I’ve known I was going to write this for a few days now. I’ve even done a rough draft in my notebook. Today, though, I felt an anxiety that I had to fight really hard to suppress. Basically, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I have a massive phobia of clowns. Today at work I was told about a few people dressing up as clowns deliberately to scare/attack people. We had a full blown discussion about it and I could feel myself getting more and more worked up. I spent almost the next hour with my hand on my chest trying to keep myself calm. I could see that my colleague was feeling something similar as she told me that even the thought of clowns can make her cry. We’re both as bad, but I didn’t realise I was so bad now, that just talking about them sets me off. (I can even feel now that my breathing has changed!)
I started having panic attacks when I was in high school. I think I was doing my ‘mock’ GCSEs. I know exams were definitely involved. The first time it happened I had no clue what was happening to me and worse, neither did the teachers. Nobody told me it was a panic attack, they just let me sit there ‘panicking’ while they phoned someone to come and take me home. (Helpful!)
Looking back, I’ve always had anxiety – I just didn’t realise it until recently. I’ve always been very easily stressed out, very nervous, I get stage fright and I’m overly emotional. If I’m nervous about something it makes me feel sick. I get a form of IBS that gets worse with nerves. I basically worked my body up into such a panic, that I made myself ill. (Sounds about right!!)
Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will understand this well. If you’ve never had one, it’s quite difficult to understand. Everyone will experience a panic/anxiety attack in a slightly different way to the next person. Mine tend to start with a shooting pain across my torso. Usually left to right and then the pain seems to stop on my right side and get gradually worse. That then makes me hot and sweaty. That then leads to a pain in my chest which results in my lack of ability to breathe properly. My breaths get louder and more rapid. My entire body starts to shake. When you breathe like that, you’re not taking in enough oxygen – this causes pins and needles IN YOUR ARM!
Yep – as if it’s not bad enough that you’re already panicking, you then start to get symptoms of a heart attack. Now when this has happened to you several times, you know exactly what is causing it & you’re almost used to it. The first time it happens, Jesus, that’s scary. It also doesn’t help that I have asthma, meaning that my breathing isn’t great at the best of times. (I’m a lost cause, I really am!)
And, let me tell you, from experience – breathing into a brown paper bag does absolutely bugger all. Stop thrusting that thing at me, I ain’t gonna breathe into it. (And to the one person that once asked me if a plastic bag would work – were you actually trying to kill me????)
When the attacks first started happening at school, the teachers initially started sending me home. After a few months of getting them quite regularly, I eventually got used to how my body was going to be and stopped them from calling my parents. I, of course, told them when I got home that it had ‘happened again’ but there was no point sending me home when I knew full well, I’d be fine again within an hour. I honestly used to feel like a fraud when they sent me home and I was laid on the sofa watching TV, feeling almost back to normal. They usually let a friend sit with me so that I wasn’t on my own, but they did sit me by the school entrance so everyone walking past could have a good stare at me on their way to the next class.
Gradually the attacks became a lot less frequent to the point where they’d almost stopped completely and I didn’t really think about them. Then one day, about 5 years ago I was sat at work and I felt one coming on. I’d been ill for about 2 weeks with chest pains and a very painful stomach. To this day, I have no idea what was wrong with me but I kept going into work. I even went to an Olly Murs concert with my cousin, but every time I tried to cheer and lift my arms up, I wound up doubled over in pain. I was sat down like a boring fart for most of the concert.
I digress – I was sat at work and the pains started. I knew what was coming so I asked if I could just get some fresh air. That didn’t work, so I went to sit in the kitchen out of the way. By the time one of my colleagues came to check on me (which was probably only about 5 minutes) I was in full blown panic attack mode. The first thing they did was call my mum. She was at work herself but as I’d already been ill for so long, she rushed over, took one look at me and asked my colleague to call an ambulance. Within less than half an hour I had my Mum, my Dad, several colleagues and 2 paramedics around me. (I don’t like to cause a scene you know!). I knew what was happening, but this was probably the worst attack I’d ever had and it really scared me. The pins and needles were that bad, I couldn’t move my arms. The paramedics were good at calming me down, they tried making me laugh and kept me talking to them to try and get my breathing stable again. One of them was a little bit annoying when he told me I wasn’t having a heart attack. Yes, thank you kind sir, I’m well aware of that fact.
If I remember rightly, I had a few days off work and a quick trip to the hospital for an ECG but other than that, nothing much else happened. I went back to work and got on with my life.
This will make you chuckle. I’m 28 years old and it was only THIS YEAR, yes, this year – that I finally realised I was suffering from anxiety. I’d kind of known, but didn’t really want to admit it for some reason. Anxiety is a form of illness and I just didn’t see myself as ‘ill’. The problem is, when I realised I had anxiety, I pretty much made myself worse, psychologically. At the time, I wasn’t happy in a few aspects of my life and I let everything get on top of me. I started to feel almost depressed and I was definitely making myself poorly. The doctors have given me Propanolol (I think) and told me to take it 2-3 times a day. I don’t want to. I carry them around with me but I rarely take them. (Although I did take one today after all that clown talk wound me up). I’ve hardly taken any of them to be honest because I want to try and help myself.
Long story short, I’m so much happier now. I have amazing bosses who helped me at work and I’m now doing a role that I love with some fantastic people around me. I also broke it off with my boyfriend over two months ago and I quickly started to feel a lot more like myself again. I’m gradually teaching myself how to relax more and stress less. I know what I enjoy doing and I know what upsets me. It’s not easy and I do still have ‘moments’ where I get stressed and angry. I’ve got some amazing people around me though who know how to calm me down. Even if it’s just by telling me “that’s enough now”. (Yes, that’s my mum and yes it works. I appreciate it when she tells me I’ve stressed enough, although I might not show it at the time! Haha.)
I’ll probably always have anxiety, I don’t know if it ever does go away, but I know that I can control it and I know that by stressing, I’m only making myself worse.
Things that give me anxiety
THE THOUGHT OF CAMPING (with bugs!)
INTERVIEWS / MEETINGS
TV SHOWS – yes really. If I can tell something bad is about to happen, I can’t watch it. I literally had to stop watching The OC and 90210 because, in practically every episode, something happened to make my stomach churn. I’ve not watched either all the way through.
REALISING SOMEONE DOESN’T LIKE ME AND SPENDING HALF MY TIME WANTING TO KNOW WHY – I want to be liked and if you don’t like me, I want to know why (but I probably won’t like the answer).
I used to really care what people thought of me. Would they bully me because I love country music? Will they hate me because I didn’t like that movie everyone is talking about? Will they think I’m a geek because I love to read (& write.)
I’ve finally realised that it’s easier to just enjoy life, enjoy my favourite things and not care what other people think. If you don’t like it, that’s your decision.
Things that help me (and might help you too)
RELAXING WITH A PERFECT CUPPA AND A GREAT BOOK
PLAYING WITH THE CAT
SEEING MY PARENTS AND THEIR PUPPY
A CLEAN HOUSE
PAMPER SESSION (Face and hair masks)
LONG RELAXING SHOWER
GOING FOR A WALK
A little note about my cat, Lila
Now I know some people don’t like cats. I never used to be a massive fan, to be honest. BUT, I got Lila when I was going through a very difficult time. In all honesty, I had just been dumped and I was feeling incredibly lonely. I decided on a whim that I was going to get a cat and within a couple days there she was, curled up on my sofa. Getting her was the best thing I ever did. She was such a teeny tiny little creature who had no idea she was doing such a massive thing for me. Her hugs and kisses mean the world to me. Yes, at 5am they’re bloody annoying, but I still wouldn’t have her any other way. I just couldn’t be without my little bundle of fluff. She’s my world and I love her.