Jeanne's husband joins the podcast to talk about what it feels like to be the support system to a loved one with an anxiety disorder. Hof Retief shares his personal tips, anecdotes, and recollections of Jeanne's panic journey and how he deals with it.
Hof Retief, Jeanne's husband, joins the podcast in this episode. Jeanne is open about her struggles with panic disorder but it is not only the sufferer that is going through this journey. Often, the support network and loved ones also struggle and also need help. Hof takes us through his journey, viewing Jeanne's panic journey through the eyes of a loved one who constantly observes the struggle.
Hof gets candid about the difficulties, how he dealt with the diagnosis, and how he supports Jeanne while still taking care of his own health and happiness.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This episode in no way prescribes any medical advice, intervention or medication advice. You must speak to your mental healthcare provider and be properly diagnosed. Follow their guidance and instructions. Listen to this episode only as a guide and view into Jeanne's personal journey with an anxiety disorder.
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[00:00:00.840] - Jeanne
Good morning, my FIGGI listeners and my FIGGI goddesses. Welcome to the My FIGGI Life podcast. Today I have a very special guest, and I'm so glad he's joining the podcast. It is the one and the only Hof, which is none other than my hubby! I'm so glad that he's going to join us today for our talk about what it's like to live with somebody with panic disorder, what it's like for the support system, what they go through, and tips and tricks and advice for that. But let me just introduce him to you a little bit. So Hof has been in the IT professional industry for 18 years. In 2017, he founded BioRugged, a company offering rugged hardware solutions. An extraordinary visionary, Hof has designed, created, and supplied some of the world's most unique rugged biometric kits, handhelds, and other devices. In a matter of three years, Hof managed to not only put BioRugged on the map, but to elevate it to one of the top global suppliers and creators of rugged hardware solutions. He works and continues to work with key global players in the public, administration, government and private sectors. He is well respected in the industry and continues to rise above competitors in the field due to his one-of-a-kind designs and solutions. All of this, and in his spare time, he's an extremely hands-on father to our five year old little girl and focuses his energies into being the best parent he can be. He is my cheerleader, my support system, and my rock. If marriage could be Hof's second career, he would excel at it. And if it could be quantified, he would be a billionaire in this industry. So welcome to the My FIGGI Life Podcast Hof.
[00:01:56.470] - Hof
Hey, JM. Thank you so much for having me and for the glowing introduction. I hope that we have at least an informative session.
[00:02:07.240] - Jeanne
Well, I'm sure it will be because we have for sure spoken about this in our private lives enough to hopefully make it an informative little session for our guests. So first, before we continue, let's welcome our guests to the podcast properly, and we'll see you again in a few seconds.
[00:02:26.060] - Intro
Welcome, goddess, to your sacred space. This is 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 is your host, Jeanne.
[00:02:47.140] - Jeanne
If you are a FIGGI Goddess and if you've been on this platform before and you know a little bit about the FIGGI story, you know that I was diagnosed with panic disorder in 2015 after struggling with some kind of anxiety issue for most of my life. And I told you a little bit about my story and the first panic attack I had and how that happened. And if you're not sure about that, please check out that episode. It's The Birth of FIGGI, and I will link it for you in the description below, I just really go through the entire experience and what that felt like to me. But just as a background reminder, I was on a work trip alone in a hotel room and I had basically my first panic attack. I was not able to communicate or contact Hof or get in touch with him. So with many things going on again that you can listen to in the Birth of FIGGI episode, the hospital eventually managed to contact Hof and as always, he left everything and flew right over to come and assist me. I talk about the panic disorder a lot and how it affects my life, because I think it's really important for us to understand that we all have things that we struggle with, but many people just don't talk about it, which makes a lot of us feel not only like failures, but like there is extra pressure. And that's not what FIGGI is about. However, there's also the support system, the people on the sidelines that are rooting us on, that are our cheerleaders and that also witness us going through these things. And sometimes there can also be some kind of secondary trauma in relation to seeing this and living with this. And I think what we can definitely say Hof is the first few weeks after Durban were not the easiest of times.
[00:04:43.510] - Hof
I think what the big thing is in the beginning of anything that you went through is the unknown that you don't know what's going on. Because you see five doctors and you see three specialists and all of them, they've got six different opinions. One is like, it's a gut problem, one is like, it's a brain problem. One is like, you have MS, the other one is like, no, you might have Epilepsy and all of those add to not only to you, Jeanne, but also to the family's anxiety level, because men like to fix things, when there's a problem. There's a solution. It might not always be the right solution, but we sure are going to implement a solution to try and fix it. We hear all these guys that is highly learned, and you trust England to help you figure out what's going on. And there's various opinions. And you're racing from city to city to hospital to hospital trying to find out what happened, what's going on. And then you have this level of additional anxiety, not only in the family from a husband's perspective that's worried about his spouse, but also from a pretty sure from your perspective where the uncertainty brings more triggers than Paul's panic.
[00:06:04.440] - Jeanne
That's very, very true. And I mean, the first day, I remember when you walked into the hospital the next morning, I was still a little bit confused, but for some reason I was not surprised at all that you managed to get there. I didn't even want to know how or when. I was just happy that you were there. I know what I felt like. I had felt like I had literally almost died the night before. But what was that like to you, having to receive that phone call and you're not sure what's happening with me because I can't speak to you. And I think that's also where we learned the lesson to be better in our communication of where one is staying when you're traveling and what your plans are, just to make crisis moments a little bit easier. But yeah, can you just take us a little bit through your perspective and your side of things and what your experience was with that morning and having to get on that flight and having to come and get me?
[00:07:00.880] - Hof
Well, I think you know me better than most of your listeners, but I still remember it well. We were outside having a well, I was sitting outside having a bride by myself, and late at night I go to call and it's like, no, it's a hospital. Is it your wife? It's like, yes, it is. It's like she's in hospital. I'm like, why? They're like, no, they don't know. Is she okay? It's like, no, she's okay, but we don't know what's going on. Okay, fine. Should I Confett her then? You should confetti. OK. So I checked flights online and the earliest one I could get was, I think at five or 04:30 A.m.. So I got on a flight and went there. But me as a person, if there's nothing that you can really do about a stressful situation, yes, you're worried, but what does it help to run around in circles? It's rather to first get all the facts. And once you have the facts straight out, but before you have the facts, it's just another thing that needs to be done. So go on. The plane flew to you, found the hospital, found you, and it's like, what's going on?
[00:08:03.210] - Hof
You're like, Ask the doctor. And it's like, she has a panic. Take some tablets, you'll be fine. We're like, no, we don't think that's panic. You want the less from panic. You're crazy. It was more like, this is a stupid hospital, this is a dumb situation. It can't be that. This is impossible. Let's get on the plane and go home.
[00:08:23.170] - Jeanne
Yeah. This is part of why I think I find such amazing support in you, because you have this amazing sense of calmness in even the worst of situations. I know that you also feel a part of the stress and you also carry it with you, but especially when you're dealing with a panic disorder, it's really no, it's not difficult. It's impossible to be logical because it's like the logical part of your brain just completely stops functioning. So to have somebody like you that is so measured and calm and thinks about everything so logically is really an amazing help. And I remember it was to me, even when we came out of the hospital, we had to go back to the hotel to go and retrieve all my things so we could get on the plane. And I remember you said to me that the hotel room looks like a crime scene because literally everything that I had been like my dinner, my work, I was doing the previous everything was just left as is, you know. And I was really freaking out in that moment. And that calm consistency that you brought to the situation was something that I really, really needed.
[00:09:39.010] - Hof
I think it's not complain consistency after you've been married for, but it's more like you become more in tune with what your partner needs. And if they need somebody to be a Hammond and go solo auto repair shop, you do that. And if they need somebody to be a rock so they can stand on you, you do that because the very next day you need something again and they bend over backward for you. So to become in a stressful situation is not always, I think, something you think about consciously. It's more something that needs to be done. And if it needs to be done, you get it done. What I've seen also with panic is panic is a thing you go through alone. It's like, yes, you can have a support structure and you can have people you depend on and you can have people that try and break the triggers that's around you. But panic is a thing you go through alone. It's you that's experiencing it and being even back then, just being the calmness or not causing any additional situations that can trigger. I think it's more of a way you and I are intune in life. You kind of detect what the other person need and you do, that for sure.
[00:10:56.430] - Jeanne
And I think what happened next was we basically actually just went back to life as we know it because I think both of us were a little bit in shock. And I think our kind of approach to it was like, okay, this was a super weird event. Let's just file it away and get back to what we do well in our lives. And I remember we still said, well, let's not worry about it too much because in two days time we're going away and we're taking a break for your birthday. And then we're going to chill out and we're going to relax and we're going to get into a good equilibrium again. And this is all going to be kind of part of the past. And we went on this holiday at the most beautiful place. It's so remote. I mean, to get there, you really do need a four by four, which we did not have. So getting in and out was like an issue by itself, but a gorgeous place filled with nature, filled with trees.
[00:11:56.820] - Hof
And lakes in the middle of the forest.
[00:12:02.810] - Jeanne
Yes, exactly that. But then unfortunately, what happened is that not only did I have the panic attack again, I had it so much worse, and it was continuous. I was for that entire time we were there in a continuous state of almost utter panic. And I think that's the first time where you in person witnessed what had happened to me the night in the hospital. Obviously, I can describe how it feels like to me, but I mean, what does that translate to for somebody perhaps dealing with a loved one that also has this, like, what did you see? An experience when I was I don't know how to say it freaking out, because that's basically what it is. Nothing except the freak out exists.
[00:12:56.360] - Hof
Well, I don't think it's a freak out. I think it's more like you're in a corner and you suddenly see a ghost, and your legs just give away under you, and you kind of fall on the floor. It's like, oh, I'm so scared of this ghost. I'm shaking. I know it's not a real ghost, but I saw it, and I fell down and laying on the floor, shaking. It's, of course, a scary situation, but it's a scary situation that comes from not knowing why it's happening. You get scared because you don't understand what's going on to somebody that you love. So that's the biggest part is not knowing. That uncertainty is like, is something wrong in the brain that you have some disease? And then the immediate next thought is, let's go to the hospital and get medicine. Then you go to another doctor, because we left that one day to go to the hospital in the small town emergency room in the small town. And then we went through the whole thing again. And I have to say that doctor as well was like, I think you're getting panic. Panic attacks. Put a little tablet under your phone or something.
[00:14:04.170] - Hof
And we were still in denial. Like, this can't be, panic can't be this bad. I'm not saying panic isn't a serious condition. I'm saying this is serious like we have to get injections, and we have to get scans done, and we have to go to machines to see what's wrong inside. So the denial part of that, and even between you and me both talking, like, what's going on? What's happening? That uncertainty brings fear because the unknowing and the uncertainty breeds fear, and fear and being afraid breeds panic, for sure.
[00:14:43.900] - Jeanne
And I think a large part of that also is the guilt that comes with that, the fear and the guilt, because I remember when we came home from the emergency room that time, it's like I couldn't get my panic back under control, that I was at a heightened level of panic for the entire trip. And I remember so many times crying and asking you, am I ever going to be normal again? Is this ever going to go away? Is this going to be my life now. And, you know, you are such a support system to me. But with that also comes guilt because even now it's so many years later and I still feel unbelievably guilty for ruining that trip. It was your birthday. It was supposed to be something fun that we did together. It was supposed to be a break and for us to calm down. And instead we spent like half the time rushing to the emergency room. The other half of the time I was there in body, but definitely not in spirit because for me, I was just trying to breathe and to not be so panicked.
[00:15:51.960] - Jeanne
And it puts a lot of extra stress on you because you can see how it affects your loved ones, but you also feel so guilty for having to put that on them and having to put them in this situation.
[00:16:04.540] - Hof
Having panic or panic disorder or so becomes a part of life, and it's something that just happens, probably. It's like somebody that has has Turrets and that suddenly bursts out and says a bunch of swear words. It's not their fault. They cannot control it. Panic becomes a thing where the spouse, I definitely feel after a couple of years, gets numb to it, where it's like, okay, panic, it's going to happen now. I see it. Here's a hug, everything is okay. You work through it. If you need anything, a cup of tea or have to make dinner or fetch the kid or so forth, just let me know. Because from an outside perspective, it's literally just somebody sitting very still on a chair or having a level vibration in the finger that's all the eye is twitching a bit. And it's like, okay. And then from a family perspective, having a child as well, it's like, Is Mommy's tired? It's like, yeah, Mommy's just relaxing a bit, honey. She had a long day. She's relaxing. Don't worry about it. She'll be better again soon. And it's like, okay, Mummy is just relaxing. And the child picked up on that as well because she'll come back from work, from work, from school, and go like, no, I just want to relax a bit by myself.
[00:17:23.010] - Hof
And she could sit in a room with her eyes closed, just staring into nothingness for five minutes. It's like, okay, I'm all relaxed now. Let's draw.
[00:17:33.490] - Jeanne
Yeah, that's so true. But it's so true how you see it, though, because and it's interesting to hear from an outside perspective because that's definitely not how it feels to me. It feels like there's a literal storm raging inside of me and like, there's this ocean of sounds in my mind that I cannot separate the thoughts from one another, that I'm completely falling over an edge. So what it looks like I think it's what you said, it's a very solitary thing to go through because it's all happening inside you, and it's so difficult to explain that to somebody because you're also dealing with this fear of people thinking that you're going crazy. So you don't want to say anything because you don't want to have people think you're nuts.
[00:18:23.140] - Hof
But there's various levels of it. In the beginning it was much worse. You were like kind of freaking out. You were like asking questions, you were shaking. You can't speak, you can't open your purse. And with the years, as the years roll by, you also learn how to manage it. I know it's very difficult to listen to your own body, especially if you have a podcast deal or you have a website that's launching soon or so forth. But most of the time when you can, you also listen to your own body and you're like, oh, I can feel a migraine coming. I can feel this coming. And it's like, okay. And if you have any medical assistance or you need it, you take it and you go sit on the bed or go sit on your favorite couch in the sun and do your processes. I'm pretty sure you've probably spoken about the various processes and steps and so on. You go through your steps and this is like getting a migraine or a headache. Everybody knows with the onset of the migraine headache, you take a paracetamol or ibuprofen or whatever your drug of choice is, because to manage it in the beginning is much easier than to manage it once it's raging.
[00:19:39.660] - Jeanne
That's true. And you've been just calling me out on all of my nonsense again this last couple of weeks. I saw you just putting that one in.
[00:19:50.810] - Hof
That's what husbands are for, to keep you grounded.
[00:19:55.690] - Jeanne
So I think the one thing that I can say I'm super grateful for is Hennie, because Henie just for my listeners again, he was also on this podcast. I will link to his episode in the description below. He was my treating psychologist when I was first diagnosed, and I really think he got me or he was really with us through the worst of it, through the worst phase of it. And one of the things, the key things that he said and also, again repeated on my podcast, was that the thing about panic disorder is that it changes the person's behavior. You start going through a lot of behavioral changes in order to avoid having a panic attack again. And I did a lot of that in the initial stages. I stopped exercising. I didn't want to leave the house. I didn't want to go anywhere without you. There was a period where you couldn't go to work because I could not be alone, because I was afraid if I was alone it was going to happen again. I couldn't eat because I was afraid of the choking sensation I had. For maybe some listeners that have loved ones or who themselves are going through that stages, as a support network, is there any advice that you can give them through those stages or how did you cope through that stage?
[00:21:13.740] - Jeanne
Having to see me go through this and kind of having to coach me back into almost like a normal space of life again, because it took a couple of weeks for sure.
[00:21:24.160] - Hof
Well, step one is to learn how to make a very good tea. Once you got the tea down, everything else is much easier. It's like, are you feeling like some tea? No, I don't want tea. I'm panicking. It's like, okay, but tea...The biggest thing is that I've seen is to break the cycle because you go, as you said, now you're going to head into the storm and inside you, the storm is raging and the raging storm causes the hamster wheel. We just start spinning in place. So breaking the wheel, breaking the cycle. I think in the beginning stages, it is the most important. Saying perhaps no, you're not choking. No, it's not. I can physically see your throat. You are not choking. You can breathe. I can see your chest moving. This is all in your head.
[00:22:18.750] - Jeanne
Don't ever say that to somebody having a panic attack, though, in that moment. Don't tell them it's just in your head.
[00:22:27.640] - Hof
No, this is an internal conversation with myself. That's why I said it's in my head. But it's something happening to you. It's not something you are causing. Your brain or your psyche, whatever is out of balance is causing this to you and you have to break that cycle. This is the internal thing and you have to have that mental fortitude in place to get out of the cycle. Otherwise, as you said, you'll stop leaving the house, stop exercising, stop eating. Right?
[00:22:58.560] - Jeanne
Yeah. And that still happens to me, actually. Even if we take it now, you're going on a work trip to France and I was talking about taking Lily away for (that's our little girl) away for a night. And I have been having a little bit of panic relapses the last couple of weeks and it's something that comes so natural, that immediate change in your behavior. Because I think even last night I was telling you, I don't want to go away, I don't want to be away from the house, I don't want to be in a strange place. So what you're saying about getting back into it is super, super important.
[00:23:35.620] - Hof
Yeah. But there's also not one solution that fits everyone. Like we've seen with some of the books we've read or the people you've seen. What works for me won't work for you. What works for you won't work for Sarah or Mary or John or Peter knowing what to do. Like, logically, the steps like, listen, I'm feeling panicky, okay? So I should not force myself out of the house the first week. I should exercise, I should only eat chocolate in the evenings and drink wine in the afternoon. If that's your cycle, your steps to get through it, do it. Don't break routine because panic is a step that happens. You very rarely will sit on a chair and go from, oh, I'm calm and relaxed to I'm on the floor. It takes time.
[00:24:28.800] - Jeanne
It's a build up.
[00:24:29.800] - Hof
It's a build up. And sometimes it's a couple of days where like, oh, my hands are numb and my heads a bit sore. It's seeing the steps, seeing the signs, realizing what's happening during the panic attack, although it's very difficult knowing what to do, although you are not doing it or unable to do it, but still focusing on it. And when it's finished, following the routine to get back on your feet over and over and over. It's not an easy fix. And that's the same from a spouse's perspective. This happens again and again and again and again. You can't just take a tablet and it goes away. Tomorrow you have to do the same thing also every other time. It's not a big thing. It's not a big thing, don't worry about it. Life continues. Here's your hug, here's your tea. Okay, so tomorrow we have to take the loop to school and I can't do it. You'll have to do it.
[00:25:24.180] - Jeanne
Yeah. And the thing also is, in the beginning, you had to travel with me a lot. And again, this just shows the amazing support system you were to me, because you didn't even think about it. And I know we all have stressful times at work, but during this time specific time when it started happening to me, at first you were having an extraordinary stressful time and busy time at work, and you just made the space to travel with me because I had so many travel commitments and to be there for me and to help me through this. Do you have any, maybe advice for other loved ones that may be going through this same situation? They also have their own work stress. Life continues and it goes on, but now you have, for this time being this loved one that's so reliant on you. I was definitely trying my best to sort through it, but it wasn't a magic fix. I needed you a lot more than I usually do. How did you deal with that? Different forms of stress and trying to keep together all the stress that you were having on your own with your job and how you were dealing with the diagnosis and then having to travel with me and trying to keep me in a sane logical space.
[00:26:42.790] - Hof
Well, firstly and most importantly is you have to be diagnosed correctly. Once this sets in, and you suspect or think it could be panic related, find a panic specialist. Don't go to any backroom shrink or psychiatrist and speak to them. Find somebody that's got real experience in this, get diagnosed properly. And they normally have plans like a starter plan. And if you are loved one and a spouse, as we spoke about, and you take the uncertainty away, here's the plan that needs to happen. What needs to happen then, as I always say, is you always have time for the things you make time for. If your spouse is an important part of your life, you'll make the time and you work around it. Now, you have a plan. You're probably diagnosed, it's structured, and you have to talk about it, of course. And then after talking about it and you have a plan, you make a plan together. Listen, Monday morning is this, Tuesday is this, Thursday night I have to go go for a client meeting. Communication is incredibly key. But communication without a plan and a proper knowing what's going on becomes just talking in circles. So you have the facts, you have the diagnosis, you have the timelines, and then you make a plan together so both are on the same page all the time.
[00:28:04.420] - Hof
I know one of the couple might fall off the page every now and again, but that's okay. You turn to the new page and you continue your life.
[00:28:12.820] - Jeanne
Yeah, but Hof how do you do it? Because like I said, you had so much stress in your own work life at that moment. How did you separate those two stressors? Because you didn't stop climbing that ladder and succeeding. You made an amazing success of your company. But how did you do it? How did you separate those really two super stressful things and still make both of them work?
[00:28:39.340] - Hof
Step one is make sure most of your spouse's meetings are in nice coastal towns with good beaches. It's much easier to travel with her. Step two is not to think about. Its something that needs to be done. It's like the more you think about the amount of work or the amount of struggle or mission or mountains that's in front of you, the more you pre-stress. So you're stressing about things that haven't happened yet, so you're worrying about mountains you haven't reached yet. There's no point in that. I know what I'm saying is many times impossible. But live in the moment. Today she needs your help. Today he needs your help. Tomorrow I have to do this. Tonight I have to do that. Sleep schedules and weekends needs to be planned. Once you get to a certain level of success in your life, or you plan for a certain levels of success, not only in your relationship but also your spouse, weekends and nights become part of your day. Your relaxing time is planned. Nobody owes you a weekend. You don't owe yourself a weekend. You owe yourself a relaxing holiday time and plan it.
[00:29:54.190] - Hof
And when you work - work. When you stress - stress, when you climb a mountain, climb a mountain. And when you play, play. Don't worry about the other things while you're doing something else.
[00:30:04.160] - Jeanne
Solid advice. You should really give me some of that advice. I'm going to record it and play it back to myself.
[00:30:14.670] - Hof
It's coming out in my new book. It's coming out of my new book. Due next year. How to not stress about the mountain? Tomorrow 9.99 at Walmart okay, awesome.
[00:30:25.690] - Jeanne
We'll put it in the description. This leads us to another, I think, super important part of this. And I think a big part of how I got to let's call it a quality life, highly functioning life again, was the fact that I was so lucky to have a great support system in you. But one of the things that you didn't even bat an eye, you were just completely open to it, is coming with me to my psychologist. And it helped us a lot because you were extremely interested in also asking him, how can you support me? How can you help me? How can you understand what is happening to me or what the triggers are? Unfortunately, a lot of men are very closed off to this kind of intervention. I mean, you obviously understood it wasn't about you, but not a lot of men will see it that way. Many people will see it as, no, I'm not going to a shrink. Nothing's wrong with me. I don't need to speak to the psychologist. What advice would you give other men in your situation, especially in terms of how important it is for you as a support system to be on board with the support plan?
[00:31:49.610] - Hof
The one of that was, as we said, we took a long time to understand what was going on. And once we understood what was going on, we needed a solution, a fix. And as he said, what Hennie said was, in the beginning, it's a two phase approach and the one is getting the right medication to balance out your life. If you're in a state of panic, you can't move forwards, only backwards. So let's reduce that for now in the proper medical way. And step two is for long-term health. You need to exercise your brain, and exercising your brain to handle, understand, absorb, manage different situations is not something if you have a partner you can do alone. Because although you go through your panic alone in your head, you go through life with somebody else to understand the situation in a spousal reason. It's like my wife's unhappy. Immediately I'm less happy. So how do I become more happy? Because if I'm more happy and she's more happy, life is much better. So to understand this and manage this and plan the mountain tomorrow, the only way to really know what's going on is to go with you to these people.
[00:33:01.530] - Hof
And I went a couple of times, and sometimes it's better to hear the same advice from two different people. The one in your house and the one outside just sinks in better sometimes the second time. So it's a journey you walk together and one can't know and experience the whole journey alone, the other one will fall to the wayside.
[00:33:25.990] - Jeanne
Yeah, for sure. Wow, that's really good advice. And I really hope that it helps a lot of people that are in the support role and that have loved ones that are dealing with this or any other type of illness or maybe mental illness that needs a lot of support, because I think this is an important way to see it. Its an important part of the recovery. Which brings me to just the last section of our chat today, and that is the road to recovery. And unfortunately, as you said in the beginning, panic disorder, it's a living, breathing thing. You do get better at managing it, although I do still suck at it sometimes, but it's not going away. It's part of who I am, it's part of my DNA. And I think sometimes that especially in the beginning, the recovery journey was actually more difficult than the actual finding out and the diagnosis, because we started to see and to learn how much real negative stigma there is around this and how little really true, true understanding people have of what panic disorder is. It's not just stress. It's not just stress.
[00:34:40.630] - Hof
My favorite one was the people that went like, just think yourself better. You thought yourself into this, so just think yourself better again. It's easy.
[00:34:50.490] - Jeanne
Yeah, I remember that one, and I think the one that I struggled with the most by far was the medication. I really kicked my heels in with this one. I did not want to take the medication. As you know, I'm still, even now, so many years on, at a very uneasy peece with my medication. But can you tell us again from your perspective a little bit, what it does to, yes, your life, but also to you as a support network going through this with them, when you have people saying things like, oh, but why are you taking this medication? And I've never had to take medication to help me with stress or with sleeping or with anything like this. I think it's so important for people to understand what you do, not just to the person going through the panic disorder, but the loved ones that are holding the candles for them and trying to help them get through this.
[00:35:45.340] - Hof
The first off, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there. If you think about it, most diseases you have, you can see. You can do a scan, you can get a blood test, you know, you can physically lose a leg, and you can see it. That's what's wrong with mental diseases, you cannot see. And as we've mentioned this, every brain works differently. Every emotion, every psyche, every spirit is vastly different from person to person. So if you have a million spiritual points in your life and three is out of balance for person, one, you fall into some depression or panic and so forth. And for other people, if it's 500,000 out of a million, that has to fall out of balance because we are not the same. We can never judge somebody else for what you cannot see and experience. You have to listen to that person and listen to their experience and their feelings and then decide what you think is nonsense and what is true. To put it easily, it's like if you lose a limb, if you lost your left leg below the knee, nobody will think twice of you taking pain medication.
[00:36:55.720] - Hof
You go for therapy because you still felt you had a ghost limb. You going for rehabilitation to learn to walk with a prosthetic. You're getting a prosthetic leg. Everyone will support you and go like, you know, you're so strong, you know, you went through this tough thing. We can see your leg is gone. Good job. And taking the right medicine. It's a good job. Going to psychiatrist about your ghost limb feeling. You still have excellent work on all the rehabilitation and getting a limb and going out in public. You're so brave. What do they say, you're so brave for going out in public with your limb and walking. But when it's a mental thing, you can't see it. And first of all, none of us have time for anyone else anymore. You don't take the time to realize what's happening in this guy's spiritual points. You don't know what someone else is going through, but you're very easy to judge and oh, you've got three things out of whack and you're just panicking. Oh, you're a sissy, oh, you're weak. So without understanding judging, we've all become very hypocritical of mental diseases or mental illness.
[00:38:01.980] - Jeanne
Mental illness. It is what it is. Even now, when we're talking about it, you feel strange to say the word mental illness, but you have to call a spade a spade. That's what it is.
[00:38:12.750] - Hof
If you lose a limb and you're taking pain or antibiotics for it, having a mental imbalance or mental illness and using prescribed right medication on the lowest dose possible, I think it's a great helper, especially in the beginning, just to go back onto your equilibrium because you can't heal if you're not in equilibrium.
[00:38:37.000] - Jeanne
Yeah, I know for sure. And I think another part of the recovery journey is having a plan. Obviously, in the beginning it's difficult because you don't know how this person's panic disorder or attack manifests. But we actually got to a point where we got so fed up and so demotivated and so frustrated with people that had seemingly all of the advice for us, right. And all of that advice always boils down to it's just stress. You've always been such a sensitive person. Just stress less.
[00:39:12.060] - Hof
You have to learn how to stress less.
[00:39:15.560] - Jeanne
Yes, stress less. And we actually came up with code words. Signals to each other when a situation is going into the extreme. So when we are having a conversation, I will tell you I'm stressed. We both know that. Oh, normal everyday life. I'm stressed about this work situation. Tomorrow when the situation is cleared up, the stress will also go away. But when I say I have anxiety, then it's a code for both of us to know, okay, I've passed the point of normal stress and I'm kind of going into the danger zone now. I'm not there yet. I'm not like full-fledged attack, but I'm getting there. And then obviously when I say, okay, panic, then it's like all bets are off the table. Now. We're in the thick of it, like meditation, everything else out of the window. Now we just have to get through it. And I don't know if that helps you at all as the person that is the support system when this happens, but it feels to me like it helped us a lot to better communicate to each other where I'm at and also for you to understand, okay? It's not just that I went from being absolutely normal to a full freak out.
[00:40:35.230] - Hof
Like that falls back on the communication. You have to talk about it. You have to, especially in the beginning where the spousal partner doesn't know what to look for yet. As the years go by, you kind of see what's happening. You can see the changes and so forth. And building on that, once you start seeing the changes happening, you must also the person suffering the panic must also be able to listen. If you see are we in a place now with lots of lights or flashing or sounds or loud noises, everything, or lots of people or so forth, and you can see your partner starting to spiral. You must also be like, listen, time to go right now I'm feeling sick or my head's sore, my foot's sore or whatever. And I can see you're not feeling well. Let's go. So this is definitely a bidirectional thing where the partner needs to be vigilant and understanding and the person going through the panic has to communicate and understand. So understanding from both sides of the coin is a very important part. So one doesn't get angry or frustrated with the other. And then acceptance, it's like, I understand it, I accept it. Let's turn the page, tomorrow is a new day.
[00:41:54.700] - Jeanne
That's very important, that acceptance part, because it really helps the person going through it to at least try to get rid of just a little bit of the guilt that comes with that. So is there any advice that you can perhaps give to our listeners? If they have a loved one going through a panic attack, they're in the thick of it. They see the loved one going through the panic attack, how can they handle that? Because we know that a lot of people's first response is to leave the situation because they literally are also traumatized and they don't know what to do. So they think if I just leave this person to their own devices, when I come back, it will be better. Or they start saying things like you're being irrational or illogical or thinking that that helps. So what in your experience has worked? When I'm like really in the middle of a panic attack to kind of calm me down?
[00:42:50.410] - Hof
Well, the first thing that always works the best is if I look you straight in the eyes and I tell you just to calm down.
[00:42:56.470] - Jeanne
Yeah, that is definitely no, you're failing the test. I'm literally taking all of the marks that you're getting wrong.
[00:43:09.340] - Hof
No, this comes down to pre communication. Again, there's no one solution. You and your partner needs to talk about it. It's like, listen, you've gone through one to 20 or hundred of these things. What works for you? What do you want me to do? Because I'm pretty sure there's some people that just wants to be left alone in the dogroom watching Grey's Anatomy. And there's other people that wants you to sit there, hold playing hand, do the exercises with them in a soft voice, speak to them. It's like, listen. And there's people that want a more firm hand that goes like, listen. Stop it. I can see it. I can see what you're doing. Stop it. Get out of the cycle. Let's do an exercise. Exercise time and different strokes for different folks and communication before it happens. And then also growing conversation. If you feel, listen, this is now it's too much or too little. We have to either escalate or de escalate. What you do when this happens because I don't know, when you see somebody sitting in a chair with trembling fingers.
[00:44:20.520] - Jeanne
Yeah, of course. And then when the breathing difficulty starts and the hyperventilating, I can just imagine that's not a very pretty picture to see.
[00:44:28.410] - Hof
But you told me it's like, listen, just tell me it's going to be okay. If I want you to give me a hug, if I want you to sit with me or listen, I don't want to be alone now. I need to come sit with you. And if I want to talk, I'll talk. If I don't, I don't. And you still do that. You sometimes come and you're like, I'm not feeling well, can I sit with you?
[00:44:47.010] - Jeanne
That's really important because I think that helps me a lot with either avoiding panic attacks or coming down from them a little bit easier. I think this is also why we have the code words. Because when I say I have anxiety, what you do, what I like the most is you acknowledge what I've said, but then you continue as if nothing is happening. Like we go on making food, we go on talking about the day. And that helps me a lot because sometimes when you're at that edge of getting the panic attack and the other person also goes like, oh, what are we supposed to do? It kind of almost solidifies and verifies that, oh, you are having a panic attack. This is happening. It is real. But if you can just move through the routine, it sometimes helps you get back into a better space, thinking, no, it's not as bad as I'm feeling it to be. And then when I get to the more panicked phase, like, you know, it helps me. I need to get out. I need to be outside in the open air. I need to walk up and down. I have some exercises I can do. But again, this is everything we talked about before, and I'm not having a panic attack. So the communication part is absolutely key.
[00:45:58.590] - Hof
I think the communication part, if you have children, is also very key. Like, when Lily asks, like, oh, where's Mommy going? I was like, Mommy's going to exercise. But outside alone. She's doing alone Mommy exercises. And Lily is like, oh, mommy's exercising. Oh, that's good. Let me go draw. Having any points of contention, I think, in a house during a panic attack aggravates the situation where your breaking of the cycle. You continually talking or me telling you stories about what happened today at work and so forth. Life is normal. Everything is okay, let's move on. Where other people might have different cycle breakers.
[00:46:48.710] - Jeanne
So the last point for today is really that I want to confirm. It may be different for the listeners, but I think I've made an uneasy peace with it. This is who I am. It's part of my DNA. And it doesn't really matter how well you manage it. There's a good chance you may, at one time or another have a relapse and you're going to have a panic attack. And one of the worst parts of a panic attack for me is actually the panic hangover. So that is like the two or three days post panic attack and just, again, the guilt that comes with it. And I think that got worse for me once we had Lily and once she reached an age where she's kind of understanding what's going on and she's reading the cues, you feel so bad that it happened again, because now you're thinking, what did I do wrong? Where's the signs? I read incorrectly, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Then you feel bad because that panic hangover. You're so useless. You are so exhausted. You're so fatigued. All you can think about is sleeping. You're having migraines. Sometimes you're nauseous.
[00:48:02.810] - Jeanne
You still have, like, the aftershocks of shaking and not feeling well. Sometimes you get really, really depressed. It's really difficult to function. What is your take on it or advice when these things happen? Because if you have panic disorder, there is a good chance it will happen one time or the other. How do you deal with that? As in a co-parenting situation, when you see your child witnessing this, it's not just a panic attack. It's a panic hangover that comes after.
[00:48:37.030] - Hof
This is such a very well description of what happens. Any one of us who has ever experienced a good 31st of December knows the first is not your best day and you kind of just want to stay in bed. You're worried about what did you do the evening before? What did people see you do? What's your family and friends there? Is your spouse angry at you? Did you dance on the table? The skate high under the table? It's such an amazing description for it. And the biggest thing here is life goes on. Find a routine and when it happens, you fall into the routine. You go fetch a pizza or you bake or whatever you like to do when you're alone, because in a week's time, I'm going away on a business trip again. And then you have two or three days alone with the kids. Balancing your household is so important, whether one person doesn't feel they do more than the other one, and you might not be traveling so much anymore, but you used to. And then we had a balance in traveling. Now we have a balance in this, where some days, like one week in a year, you've got, as you said, a hangover and I travel, or I go away for work or I go hunting for a week.
[00:49:59.220] - Hof
And then you have the kids and you do the household. It's exactly the same principle. Just because it was a panic attack doesn't change the level of responsibility that's on the other person.
[00:50:13.690] - Jeanne
Thank you so much for coming onto the podcast. If our guests want to find you or connect with you on social media, where can they find you, where can they go? And of course, I'll also put the links to that in the description.
[00:50:28.530] - Intro
I think you have such a glowing review in the beginning of the show. I can't add much to that, but we are on LinkedIn and we have a website Biorugged.com.
[00:50:39.120] - Jeanne
I really appreciate your time and thank you, FIGGI listeners for being here tuning in. I will see you again in the next episode, but until then, please remember that everyone deserves to celebrate the Goddess within. Have a great week. Until next time. Ciao.
[00:50:59.890] - Outro
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