It all sort of really started when I was aged 12 at High School and ever since then the panic attacks have come and gone through various stages of my life. I am now 21 and here is my story.
Through most of my childhood/school life I was badly bullied and had serious problems at home in my family life. I don’t think you realise how much these problems have a effect on you until you become much older. Ever since I was about 7 my Mum and Dad had serious money problems and eventually they divorced and when I was 9 me and my 2 years older sister had to go into Foster Care for a couple of months while my Mum recovered from the shocks she had received over the previous few years, as my dad had disappeared out of our lives. Mum started to get her life back on track and my Dad came back into our lives.
Then suddenly at High School I suddenly felt one day during a Design and Technology lesson that I needed to go to the toilet, I didn’t actually need it, but constantly thought that I did need the toilet. When you are that young you feel so embrassed by what you think is so silly, but feels yet so serious. I was in the church choir and during services I felt really fidgety and couldn’t relax, and sometimes I had to leave the service because I just couldn’t cope with being in that situation due to being really hot in the face, having sweaty hands, and my heart racing like it would never stop! I continued going to church, mainly because I didn’t really understand what was happening to me and what it was, so just sat through it, and waited for the end of the service each time! Eventually they passed away these thoughts during my early teenage years.
The next time I had another panic attack (even though I still didn’t know what they were) was during a mock GCSE maths exam when I was 15. It was a 2 hour exam and I was sat right smack bang in the middle of the school gym with another 90 people around me, and during the 1st hour I just could not concerntrate, all I saw was everyone around me working really hard, and knowing what they were doing (as it seemed) and I had done pretty much nothing. As time passed my heart started to speed up, my breathing got faster, my hands got even more sweaty and I started to feel sick. It got to the hour mark and I just had to leave, I put my hand up to ask to leave the exam room and I was escorted to the sick room, and mum picked me up from school and took me home. I ended up getting the flu that day as well and took the rest of the week off school.
Nothing else happened about the panic attacks until my 1st year at A/S Levels. Everything in my life was going fine, I’d just started being involved in a great relasionship with a guy, even though it was long distance I was so happy. Mum and my sister were good, and Dad lived just 15 minutes away and we spoke everyday on the phone. I had started to make friends, who actually appreciated me, and the shy, quiet girl who let people walk all over her at High school was breaking free as no one from my High School was at my new 6th form. I was studying subjects which I loved (mainly artistic subjects) and just in general was happy. Then in the January I had to take a mock exam (can’t remember what it was for, but it wasn’t important) and into a exam room of 200 people I went, stuck right slap bang in the middle of the room and the same problems as what had happened during that maths GCSE exam happened (strangely enough I managed to take all my other GCSE exams in the May/June time with no problems at all!!) Got to about 30 minutes in the exam and I had to leave, there was no way I could stay there any longer. I then booked a appointment with my doctor and they said that I suffered from panic attacks. I was then booked into counselling sessions. The next problem came sitting on public transport, mainly buses and coaches. I’ve never had a huge problem with trains, but during my 1st year of A levels I could not sit on a bus without panicing. Maybe it was because the girls who bullied me at high school would get the same bus as me and I was never comfortable!?
The panic attacks eventually went away on the buses as I learned to listen to my personal music player and just relax and enjoy the bus journey and not dread it. The councelling was great, and eventually I stopped going in the end because I didn’t need it anymore. Driving tests then came the next problem. I’ve taken my test 6 times now, I feel that I can pass the damn test, if I didn’t start panicing. My old instructor even had to sit in the back of the exams to try and relax me, still didn’t pass though!!! This was during my 1st and 2nd years of A levels, I was still really happy in life, was spending time was some really great people and was still with the guy previously mentioned and it felt like true happiness!! Strangely enough I think these 2 years at 6th form were the most happiest of my life.
I then went to University in Leicester. I made sure all my friends were very aware that in the past I had suffered from panic attacks, so to decrease the chances of having them it would be best if I sat on the end of the rows, nearest the exits. So no panic or stresses during the 1st 2 years at uni, everything was great, until April 2006 (just at the end of the 2nd year). My Dad had done a bizarre disappearing act in August 2005, my sister and her long term boyfriend of about 4 years (who was like a brother to me) had broken up in July 2005 and he had gone off to Japan to live for 2 years. My sister was suffering from headaches and major stress levels as it was her final year at uni (we went to the same uni) and we lived together, which was fine. During this 2nd year at uni things started to go downhill for me and my longterm boyfriend. He was studying at Birmingham and we would go and see each other pretty much every weekend of every other weekend. During summer 2005 he had stressed to me that we had lost the spark in our relasionship and we needed to sort it out. I started to become increasingly paranoid about why there was problems and about a girl who suddenly had become really good friends with him. I would think that something was going on between them, when there never was. His parents had broken up during the summer of 2004, just before we started uni, and he said that even though his mum had had a affair it would never effect our relasionship, and it didn’t really, until he never would open up to me how he felt about personal things. His way of resolving them was to get heavily involved in societies at uni, be heavily involved in bands at uni and stress himself out watching his football team play, with them losing he would be really miserable all weekend (even if I had gone to visit him) and worst of all he was drinking way too much. It was getting to the point where I’d be stressing myself thinking really paranoid thoughts, and I would ring him just to have some reassurance that we were ok. I would hardly see my friends and would become heavily involved in my work. When I did see friends I would claim at how great things were between me and him, but in reality they weren’t. I’d often miss lectures on Monday mornings because I would still be in Birmingham, crying my eyes out to him, because I thought he didn’t love me, and because I missed my Dad and my sisters ex boyfriend not being in England. My then boyfriend would also start to be very very rude to me, he became violent for the 1st time at his 20th birthday where he pushed me over, causing me to cough up blood, saying that I was ruining his birthday. On the phone he was sarcastic, and I would often be doing all the talking and he would hardly be responding, often saying he couldn’t talk because he was going out (he hardly ever did any work!!) I just knew he was burying himself away from his home problems, but would he ever talk to me about them, no way, he wouldn’t talk to anyone about them. Surprisingly I was doing really really well at uni, probably because I was very good at just hiding away and getting on with my work. In April the hardhitter came, after months of me thinking “I should end it, but we’ve been together nearly 4 years, there must be something worth keeping, and we can work it out because we love each other”. He comes to mine the Monday after Easter weekend, and this being the 1st day that my sister new boyfriend (now fiancee) would meet my mum. We go for a long walk all together and my then boyfriend was actting very odd (he still lived along way away as we were both home for the holidays) and he wouldn’t commit himself to say where we were going on holiday that summer of anything, it was just odd. That evening we went out with my friends from home, and all night he was rude to me, and just actting very very odd!! That night we went to bed, and I didn’t sleep very well, neither did he I don’t think. Woke up in the morning and I can still see it vividly in my mind, I say “is there something wrong because your actting very odd” usually in the past he would say “oh no, I love you don’t worry” then he gets up and makes a drink of water, sits on the edge of my bed and says “I don’t love you anymore, I think we should break up” it was like someone had hit me so so hard. We talked all day and left on really good terms. Cried alot (he even cried, shock horror as he was actually opening up) and I finally got somewhere with the whole his family problems situation where he had spent most of the Easter holidays avoiding his Dad as he was scared of him. I return back to uni and once again become heavily involved in my work, and know that I am hurting so much inside, but get on with things.
That summer I start working for a direct marketing company, where I would start work at 9am, and finish at sometimes 11pm. I would be walking around all afternoon, knocking on peoples doors, trying to encourage them to sign up to a monthly charity direct debit scheme. It was completely commission based, and the long hours and pressure was starting to effect my health. They almost brainwash into thinking that “your friends and family are wrong, they don’t understand how great the work is and they will try and tell you how awful it is, but they are just negative people, we are positive people!!” This brainwashing nearly almost got me not going back to finish my final year at uni. Then suddenly, I went to the cinema with my mum and sister one Sunday, and I suddenly felt like I was about to black out and faint, I had to leave there and then and relax at home. I told my boss that monday, and he wasn’t very understanding saying that I needed to drink more sugar, but I must keep working (as he gained money from the money I made). I had no choice but to keep working as I needed the money. Then one day I was just too exhausted to get up, I was working pretty much 6 days a week, not seeing my friends and seeing my family for like half a hour each evening, where I just ate my dinner at like 11pm and went straight to bed. I went to the Doctors and they said I needed to have 2 weeks off work. I never returned back to the marketing company. I then kept having these phases of feeling really dizzy, where I felt out of this world. I returned back to University and went to the docotrs there who sent me to this rubbish councellor lady, who was heavily pregnant and pretty much reading from a book what to say. I wanted to stop feeling so dizzy with my heart going faster and faster. The men situation was interesting, had many guys interested in me, but I just wouldn’t commit myself and found excuses to not see them or I avoided them. The guys I did like ended up messing me around. I went on a date with my ex boyfriends housemate, really lovely guy, but it just didn’t work out because all the time my ex would come up in conversation, as if I was trying to find out information about his life with his new girlfriend who he got with after like 6 weeks of us splitting, that hurt alot. When I found out in August 2006, it was like someone had hit my tummy, and I couldn’t eat for a few days. Turned out that one of my best friends, who sometimes spoke to my ex boyfriend, had been told by my ex that he had a new girlfriend, therefore putting my friend in a really awkward situation. Somehow I managed to get a first from my degree, even though I went out loads in my final year and spent far too much time around friends houses. My housemate was horrible and made me feel really uncomfortable all the time. I would find refuge in my room away from her, and as time went on, any of my friend who came around to visit, I would feel really uncomfortable with them being in my room and my space, it was fine donwstairs, but I felt like they were judging my room and how messy it was. I felt clostrophobic. My friend have been so understanding of me and my panic attacks. They can see when I feel panicy, and when to just let me be alone in my room to relax. I often have this things of scratching my chin when I feel panicy, and people often see this now. One of the really nasty things that happens to me is my head shakes suddenly when I feel panicy, no one can see it, but I know its happening, and its horrible!! When I don’t think about panicing I’m fine, its when my mind goes into the mood of “you should be panicing now, why aren’t you” suddenly surprise surprise I start to panic! I’m still single now after nearly 2 years this April, I have been working for the local council since October and the people I work with her great. Yes I’ve had a few panic attacks and have had to leave work for the afternoon, but they don’t seem to judge me, they are totally understanding. I was promoted in December and started my new job this week, which seems to be going really well. Sometimes I really don’t want to go into work because of fear of having attacks. The major problem I have now is no confidence in speaking to many men at work who I don’t know, I feel very uncomfortable around young men of my age. I just go all hot, sweaty and my heart starts racing. I walk and feel dizzy and every time I see these young men in my department I can’t help but just feel uncomfortable. When I’m not thinking about it, I am fine, but I just have very little faith or trust in men anymore, out of fear of being hurt like I was before. Yes I think I still love my ex boyfriend deep down, he is no good for me, and is a waster, but we still had so many good times together, I just have to keep reminding myself of how paranoid he made me and how he made my panic attacks even worse, and now I have the situation where I have very little trust in men. My sister is getting married this year, thats something to look forward to, I start councelling with the same lady I had during my A levels very soon and I enjoy my job (except for the silly moment lapses of panic), I just wish I never had these awful things. All I have to tell myself is that I am not going to die, its just a moment, which will go away. The doctor gave me medication for when a attack comes on, I don’t like to use the medication though as its not good to be on medication I feel. I put alot of hope in my Christian faith, my family and friends make me happy and they are so supportive, without them, I would me a nervous wreak!!