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Paul’s Story

I was 19 and in my first year at Uni when a build up of irrational thoughts and obsessive thoughts developed. Looking at my first assignment I thought, “what if I can’t concentrate to do this” although rationally I knew if I applied my mind I could

…… Completing every assignment became a battle. Studying with my newfound friends wouldn’t help as I could see them having no problems concentrating so I became increasingly tense, paranoid, self conscious and introspective. How could I tell anyone? They would think I was going mad. Having no idea what was wrong, I imagined I must be the only person ever having such crazy thoughts. Social situations became a problem and started to cause full-blown attacks. I would numb the panic with alcohol. I wouldn’t hyperventilate, more so hold my breath and have the usual feelings of nausea, sweating and palpitations. I thought it was a weakness and something to hide. No one around me knew I was having these attacks (I didn’t even know what they were).I must have seemed very distant. One of the worst panic attacks was after trying cannabis for the first time at a party. I didn’t sleep a wink afterwards and thought I was going to die. Xmas ’95 at my parents was my first sort of break down. I seemed to analyse & obsess about every passing thought leading to terrible fear flashes and feelings of unreality.

I managed to function quite normally sometimes during Uni but my confidence had already took a massive beating. I’d tell myself to “stop being stupid” and “pull myself together” hence when the symptoms did return, I had worsening feelings of shame and failure. After the first 2 years, i took 6 months six leave. My G.P called them “anxiety attacks” & it was a relief to be given a name but I still didn’t know it was something universally recognised as a disorder. I was prescribed Seroxat, Propranalol (beta-blocker) and CBT psychotherapy and with a lot of hard work, I got through my final year and even met another sufferer. I weaned myself off all meds by July ’98

I had acute setback in May ’99 after 2 years of being quite panic free and me thinking “all that silly business” was a distant memory. In the March, I fell head over heels for a man who I was so convinced would dump me, I felt I had to work really hard to keep hold of him. I was always on guard in his company – striving to be “cool”, say intelligent things and look good. Before I knew it the anxiety dragon was lurking its ugly head again and I felt that if I didn’t “snap out of it”, I would lose him. Now I was trying to ignore anxiety attacks as well as act “cool” in his company. I smoked pot with him hoping to feel more relaxed but of course it made it 5 times worse so I admitted to him that I was having attacks but he wasn’t sympathetic and became very distant. In desperation, I drove for 3 hours back to my parents. My worried parents could see that I’d lost weight and become depressed. I felt safer and more comforted there. I was prescribed Seroxat and Propranalol again and within a few weeks was feeling much better and returned to work in my Uni town.

During a new relationship in ‘Oct ’99, I had a small setback and my G.P suggested hypnosis and counselling. Other than meds, I found the counselling the most helpful therapy up to date. For the first time, I learned that it was ok to be me and how much shame I held about myself. I had a bit of a setback in March ’00 when my boyfriend of 8 months broke it off with me.

In May ’00 I begun a new relationship with someone very possessive and domineering who managed to chip away at all the confidence I’d gained through counselling. This stressful relationship made me feel sometimes very worthless. Although for the most part I didn’t have any prolonged episodes of panic/anxiety attacks, I had some terrible bouts of depression as a primary illness including overdosing on meds (was still on Seroxat and propranalol) and cutting my wrists. In May ’01 I returned to my hometown indefinitely bringing my boyfriend with me. Once home I weaned myself off my meds thinking I’d feel more secure and wasn’t likely to need them again. My boyfriend didn’t get on with my parents at all. After one particularly awful row with him being abusive to them, the bombshell was dropped by my Mam that my dad wasn’t my biological father and at 26 years old this shook my very foundations and is still doing so today. My boyfriend and I split and I tried to bury my head in the sand about recent revelations. I was generally anxiety/panic disorder free (apart from odd blips) until one October afternoon when the anxiety dragon came back full force. Only hours before I’d been dining out with my parents, now I was crying and rocking in my bed in despair. I felt like I could cope with anything except these dreadful feelings of absolute terror and was soon back on Seroxat and Propranalol.

Got a new job in Jan ’02, which was going well until a bit of a setback in the March. G.P put me on Lithium as a mood stabiliser. Told my parents what I suffered from for the first time which felt like a step towards accepting who I was. Started a new relationship end of March.

Had some on/off anxiety blips on various trips over the following months with my new boyfriend because such treats were new to me and I didn’t want to “mess them up”. During a relapse in Oct ’02, I came off lithium and my G.P doubled my dose of Seroxat. In subsequent months I bought a book called “panic attacks” by Christine Ingram, which I found helpful, although it seemed more directed for the sufferer of spontaneous panic attacks.

In Dec ’02, I received the ultimate of discovering I was pregnant! With news of this, I came off the beta-blockers. I was advised to remain on a minimum dosage of Seroxat because of my history of anxiety/depression. Had a short acute relapse mid term in pregnancy and joined a very helpful pre/post natal depression support group where like-minded individuals could share experiences of depression and medication without judgement. Had 1 of my very few completely spontaneous panic attacks before going into theatre to have my baby by caesarean and really had to concentrate on my breathing to avoid hyperventilating.

Managed first 6 months with new baby very well but had a setback in April ’04 which seemed to stem from worrying about my fathers declining health and a fall out between my partner and one of my lifelong friends. Doctor diagnosed post natal depression so continued with post natal depression group and some other mother and baby groups.

My father died very suddenly in Summer ’04 but I couldn’t seem to really cry or grieve so I asked a locum G.P to prescribe Seroxat in liquid form so I could start gradually decreasing the dose and wean myself off it. I was convinced the meds were numbing my emotions. I know now that was not the case.

A major relapse in Oct ’04 followed by depression meant going back onto a continual dose of Seroxat in tablet form. A fantastic book called “Essential Help for your Nerves” by Dr Claire Weekes really helped me with this setback and I can’t recommend it to other sufferers enough.

Had a terrible during March this year which seemed to commence with my Mam getting a boyfriend so soon after my Dad’s death. I got through the worst of it again with the help of Dr Weekes’ book. My G.P prescribed low dosage benzodiazepines on “one when needed” basis. Had bit of setback in June, August and then again in last couple of weeks which has lead me to this website which I have to say I am finding extremely helpful and positive. And that’s the story so far, sorry its so long

Paul