Before becoming certified as an emotional regulation specialist, the practitioner must successfully resolve an emotional difficulty him- or herself. In San Francisco, Cedric Bertelli, Director of Tipi USA, gave free trainings at his office every other Monday. It took attending two of them before I was able to resolve a disruptive emotion. With PTSD, anxiety is not always noticeable. The limbic system in the PTSD brain becomes altered which may cause the brain to have difficulty recognizing feelings. Many call it numbness. I couldn’t sense my own anxiety and sometimes the anxiety led to panic attacks. This happened frequently while getting dressed in the morning.
I had the beginnings of panic attacks regularly, maybe monthly, where I would hyperventilate and have to leave the dressing area of my home. Getting dressed became a trigger for panic attacks probably because of events on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had been awakened by a vibration coming from a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I thought at first it was an earthquake and I rushed to get dressed to go outside in case it was an earthquake. (Yes, we feel earthquakes in New York.)
The first successful regulation I was able to achieve happened one morning while in my closet at my new apartment in San Francisco. I began to hyperventilate. I took a step back, leaned against the wall, closed my eyes, and paid attention to my body’s sensations until I felt calm. That was it.
It sounds simple and it is. But it took a number of attempts for me to do this successfully. As I mentioned, I had gone to two trainings to learn how to regulate my own emotions. It may have been because I was not very aware of my body.
Since going through the emotion regulation process in my closet, I never again had a panic attack while getting dressed. I did have another panic attack about a year and a half later shortly after finishing a spicy lunch that gave me heartburn. I knew it was heartburn but my emotions thought, “heart attack.” That was 2015, and I had another regulation session on that panic attack. Since then, no more panic attacks.
One thing to note about panic attacks is that once they start, they can be hard to stop. Therefore it’s important to regulate the anxiety as soon as it’s noticed. However, it is possible to regulate it after the fact.