18 November

Beating The Panic Attacks. It Wasn’t About Money After All

by Jon Katz

Some Sundays ago, Maria and I drove to the ATM at our local bank, and I wanted to take out $30.

The bank rejected my card, and I experienced the most severe panic attack.

I don’t remember much of it; these attacks cause me to detach from the real world.

Maria said it was frightening.  I became disassociated for several days.

She said when she spoke to me, I just wasn’t there.

My eyes and mind seemed blank to her. It’s a fog to me.

“Normally, when I speak to you,” she recalled, “you are right there, “but after the ATM, “you weren’t there at all.”

The nightmare terror returned, and the day after. This was the pattern. Most people have one or two panic attacks in their lifetime. I had more than I could count all of my life.

They are awful.

The day after the ATM, I tried loading my car with diesel rather than regular fuel. I’ve never done that before. I didn’t have my wits; I was walking in a fog. It was worse than Covid.

It took several days to recover from that panic attack.

When I called the bank the following day, they told me nothing was wrong with my card; I just pushed one of the wrong buttons on the AT&M.

Instead of simply trying again and pushing the right ones, the panic returned with a vengeance. It overwhelmed me. It was not me.

But I couldn’t deny the obvious after I spoke with the bank.

This certainly wasn’t about money. I was using my credit card the following afternoon.

This was what Maria was telling me. This was what my long-time and the much-trusted therapist was telling me. I couldn’t grasp that I was afraid of the wrong things all my life. That was why they kept recurring.

The therapist asked me to walk her through the traumas of my life in detail.

They were about nurture and reality, not nature.

I hated going through those things with her, and I have no desire to go through them now or here. We all have our troubles.

I had the most challenging time accepting that these traumatic experiences and memories were the reason for my anxiety and panic. I still sometimes don’t believe what I am hearing.

Panic attacks are one of those terms tossed around so lightly and even casually that they have lost their meaning.

I wish them on no one. They have come close to ruining, even ending, my life several times. I am determined to do the hard work it takes to eliminate them. I’m close.

I have been doing that every day: therapy, meditation, Maria, contemplation, and the own determination I have brought to rebuilding and reimagining my life.

I am nothing if not willful and determined once I get it. That’s always been the problem. I don’t always get it.

This new process began when Maria discovered that I was taking money from our IRA to pay bills that had suddenly skyrocketed a couple of months ago.

It was the first time in more than a decade of marriage that she had cause to mistrust me, and it hurt her deeply and scared the wits out of me.

I’ve sacrificed many precious things to panic; I was not sacrificing my life with Maria, which is built on love, trust, and openness. I know what a troubled marriage is like. And now, I know how beautiful a good one can be.

I was not giving that up.

Panic was my problem yet again. I had to deal with it.

Maria and I talked for hours and hours, and I went back into therapy. It wasn’t about the money, said the therapist. It was about the panic a traumatized child in a chaotic and frightening family learns to feel. She had told me that before.

I didn’t believe her. Now Maria tells me this almost every day. I am coming to consider both of them.

I’ve moved beyond issues worse than this, which has my full attention. I am one of those people who has to be knocked over the head to listen. My spiritual readings helped me to see that I needed to go inside and find the truth.

I am listening. I am working, I am thinking.

I am making excellent progress. No new panic attacks and sound sleep; I’m reaping the harvest of facing the truth about myself, even if it is awful.

No panic.

This opened my eyes, as did my hiding my IRA raids.

Enough was enough. I feel different. I’m not hiding anymore. I’m moving forward on my steps to authenticity.

I’m sleeping for hours for the first time in my life. I have work to do. My anxiety comes and goes in quiet and brief bursts. But no panic.

I can’t shake this feeling that this was the last one; I’m sick of it, and I see the lie.

I can handle my money. My panic attacks were not about money. I’m pretty strong and pretty durable. I don’t run from problems or hide from them – except this time.

I no longer give my money away to people who don’t care for me, and I no longer provide the responsibility for handling cash to others.

I believe what Anna Freud said about panic attacks – they used to be called hysterias. They happen when we lie to ourselves about what is frightening us.

I’ve been afraid of the wrong things all my life, and I’m prepared to deal with them before it’s too late, so I can continue to rebuild my life and live the way I deserve and want to live.

During a panic attack, I have learned that one loses touch with reality. The thing that brings me back is to talk to someone who is.

Slowly and deliberately, this brings me back to life.

There are aftershocks, and they can last a while.

I learn from everyone.

Seeing this, finally listening to what people I love and respect tell me, has lifted a great weight from me, and my perspective is changing dramatically.

I’m not done yet, and I won’t quit until I am satisfied that my last panic attack was my previous one.

The other day,  I took Zinnia to the vet for what I thought was a simple medicine to stop her scratching.

We found other things that needed attention; the bill was $471, and the bank account was low. This was unexpected.

I did not flinch, wince, complain or complain. And I certainly didn’t panic.

I split the invoice into two cards and will pay it down within a week or two. This is life, mine, and almost everyone else’s.

Money is always challenging, and money is vital in our money-centered world. Money is a pain in the ass, and sometimes can be much more than that.

But it is not worth a panic.

We’re all in the same boat. This is life. The best medicine against terror is truth and reality. It is pretty simple. I figured out how much money I needed in my bank account to feel safe, and that’s where I keep it every week.

I can handle it. Maria and I can take it together.

I don’t have to hide my fears anymore, I am open and honest with my wife, and she trusts me again. I am lighter, more accessible, and growing into my authentic self.

That’s the thing about pain and trauma.

It can get better. I can change. I’m so sorry I put up with it for so l long; I hurt many people other than myself.

It feels good that I have tackled one of my life’s enduring and painful problems, faced it, and taken charge of my emotions.

I’m humbled by it; no more hubris.

But I’m in a good place. I can’t help but wonder what’s next on my list.


  1. Jon, I, too, have experienced multiple panic attacks. I can relate to the mental anguish & physical pain they produce. “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” HOLY BIBLE

  2. Your honesty helps so many people see that there ‘stuff’ ( cause we all have it) is part of being human. Hugs to you and Maria

  3. Jon, thanks for sharing your many journeys of wellness with us, I always learn something from you. Todays’ gem was “hiding our fears” and how much effort that is. It’s exhausting. I believe that the mental exhaustion from continually trying to survive something is quite damaging. Learning how to confront, embrace and accept my fears has made all the difference in my life. They’re all still there, but to a much lesser degree. I’m being taught how to do this, by my good and kind counselor, by reading all manner of books (and blogs) regarding childhood trauma and anxiety, and then by practicing some self-love and self-care habits daily. My mantra now is “For me, not against you.”

  4. Thank you for your honesty! Traumatic experiences have a way of popping back on us and acknowledging them does help to lay them to rest.

  5. Thank you for these thoughtful, transparent, helpful words. It is good to know we are not the only one who experiences such things.

  6. This was helpful. Sometimes when I have anxiety over something I make mistakes. It’s like operating with half my brain shut down. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this. I’m especially anxious over money, but in fairness to myself I don’t have enough to get by or for my extremely expensive medical needs. So this is normal. But it’s also connected to my “wonderful” family who are never there for me no matter how bad my health is. As I’ve gotten older, I realize they are abusive. This only took me decades to realize. I never wanted money from them. I just wanted to be respected disabled or not.

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