughts about the future. So yes, this is bound to happen again. It's just a matter of time. And I start building all these scenarios if I can bring myself back to the here and now. In other words, what must I do now?


Ground myself in the here and the now and just start dealing with living day to day and doing the right thing and being thankful for every day, for everything that I could achieved and accomplish during that day. You can either see the glass half empty or you can see it half full.


[44:57] - Jeanne

Is it fair to say that you can live a quality life with panic or anxiety disorder?


[45:02] - Hennie

Oh, yes, I think there's no doubt about it. Look, we all need a little bit of anxiety or it differs from person to person the amount of anxiety to perform. If we have no anxiety, we would not perform. So obviously you have to accept that you will experience anxiety and that you need some anxiety so that you can deliver your best.


[45:33] - Jeanne

That helped me a lot when you said that to me. That really kind of opened a door for me. This was such an amazing conversation and I'm so grateful that you came onto the podcast. So, for our listeners, let's just ask, what would your advice be? If we have some listeners to the podcast who think that they may be dealing with an anxiety disorder or they may be suffering from a panic disorder, what can they do or what should they do if they think this may be the case?


[46:05] - Jeanne

First and foremost, I think they should get professional help or a professional opinion, go to their not Google, go to your general practitioner or the doctor that knows you very well and let them do a thorough examination and decide whether you do have a diagnosable disorder in this respect and refer you, if it's the case, refer you to a specialist in this field.


[46:38] - Jeanne

That's wonderful. Thank you so much. And if our listeners want to read more about you or get in touch with you, where should they go?


[46:47] - Jeanne

They can send me an email at


[46:52] - Jeanne

Thank you so much and I really appreciate everything that you've done for me and what a big part you played in my recovery journey. Thank you for sharing your time and your expertise with us. We're so happy to have had you on the My FIGGI Life podcast.


[47:05] - Hennie

Well, it was my privilege and I think you are really an excellent example of somebody who's overcome this, let's say disability or the situation. And you really are making such a wonderful success of your life.


[47:26] - Jeanne

Thank you so much. That means so much to me. So please check the links in the episode description. If you want to get in touch with Hennie, please consider subscribing to the My FIGGI Life newsletter for the latest podcast episodes and blog posts, go to and click on subscribe. We will see you next time. Have a wonderful week.