Even though we live in ‘modern times’, there is still so much stigma attached to mental health and it’s not talked about enough at all. Many people are judgmental simply because they lack understanding.
When I suffered my first panic attack in 2004 I had no idea what was happening to me. I honestly thought I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. My heart was beating so fast I could literally see my chest rapidly thumping away. My hands were sweaty, my fingers were tingling, I couldn’t catch my breath and my chest and stomach was in a lot of pain. I quickly grabbed the phone and dialled 999. I told the operator I was going to die before the got there as this is what I truly believed.
Telling my mum I loved her and saying goodbye felt so real and final. The ambulance arrived and I was rushed to A&E. In the hospital I was hooked up to machines that were going crazy because my heart rate was too fast. I was told there was nothing wrong with me and that I was just experiencing tachycardia (rapid heart rate) My actual heart rate was 174bpm which is far from normal as a resting heart rate for a 15-year-old child.
Wow, I thought this was going to be easy writing this down but even as I’m typing now my heart is racing! I feel so passionate about speaking out and breaking the stigma but it’s not easy so please bear with me!
Since my first panic attack 12 years ago, I have suffered hundreds probably thousands of these terrifying attacks and at times felt like my family would be better off without having to deal with me. The scariest thing about having a panic attack is the over whelming fear and terror. I can’t begin to describe it. It’s kind of like the feeling you get when someone sneaks up behind you and makes you jump. That feeling when your heart skips in your chest. But with a panic attack it lasts for a lot longer and the fear doesn’t go away.
When I gave birth to my Daughter in 2006 I suffered from post-natal depression and along with this my panic attacks got a lot worse. Over time, I developed Agoraphobia and didn’t leave my house for over a year. I lost all my friends as I had to keep making excuses every time I was invited out somewhere. I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t simply open my front door and step outside!
I never told anyone about how I felt, only my mum and my doctor knew. I was put on medication that actually really helped and I started going for short walks around the block but the further away from my house I went, the worse I felt and all I wanted to do was get back to my safe place and curl up under my duvet.
A lot of the time I feel like a child, I feel like I want someone to look after me, tell me everything’s going to be ok and that I’m safe! Luckily I have a very supportive partner who encourages me to step further and further out of my comfort zone every day. I’m getting there slowly, I’m not housebound like I used to be but I still find it very hard to leave the house on my own.
The summer days are more bearable, We take the kids to local zoos and we are very lucky to live a 5-minute walk from the beach. Now that my partner drives, I find it easier to venture further away from home as I can use the car as my safe place if I freak out I can sit in that car until the panic passes.
When I do venture out in public I constantly look at the floor or focas on one thing like texting on my phone because if I look up and see all the people then my mind starts to race, the panic takes over and just can’t cope. Everything seems louder when I’m panicing, the cars going past the people talking ect it’s like someone turned the volume up on the world!
Luckily my family and my partners family have always been very much involved in our kids lives and they take them out at least 2-3 times a week so they still get to experience a ‘normal’ life. I have kept my mental health problems very well hidden from my children as I don’t want it to affect them in any way if I can help it.
I have actively tried everything available out there to help my anxiety, including C.B.T, councilling, hypnotherapy, every self-help book on amazon, exposure therapy and various medications. Nothing has really helped much yet but I’m not giving up. Not only is anxiety and agoraphobia scary and terrifying, it’s also extremely frustrating! I don’t enjoy being this way and when people say things like “just get over it” or “what are you scared of” it really doesn’t help.
The answer is I’m scared of everything, it’s like my mind is on overdrive always looking out for something that might cause me to have a panic attack. Many times I have thought about taking my own life when things get really bad but I could never leave my kids behind to deal with that kind of trauma. I still have fight left in me and I’m determined to beat this. There are places I want to visit all over the world. I spend a lot of my time on google earth dreaming of traveling the world. And I WILL do it!!
It has taken a lot for me to speak out and share this with you so please only comment if you have something nice to say. I really hope my story helps other people to talk about their mental health issues and to realise they are not alone! The more we talk about it the more people will learn to understand it and hopefully, in time we can break the stigma