Panic disorder, or – panic attacks are something I’ve been familiar with ever since I was 9.
Yes, 9 years old in Primary School. Now because mental health was never ever discussed at that age I was so confused and scared about what was happening to me. But because I thought I was ‘crazy’ I was embarrassed and never told anyone. I remember my teacher pulled me aside and tried to talk to me about what was “going on” but because I had no idea, and no way to explain it I simply shrugged and pretended like there was nothing.
The first recollection I remember having with panic attacks was swimming at school. I think it was the open space, water and having no control of the situation that brought it on, I remember clinging onto the side of the pool hoping it would calm me down and I would re-gain ‘control’.
I would throw up and panic before school when it was ‘swimming day; at the thought of panicking and having that weird experience.
It felt like my vision was 2D, my hearing goes funny and I feel faint. It is the most overwhelming feeling of adrenaline you can ever imagine.
My panic can come on at any moment, even walking down a street it will hit me sometimes but I know what are my ‘triggers’.
– open spaces , feeling like I have no edge to ‘cling’ to
– having no control of the situation, feeling like I can’t ‘leave’
To try to explain it a bit more I’ll tell you another example.
In Science in high school we would sit on these high, backless stools and the pressure of having no control, feeling like I couldn’t leave along with being in there for an hour would make me panic.
The first time this happened I had to walk up in front of the class, go to my teacher in tears and tell her in front of everyone that I had a panic attack. I felt so embarrassed. One of my fears is fainting so I would panic, about panicking and I would feel faint.
These days I will have a panic attack if I’m in a busy shopping centre like the Arndale, or a big supermarket (like Asda). Sometimes if i’m walking in a busy street or even if i’m sat in a restaurant where I feel ‘pressured’ to be there i’ll panic.
For example I have thoughts like:
you can’t act weird, it’ll be embarrassing
you have to sit here for an hour and suffer like this
you can’t leave
you feel really weird, what if you faint?
I’ve been on medication, had CBT, counselling and even hypnotherapy to help my panic attacks and because of my age I’m more in control of my life and what I do, so I am able to avoid situations where I could panic. I find that this has made my life a lot less stressful.
A lot of people do ask me how I manage the panic attacks, and I wish I had a clear answer. I guess the most obvious yet typical answer is control your breathing. It really does work to help you think and have a clear mind. Also because I’ve suffered with them for 10 years I feel like I’ve learned my body and how I react to panic, and I’ve realised how to control it.
I really hope this post has helped someone to feel more ‘human’ and not alone.
I’ll be replying to every comment.