From Panic to Purpose

It was 7:05 a.m. on Thanksgiving eve, 1997. I was anchoring a public radio newscast in Newark, New Jersey, as I’d done every morning for months, when the music host left the studio to grab more CDs. Alone with the microphone and a million listeners, I became aware of a sinister thought. It said that I was about to blurt something outrageous over the air.mic

I pushed down this thought and kept reading, “Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Safir say everything’s all set for tomorrow’s big parade in Manhattan…” Inside, I was battling a rising tide of fear that set my heart racing and squeezed the breath from my lungs. Finally, my voice failed me and the host took over, apologizing to the audience for “technical difficulties.”  I gulped enough air to proclaim “Sorry, coughing fit,” but that was a lie.

I was having a panic attack.

Somehow I managed to get through the rest of my shift and hide my condition from coworkers. Terrified of what was happening to me, I went straight to my doctor, who put me on anti-anxiety medication. Terrified of becoming addicted to medication, I cut out caffeine, increased my yoga practice, and booked sessions with hypnotherapists, massage therapists, and homeopaths.

Eventually I found my way to a psychotherapist, who held my hand on the journey of recovery and healing that I was apparently beginning.

The panic attack didn’t cause my departure from radio news; it hastened it. I’d spent nearly a decade in public radio, producing and reporting for local and national programs. My favorite moments on the job were those spent interviewing fascinating people, telling their stories, and hearing from inspired listeners. I loved the work, until I found that the kinds of stories I wanted to cover were not the ones my editors wanted to assign. As my personal recovery work was pointing me toward hopefulness and healing, I could no longer muster enthusiasm for city hall corruption, drug war updates and presidential sex scandals.

When I quit my news anchor job in the fall of 1998, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were dominating the headlines.

In the year following the panic attack, I binged on self-help books, personal growth workshops, and audio recordings by spiritual teachers. I’d committed to therapy and joined the 12-Step world to heal childhood wounds and dysfunctional patterns that were no longer serving me. My life began to feel saner and, when I finally quit my job with none other in sight, I did so because I trusted that I’d be okay. I had no kids, no debt, good health and cheap rent. I could afford to take risks, and I was rewarded for them. My resignation letter was barely out of the printer when I had two exciting freelance offers to sustain me for several months.

I’d taken the leap, and the nets were appearing.

A month after leaving my job, I met a psychic named JT at the gym. We struck up a conversation on the treadmills one day and he offered to give me a free reading. Being someone with no real plans for the future, I accepted. Among other predictions, JT told me, “You will teach one day in your purpose way.”

While I was more interested in knowing when I’d meet my soul mate, his odd words gave me some hope.

The following summer, still clueless about my next career move, I bought a car, sublet my apartment, and headed to the Kripalu yoga center in western Massachusetts for a work exchange program. The idea of spending the summer chopping vegetables and doing yoga in the Berkshires held much more appeal than temping in hot, steamy Manhattan.

I went to Kripalu for three months…and stayed for two years.

During that time I met people who spoke my language of recovery, emotional healing, spiritual seeking and transformation. I danced, drummed, emoted and chanted with fellow seekers and free spirits who quickly became my new tribe. I learned about holistic health and Eastern spirituality, eagerly soaking up knowledge from world-renowned teachers and alternative healers.

Eventually, I became certified to teach Kripalu yoga and started leading others in the transformational practice that was changing the way I related to my body and my self. I also started guiding groups of people in creative recovery workshops based on The Artist’s Way, the book I was working through when I had my panic attack on the air. Finally, I started to write about my journey, publishing stories about the life lessons I was learning.

When I left the yoga center to seek my fortune in Boston, I had new words to describe myself: writer and teacher. Years later I added another title: life and career coach.

Today, I understand JT’s cryptic message. I can accompany my clients and students on a path to more authentic and inspired living because I’ve been steadily walking my own. While words are still the tools of my trade, I now use those talents to speak and write helpful, hopeful messages from the heart. My work feels like play, and it’s profoundly meaningful.

While I wouldn’t have chosen a panic attack to launch my reinvention all those years ago, I’ve come to understand that I once lost my voice in order to find it, and use it, on purpose.

Kim Childs is a Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone.

28 thoughts on “From Panic to Purpose

    1. Hi Kim,
      What an authentic, inspiring story and so well written. Keep on using your amazing voice on purpose and leading people to find their own purpose. You are amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  1. Thanks for sharing this journey, Kim. It’s a poignant reminder that it’s actually harder to keep doing the same thing that is not working anymore than it is to take the plunge, follow your instincts down unfamiliar roads.

  2. Hi Kim — I finally took the time to read…nothing before it’s time, right..and so glad I did. So encouraging and so powerful. Reminded me how blessed we are — those of us who allow ourselves to be led on a faith journey. Congrats and Much Love — Denise

  3. The panic attack was what also started me on my path to recovery. I was unhappy with my life and highly worried about my job when one morning while looking into my closet to find what to wear for the day, I thought I was choking and couldn’t breathe! I didn’t know it was a panic attack at the time. This is when I knew something needed to change. It makes so much sense now that I read your article Kim. Thank you.

  4. Thanks Kim for sharing—your story is so inspiring and full of soul–the way life really works to take us to another place. Can’t wait to read more stories.

  5. Kim,
    You write well. Words are your love. As they are for me. And your journey illustrates the lesson that life’s challenges are opportunities to find our mission in life.
    Love,
    Jack

  6. Kim, I’ve admired you as a teacher, being a former student of your Artist’s Way groups. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing your beautiful and gutsy singing voice on several occasions as well. And now I get yet another gift, your written words. They inspire me as I wonder where I go in life from here. Thank you for sharing as a writer with your eloquence, honesty, and depth.
    Love Allison p.s. Looking forward to more!

  7. Kim, that is an amazing story. I knew you had been walking a spiritual path when we were roommates but I never realized it was the spiritual path equivalent of doing the Appalachian Mountain Trail. Brava! You are one inspiring goddess homie.

  8. Your story flows like a paddle slicing through wave after wave – Meeting resistance and moving through with trust and determination. Launched with the energy generated by a panic attack! Isn’t life amazing in it’s wisdom!? What a lovely story. THANK YOU!!!!!
    Love, Mary

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. How clear was the message – in your throat and stopping your VOICE! And how right was the timing that you LISTENED. All the best, Elizabeth

  10. Kim, I have the distinct pleasure of remembering each of those steps in your wonderful life, especially the NY/Jersey period, the western Mass adventure and your promise of a life of sharing the spirit. Glad I had those moments with you in big cities, enlightened places, private conversations……

  11. This gives me hope, Kim, as I face the big What’s Next?? Your eloquence with words makes it sound easy, and I know it wasn’t. I honor your courage and honesty on each step of your journey. Thanks for lighting the path of hope for me, once again. Beth

  12. Kim! This post was amazing, and the responses of how they have touched others simply demonstrate the immense ripple effect of following and living your own truth. Thanks for sharing, for your inspiration, and your example!
    Love,
    Jeanine

  13. Wow Kim! It feels like I am going through a similar experience with my job/career path. I have been selling commercial printing services for 25+ years and feel like I have hit a wall. It all seems so meaningless these frantic, panicked deadlines to meet. I am in week 10 of the Artist Way and I feel like I’ve also hit a wall there too. But oddly it’s like my world is both coming apart and coalescing at the same time, if that makes any sense.
    Thank you for sharing. Fay

  14. As a 55 year old disabled cosmetologist,[ my carrier love] and many years prior of working in the Hospitals in every state I’ve lived…from a clerk to a medical coding and billing, transcriptional back-up…etc… I am now physically disabled 6 back surgeries, ~ degenerative disc disease & osteoporosis, and a pletheria or other health issues, I too am full of words. Very few friends, no family nearby, hubby works 12hr shifts with an hour drive to and home from work. Thus leaving me with much time alone! I write journals upon journals of thoughts, meditations I have from reading a devotional from my Christian faith sites, and my personal Bible studies. I volunteer with my local Hospice Charity as I am able to do so. I have studied and received my license as an Evangelist. Which I use in my Hospice volunteering work,and visits to the local women jail. I am so full of words, thoughts,life lessons I’ve experienced and learned. We must have an outlet to express the words inside our minds. If they are the private, bitter pain we go through, or the prayers of our souls to our Creator alone. A lot of my journals go into a burn barrel , they are my private hearts yearnings. Some so private I’d rather not share with anyone…so I burn them.It helps me to just get the thoughts onto paper,as a formed sentence,thought through. Then the process of burning is a way of me purifying the issues, I wrote about. It helps me to look upon them as over,finished, purified as with fire, ashes to be spread out into my next years flower beds, or garden spot for my tomatoes, or veggie garden. It is potash, a nutrient that helps them grow healthy. So as I ingest that big fat red tomato I silently remember the tears, hours of soul searching, putting the words together into a semblance of the emotion I am dealing with at the time. Trying out each word to see if it is the accurate word to describe my feelings. Keeps my brain working, even though the body does not work as properly as I would wish it to! I enjoyed your post! Sincerely, Anita

  15. Panic disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some people have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety. By learning more about fear and anxiety in the brain, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.^,^”

  16. Kim, I really enjoyed readying your story. I didn’t really know it. It’s inspiring as are you. It’s a wonderful feeling of santosha to just let our intentions be born upon the Universe for her to guide us. And, hard work!

    Thanks for sharing.

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