05 July 2014

04.07.2014

I finished reading Where She Went by Gayle Forman today. There’s a page or two in the book were Adam is on a busy train and people start recognising him, he’s a “rockstar”, and it’s like a ripple of recognition until everyone is staring at him, even if they're not really. He starts to panic and runs off the train. I finished reading it and was just like, that is exactly how I feel. Fast forward an hour or two and I’m listening to Ed Sheeran’s new album and suddenly feel like pouring my heart out. Surprisingly it has made me feel a million times better. I originally wrote all this in a word document and didn't even think about posting it on my blog. Don’t feel like you have to read on. It’s rambly and probably doesn’t make much sense. It’s more for my own benefit. I might not even keep this post up for longer than 10 minutes.
4.7.2014
I was 17, happy, loving life, and then one day my world was turned upside down. It took me years to work out what had happened and what was wrong with me. I’d be walking to school and as soon as I’d step foot into the classroom I’d get this sudden rush of fear and that I needed to bolt. I’d be sitting on the bus and feel like the whole world was closing in around me and I had to get off as soon as possible. I’d be talking to my friends, who I had known for years, and I’d suddenly panic and feel like everyone was staring at me even if they weren’t. With friends I started talking less, listening more and retreating into my shell.  I’ve lost count of the number of panic attacks I’ve had whilst on trains, in shopping queues and on nights out. Even a simple task as going down to the local tesco has brought on panic attacks before. I’ve missed out on job interviews because I was so scared of having a panic attack while in the interview I actually had one before I was meant to leave. There were times when I only left the house to go to Asda. It was so crippling. I felt like I completely lost all of my confidence, independence and personality. I felt like I wasn't in control of my emotions, how I was feeling and the anxiety would just creep up on me. I didn’t feel like me anymore and I didn’t know why. I didn’t speak to anyone about it though, which now I wish I had, I just tried to get on with life as best as I could.

It’s only after reading and hearing about other bloggers experience with anxiety that I could finally put a name to it. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. There is nothing “wrong” with me. I am normal just like everyone else.

There was one time when I was coming home from college on the bus and I had a sudden panic attack and just had to get off the bus. I’d only been on the bus for all of five minutes but I just couldn’t stand it. I felt like everyone was staring at me, like I couldn’t breathe and there was no fresh air. Like the world around me was closing in on me. Only after getting off the bus and calming down did I realise I did not have a single penny in my purse to get the bus home the rest of the way. I ended up walking for 45 minutes all the way home simply because I felt like I couldn’t sit on the bus for 15 more minutes. I can remember so vividly getting home, rushing into an ice cold shower and just crying my eyes out.

At the end of every week in art college we had to talk to the rest of the class and recap what we’d been working on. There wasn't a single week that I didn't dread going in each Friday and having to get up in front of everyone and talk about my work. Although everyone had to do it, I felt like all my peers where judging me those few minutes I was speaking. I felt like I was being singled out. My face would turn bright red, I would start sweating a lot and messing up my words. I felt like running out of that room and on several occasions I nearly did. I started to skip Fridays purely so I wouldn't have to get up in front of everyone. This completely ruined my art foundation course for me and is probably one of the main reasons why I didn't carry on with art at university.

While still at sixth form and sitting one of my A Level exams I had a really bad panic attack. At that point I didn't even know what was happening to me. I remember asking if I could go to the toilet but was told no. I ended up just walking out and soon as I did I ran into the toilet and burst into tears. I was thinking how could everyone else be sitting there perfectly calm and I'm feeling like a tornado is going round inside my body and head.

I have no idea where this even began and cannot really pin point what made me start having panic attacks and suffering from anxiety. It literally feels like one day I was perfectly fine and happy and the next I just wasn't.

In the space of a year I went from having a lot of friends to having none. I've had some of my worst panic attacks on nights out after drinking so I started making excuses about not wanting to go out. I’d say I didn't have enough money even if I did. I’d say I had to stay in with my family even If they said they were happy for me to go out. On the nights that I did go out with them I’d drink way too much in the hopes that it would stop me having a panic attack. It did not help, in fact it made them worse.

Looking back on it now, I'm not surprised I slowly lost touch with my friends. I was always saying no and cancelled plans a lot. They must have been so fed up with me! I know I was fed up with myself.  It’s not that I didn't want to hang out, I wanted to go the cinema, go to a restaurant for dinner, go shopping or simply get everyone together in someone’s house and watch a film or have a pamper night. All they wanted to do was go out and drink.  

At the end of our A Levels we all went away to Zante for two weeks. I had an amazing time but everyone wanted to go on a booze cruise one of the days. I said I didn’t feel like it. How could I explain to them, seemingly completely out of the blue, that even just the thought of 1) being on a boat which I could not simply walk off of and 2) be surrounded by people drinking brought on a panic attack?? I know I should have tried, knowing them and who they are they would have understood, but I felt so embarrassed. Something they thought sounded like an amazing experience, to me it was a worst nightmare.

I do wonder though after being friends with some of them for over eight years, couldn’t they tell something was going on with me? That I had changed? No one ever asked me if anything was wrong. Maybe I was just hiding it all too well? Putting up a front when really inside I felt like I was dying. Perhaps I was acting like myself to others but really I was far from it.

I have come a long way since those first panic attacks though. I started this blog which has been life changing and also a massive step by putting myself on the internet. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through these last six years without it. It has given me a creative outlet that I had lost, a love for photography and a chance to interact and talk to people with the same interests as me and learn more about anxiety. Thank you for choosing to read my blog, it truly means the world to me. I have now been in my current job for nearly two years. That is two years of getting the bus to and from work every day. I still have panic attacks on the bus but I have learnt how to cope with them and calm myself down without getting off the bus, a major thing for me. An ice cold bottle of water helps, a lot. You’ll never see me without one. I remember there was a time when my anxiety was particularly bad that it would take me a good thirty minutes to psych myself up just to leave the house and get on a bus. Now I think nothing of it leaving for work each day. In my job as a receptionist I am talking to people 90% of the time and although I still panic on occasions, mess up and stutter my words, my confidence in my self has grown. I have managed to deal with difficult and complicated situations without completely breaking down. I’ve had people shouting at me in work and I have handled it. If that had happened a few years ago I would have had a panic attack right in front of them.

My question to you, anyone who has actually read this far, if you suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks, how did you talk to your parents/family about it? Despite this all going on since I was 17, I actually haven’t spoken to my parents about it. If I’m having a hard time I deal with it best on my own and in my own time without speaking to anyone about it. I am yet to have a panic attack when I’ve been around them and I’m putting that down to being completely comfortable around them. They’re part of my safe place along with my bedroom/house. I just don’t know how to bring it up. I feel like it’s been going on for so long I don’t really know what to say. Do I just put it out there and say I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks?? Opinions are welcome! just be nice :) 


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7 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I only had panic attacks a couple of times, but years ago I suffered from a massive depression for months. It started with being a bit sad, and it escalated to a point where I could not get out of bed, wash my hair, even brush my teeth. For someone who LOVES skincare, make up and fragrance and who's always been very clean, this was a turning point. I was terrified of the everything and could not even imagine how I would live life and cope with what really are the most mundane tasks such as working or paying bills. I found it difficult to talk to my family and friends because I was afraid of coming across as trying to be "interesting". Isn't that silly? But that's how I felt. When I realised my depression was serious I talked to my mum about it and decided to see a psychiatrist. And just talking about it and seeking help made me feel better, like I was finally taking control of my life. Like you, I was just a normal person suffering from what is a very common disorder. More than ten years later, I am still prone to bouts of sadness and self-loathing, and there will always be a part of me that is melancholy, but I am quite sure that my severe depression days are behind me. Anyway, not sure if/how this rant can help you, but I just want to say that I really enjoy reading your blog and I love how beautiful and unassuming it is. And finally, panic attacks do not define you, so keep it up. xx

    Silvia (@fawnknutsen)

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  2. I'm so glad you wrote this, please don't take the post down. I know that a lot of people suffer from anxiety, I know that I'm not alone, but I always feel so much better after reading things like this. Some days, I can't get out of the house at all, not even to grab a coffee from Starbucks, even though it's literally steps away from my apartment. Going to and from university is a nightmare, and teaching is even worse. As soon as my lectures end, I rush back home even though everyone is going out. I can't even express how much my social life has suffered due to my anxiety. I know my friends would be supportive, I know they'd come to me if I asked, that they'd be willing to come to my place to hang out, but I can't bring myself to talk about it. I just can't. It sort of comes and goes for me, but for the past four years it's been really, really bad, and it's only getting worse. My anxiety manifests itself as nausea and dizziness, and I CONSTANTLY feel like I might faint/throw up, which only makes things worse. I make excuses to stay home and watch Netflix because it's familiar and safe, and I never know how I might feel once I leave the house. I decided to move into residence at uni next year, partly to cut the travel time, partly because I'm hoping I'll be able to build a new social circle and that it will help me get better. Thanks again for writing this, and I really hope it gets better for you and that you find someone to talk to x

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  3. Hey Katy! This was such a brave thing to do. I read through the whole thing yes :-)
    I am not sure if I have any advice on that, but what I can tell you is, that my dad has had this problem since the age of I think 35, when he missed out his first promotion becuase of some seniors in his department and their favoritism.
    It was a really bad time for him, although I was very young and don't remember much. My mum was always by his side and still is. He has these attacks still, although much less frequently, but he does suffer from constant sleep deprivation and the like.
    I think, when you have confided in someone, or have somebody understand your situation, it makes it much easier to deal with. I think you should tell your parents, as they do sound lovely and will definitely understand your situation. I haven't much to say except, you are amazing as it is, don't worry about this stop thinking about this as a "problem", no body is perfect and this could be your little imperfection! :-)

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  4. This is amazing, thank you for posting it. I've had anxiety my whole life, but i didn't recognize it until my senior year of high-school. I thought it was normal to feel panic stricken all the dang time, until i had a psychology class. Then everything made sense. But instead of learning to cope, it got worse. Now i didn't feel normal, i felt crazy. My anxiety stems from social situations as well. Just having to walk down the halls at school was a terrifying thing. I thought everyone was judging me, that they could hear me hyper ventilating. I lost all focus in class, my hearing would falter. It got to a point that i fainted one morning and had to be hospitalized. That's when i knew i had to do something. I told my parents. I started becoming vocal about it with my friends and tried to help them understand what was going on inside my head. It's scary, makes one feel weak, like i had failed at hiding something. But it truly has helped. Going away to college and having to be more vocal and live on my own has also helped a lot. I still have anxiety, i don't think it will ever go away, but it's nice to know that other people understand.

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  5. I have suffered from anxiety for a few years now, and I still do. I've lost relationships with friends, boyfriends and other people because of it. Not to mention my dream jobs, all because I felt "safer" at home. I wrote about it in my own blog a few times.
    I appreciate you sharing this post!

    Stephanie
    http://www.whimsicalappeal.com

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  6. So glad you posted this Katy. Hopefully you will keep it up as I think it would be of help to anyone that suffers from anxiety that reads your blog. I two suffer from anxiety and any post talking openly about it makes me feel less alone and aware that it's a problem shared by so many.

    I can pinpoint the start of my own anxiety and the reasons behind it but I once read how the 'fight or flight' mechanism in our brains just doesn't fit with 21st century life. We have so many daily stresses and pressures that our brain sometimes never relax and confuse normal situations with dangerous ones or ones to be feared for no reason. Which can explain how your anxiety came out of the blue maybe.

    I think talking about how you feel when you get anxiety and just sharing that you suffer from it with people that you are close to can really help. But I think it's important to gauge how people will react, your parents might be so understanding or they may think it's a step forward you are telling them and then another step forward would to be to get actual help for it. Also people sometimes think showing their worry about you is showing that they love you which I'd personally had from my dad and it does get a bit annoying - eep!
    I decided to tell to my sister about it as I feel she's quite an open person and I'm glad I did as I can talk about it now to her and she even shared she's had anxiety from time to time. It's good to open up about these things so if you are thinking about telling your parents then it's a sign you definitely should, just make it clear why you are telling them so they don't go trying to get you 'fixed'!

    I keep thinking of writing a post on my own anxiety but keep pushing it aside... but I finally might get around to doing it this month because of your post.

    So glad to hear you managed to take control back and get through anxiety better now :)

    Fee x

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  7. This is such an honest and strong post. Although I've never had a proper panic attack I do feel anxious quite a lot and for me personally it helps talking about my worries with my mum. She always listens and makes me feel better. Perhaps it'll feel like a relief to tell those with whom you are the closest?

    xx Mimmi, Muted Mornings

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