As a child, I continuously had the same nightmare: My mum and baby brother sinking into a gaping muddy hole outside.
In real life, it was just a puddle, but I suffered from anxiety and was constantly fearful that I, or the people I knew, would die.
As I got older, my anxiety clawed at me until I was sick, and left me cowering under blankets. I was also plagued with panic attacks throughout the day. My heart felt like it would explode out of my chest as I’d gasp for air.
At 25, I had to move in with my parents. Paralysed by my anxiety, I stayed in my room for three months. Eventually, I went to my GP who referred me to a psychiatrist.
I also tried hypnosis, exercise, medication and meditation. Some helped for a while. I had good days and bad days, but it would only take the smallest thing to send me spiralling again.
Why can’t I cope with things other people find normal? I wondered.
When my husband Josh, 40, and I had our first son, Sam, I also suffered post-natal depression. Soon after, we welcomed another beautiful boy, Edward.
Whether I was at the beach with my children or enjoying a glass of wine, my anxiety was always there.
‘Just stop worrying,’ people would say. ‘Choose to be happy.’
If only it was that easy. Though over time, I did learn ways to control it.
In March last year, I wrote an article about it in my local paper which went viral. Realising how many people my story had touched, I decided to write a book.
The key to conquering anxiety is exploring all the options out there and finding one that works for you.
The Anxiety Book: A true story of phobias, flashbacks and freak-outs, and how I got my inner calm back, by Elisa Black, is published by Hachette Australia.
What is a panic attack?
➜ A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety, which causes physical sensations of fear.
➜ Symptoms can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, chest pains, and muscle tension.
➜ Panic attacks can be frequent and unexpected, and can last from a few minutes to half an hour, but the physical and emotional effects may last for a few hours.
➜ Up to 35 per cent of the population experiences a panic attack at some time in their lives.
This story originally appeared in that's life! Issue 27, July 7, 2016.