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Amys Story

Hi, The crazy thing is is that I’m sitting here nervous about writing this. I’ve never really been open about my experiences because none of my friends understand. I can feel it now, that empty felling in the pit of my stomach and my hands begin to shake. But never the less I will try to ignore it and continue

… The first hit me like a freight train, never experiencing anxiety before I had no idea what was happening to me. I will never forget that day I was lying in bed with my boyfriend when all of a sudden I became really aware of my heart, it was pounding in my chest and there was nothing I could do to calm it down. Trying to breathe deep and relax i just put it down to my body being weird (my heart had a habit of “fluttering”). After about half an hour of desperately trying to fall asleep ( I kept thinking that if I could just fall asleep then everything would be ok) fear hit me. All of a sudden these horrid thought entered my mind and would not leave “I was having a heart attack and I was going to die”. My mom had a heart attack about 6 years ago and I was convinced it was happening to me. I went hot and cold, couldn’t focus, couldn’t hear, I was shaking all over, sweating and crying. The next hour or so is a little hazy, I can remember feeling sick and not being able to stand up. My boyfriend, as you can probably imagine was freaking out nearly as much as I was. I was this gibbering wreck on the floor, through frantic tears I begged him not to leave me and to call an ambulance. I remember him taking me downstairs to where my mom was, she took one look at me and completely freaked out, I couldn’t breathe and my heart wouldn’t stop pounding in my chest, my pulse was racing and I honestly thought I was going to die. I remember apologising to my boyfriend and mom for putting them through this, I begged them not to let me die, I was only 17, I didn’t deserve to die…
…Waiting for the ambulance felt like forever, finally they burst in. Various tests were done and I was piled into the ambulance, I’d never been in one before. Everything moved so fast I can’t really remember the experience I just recall them panicking because of the previous history of heart conditions in my family. After a brief stint in A & E and more ECG’s than you can imagine, I was told that the tests were inconclusive and they were unsure what happened to me I was told that it could have been some sort of seizure, epilepsy or a heart defect. The idea of a panic disorder was not brought into the picture for months. Anyway I spent a hellish night in the cardio-thoracic ward (I was treated so well by the nurses who told me I was the youngest person they’d seen on the ward). with my boyfriend at my side. I was sent home the next day.

I’d like to say that that’s where it ends but sadly life is not that forgiving, the attacks didn’t stop, they just got worse and each time I was sent to hospital they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I just kept apologising to my family, I thought they assumed I was faking it, the doctors certainly did. It was so hard trying to explain that I could genuinely feel like I was going to die and then a few hours later I was fine…

The weeks passed on and I was rushed in and out of hospital numerous times, each time the doctors dismissed it as if it was nothing. No-one saw the damage it was doing to me inside. I became a recluse, scared that if I went outside it would happen to me again. I just thought that if I was outside no-one could help me. I was safer indoors and that’s where I stayed, afraid to face the world. i couldn’t get a job and I became dependant on my boyfriend, who was still unaware of the effect of this illness. Family and friends ignored the possibility of an anxiety disorder because I had always seemed so happy and I had nothing to be stressed over. After a few months I had convinced myself that I was going crazy and couldn’t cope with life, I became depressed because I spent all my time locked away in my room. After another attack and varying specialists inspecting me it took a junior doctor to suggest the idea of an anxiety disorder. He was amazing, after my family had left for some tests to be done he sat and explained the whole thing. I was not “faking it” or going mad, I had a disorder. All of a sudden the weight of the world was lifted, my mystery ailment had a name, now that I knew what it was I could focus on treating it. Then came those magical words “I’m afraid you never recover from anxiety, once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. You just have to find a way of coping with it and controlling the attacks”. And that is exactly what I did…

…I’m not sure what it was that drove my boyfriend away, maybe it was the idea that his girlfriend was “mental” or maybe it was that from that moment nothing in my life could be the same. It took me months to venture into public again and I was could not be left alone. So the inevitable happened and I was left alone…

…I’m coping well now. There’s still the stigma that goes with being a nervous wreck but I have found that humour has got me through the awkward bits like trying to explain everything to my friends and family. i sat them all down and explained what happens to me and the best thing to do if I have an attack around them. Having them know and know how to react to my disorder has made me so much more confident, now I know that if I have an attack I have someone there who can help, and if not then I can just hide and let it all blow over. Coming to terms with my disorder has been very hard, the embarrassment of an attack in public is something that I still haven’t got used to and trying to explain to people who you are trying to chat up is a definite relationship maker or breaker. And then there comes that awful moment where you get so worked up about a first date that you trigger an attack…But no matter what happens my confidence grows every day and I have found that the best thing to do is challenge the attacks, I always think “you can’t get me, I’m stronger than this”. Sorry for ranting. Thanks for listening.

Amy