Student astrologer P.D. Reader from YourTango explains how the stars helped manage her panic attacks.
And my gastroesophageal reflux, too.
If you're seeking panic attack treatment, you may want to start with astrology and your horoscope natal or birth chart to combat your inner anxiety.
I had my first panic attack in my early thirties, when I first started having symptoms of gastroesophageal (GERD) reflux disease. I was sitting in a continuing ed conference, feeling these creepy sensations in my chest and wondering if I was having a heart attack.
At 32, most people would say that I was much too young, but I was overweight, and we all know the scare stories that blast us on the daily: If you're overweight, you're going to have a heart attack and die.
I was an anxious person anyway. My career wasn't going all that well, and I had frequent visions of being jobless and homeless. Returning home to live with my bipolar (BPD) mother was not an option, and of course I had no health insurance.
Terrified of what an emergency room visit might cost, instead of calling an ambulance, I just sat there, heart pounding, thinking what an idiot I'd make of myself if I said, "I think I'm having a heart attack!" and I wasn't.
Finally, I felt the strangest sensation: a weird tingling started at the tips of my toes, and ran in a wave up my feet, up my ankles, up my calves, and all the way up my body, as if I were being scanned by one of those futuristic sci-fi devices you see on Star Trek. It reached the very top of my head, and I felt a pop at the very top of my skull. And then I got hot all over and broke out in a sweat.
It was about that time I realized: I was having a panic attack. I had stressed myself out so much over these weird sensations in my chest, and I was so scared of having an ER and hospital bill drive me below the poverty line, I had literally almost scared the crap out of myself.
I continued to struggle on and off with panic attacks, usually tripped off by the truly awful chest sensations GERD can cause. Nobody knows GERD can give you strange feelings of popping, pressure, tingling, or nausea.
I'm a catastrophist, so every time I'd get hit with some weird sensation, I'd think, I'm gonna have a heart attack and die.
When I finally met someone and got engaged, that and Prilosec helped a lot. I didn't lie in bed at night anymore and think, What if something happens to me overnight? Who would even know? Which usually triggered a panic attack. Instead, I'd think, My fiancé will be here soon. Then I'll always have someone with me. I'd still have symptoms once in a while, usually after coffee or something I ate. I learned to stay away from certain brands of pizza.
When, nearly seven years later, my husband died from cancer, the panic attacks returned with a vengeance.
A brief flirtation with a married man made them worse. I once imagined, really imagined, how his wife would feel once he moved out. The result was an hour-long panic attack that landed me in the ER. Finally, I had an official diagnosis, and an ultimatum from my doctor: choose therapy or medication. I chose the therapy.
Being dumped by my married guy sent me to an astrologer, and what I heard was so fascinating, I began to take classes, buy books, and learn astrology myself. And what I learned seems to have cleared up my panic attacks for good.
After learning how to read my natal birth chart, I noticed quite a few things. I noticed that, although Virgo is my rising sign and is supposed to be my chart ruler, nothing in my chart escaped a hard aspect with Saturn. My birth chart contains a formation called a yod, with Saturn at its tip.
Naturally, I was curious. Could Saturn really rule my chart? And what did that mean?
In a yod — a long, skinny triangle formation that dominates my chart — I began to suspect that everything Saturn sat at a 90-degree angle, or a "square," to describe what was holding me back in life.
Fortunately, Liz Greene, the world's foremost psychological astrologer, had written a whole book on Saturn. I discovered it one weekend in my local New Age book shop and couldn't put it down. According to Liz Greene, Saturn in your natal chart:
- Indicates an area of the personality where the person remains infantile or childlike because they didn't get what they needed in childhood for that area to develop into mature adult understandings or attitudes. It's necessary for the person to grow up in these areas.
- When studied in depth, Saturn offers a detailed picture of what you don't want to see about yourself.
- Saturn reflects things that can become a permanent part of your conscious self through self-motivated effort. You're closed off from things you want or need in life until you get a specific task done. It's an area where you're supposed to become a good parent to yourself first, then you can help other people.
So what did these Saturn squares specifically say about me?
Saturn Square Moon
This aspect reflects a person who wasn't able to express themselves emotionally in childhood, who had to control their feelings all the time as a child, and whose mother was a disappointment or who let the child down in some way.
Not kidding; I really couldn't express myself in childhood because my borderline mother needed validation and insisted I be just like her. I had to be her instead of me.
Someone with Saturn square moon is brooding, lonely, aloof, and isolated. The person feels needy because they never had an emotionally loving family, even though it looked like it from the outside. The child experienced a lot of harshness and duty and rules, and not a lot of warmth and love. A woman who has this often had a bad relationship with her mom that made her feel rejected, isolated, and not good enough.
Yeah. Sounds like me.
Saturn Square Sun
(P.S., Saturn always seems to tell you a lot about your parents.)
We never had the chance to be a child. We're either intensely ambitious or we have no ambitions because we're afraid of the pain of not making them come true. We're either very successful or we're failures. Usually our fathers were not there for us in some important way. And this was certainly the truth. Mine died when I was 12, and was emotionally absent before that, trying to escape my BPD mother.
Saturn square sun people have problems with initiative and creativity. We have to develop these all on our own because we didn't have strong parents, especially dad, to encourage us.
Incidentally, astrologer Ronald Davison also writes that Saturn square sun often reflects that a female will marry a much older husband, or one who becomes sick, needs caretaking, and predeceases her. Bingo on both counts!
But, most telling of all was my natal Saturn square Mercury.
Saturn Square Mercury
This aspect reflects that a person often appears stupid out of fear.
Mercury represents the communication of the birth chart's potential to the environment and the collecting of feedback from the environment. And Saturn is the planet of frustration, difficulty, and delay!
If you have a Mercury-Saturn aspect, you got cut off from support to help you shape your ideas and orientation, and you have to do it all on your own. Your parents weren't helping you and encouraging you as a child. Specifically, your parents treated you like you couldn't or shouldn't think for yourself, and stifled you if you had any thought or idea that conflicted with theirs.
I had to think about that. Both parents wanted me to grow up to be just like them and like the things they liked. I ended up siding with my mother, but then I just became her clone and not my father's. My mother hated anything I liked but she didn't. That could make a kid feel stupid. And as I thought about that, I remembered that happening to me a lot.
Also, with Sun square Mercury, you end up sure you're stupid, and you work so slowly, because you're so scared of making mistakes, that you really do look stupid. Then people make fun of you because you look stupid, and you feel and look yet more stupid.
As I read all this, I thought very deeply about it. I remembered all the times I got yelled at, at work or at school, felt bad about myself, worked even more slowly because I simply couldn't take any more denigration, and was so scared of making another mistake, and got yelled at again for being so slow. But I had never connected any of that to my dad's not being there, or how he treated me. I knew my mom's influence was bad, but I never thought about the importance of a dad being there to encourage, "Atta-girl!", and support a child.
My dad demanded I make all A's, but if I had trouble in math, he never helped me or asked what was wrong. He just whipped me for bringing home a bad grade. I used to be terrified if I was having problems in math, but I never dreamed of asking anyone for help. Mom was not a math person, and Dad, I simply didn't ask. He didn't believe I really needed help. He just thought I was being lazy and whiny.
My dad thought if you wanted a perfect child, then they were, and you could just punish them into being perfect. But you can't punish a child into being perfect.
I never even thought how all this could carry over into a feeling of not being able to handle life. But as I thought about it, I realized that it was all true. I'd been scared I couldn't handle life my whole life. As long as I had someone supportive who was close — for years it was my best friend who moved to Florida, and then it was my husband — I was okay. But let my best friend move, my husband pass away, and my married guy friend dump me, and there I was to face my fear of life being way too much for me, alone.
And here I was having panic attacks, worse than ever before!
Right up until my husband got really sick with brain cancer, I was the screw-up and the never-do-well. I started believing people were thinking things about me they probably weren't even thinking, and slowing myself down. I'd been hazed so much, I started anticipating it, and doing it to myself for people before they even had the chance, up until my husband got sick.
Then I was handling so much and just trying so hard to get through each day, I sort of forgot about it, I was so tired. Then people started respecting me because I was still functioning. I had just never thought back to those times when I was a kid until I read all that about my natal horoscope chart.
I was seeing my therapist once a month at that point. In between, I would write emails and blog posts about the books I was reading and the things I was thinking about and email them to her. When I arrived for my therapy session, we would talk about them. I worried that she might disapprove of all of this astrology. Fortunately, her daughter is into astrology, too, so I escaped a second mental health diagnosis!
As we were talking along, she happened to ask me, "So, how is your heartburn?" And I had to stop and think about it. Since I had uncovered all this, I had had no heartburn at all. And previously, I had it almost every day. I've even been able to start drinking coffee again. I haven't been brave enough to quit the acid-reducers, but I have been enjoying quite a lot of heartburn- and panic-free Starbucks since that day.
Aside from one small panic attack I had at the hairdressers', when the perm solution started burning into my forehead, I haven't had a panic attack since, either.
Ordinarily, I would never recommend astrology as a way to resolve health problems like GERD or panic attacks. Even my doctor told me she didn't think GERD was related to stress. But now I think, if you're having any kind of issue that might be psychological or stress-related, you might want to take a look at your natal horoscope chart. You never know what you might find, or how it might help you.
P.D. Reader, a student astrologer, blogs as The Thinking Other Woman. On the website, she shares advice about affairs, relationship problems, astrology, and more.
Check out more great stories from YourTango:
- 5 Nervous Zodiac Signs Who Are Always Anxious
- Zodiac Signs Who Have Serious Anxiety, Ranked From Most To Least
- What Really Makes You Anxious, According To Your Zodiac Sign