I know I have written a lot about my son and his issues. I’ve only touched on mine from time to time. As I am coming to the end of the year and making some life choices, I thought I’d get my story out there and off my chest. I think first off I should tell you that Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Depression run in my family. It just was not known or never talked about.
My story started in junior high school. My stomach was going around in knots. I would pop antacids like tic tacs all throughout the day. I was a nervous kid, but I got by. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I believe these where the early stages of anxiety. At this stage I just thought I had a weak stomach. I had nerves but not anything life altering. Then came freshman year in high school.
The first half of the year went by okay. I was going from two years of junior high school to starting four years of high school. It was a big change. I guess you could say that I had the fortune or misfortune of knowing everyone I went to school with as I was living in a small town. So it wasn’t like being in a completely new set of people. I had done pretty well so far. Then Easter vacation came. I can remember sitting on my parents couch in the living room. I started to feel really tired like I was getting sick. So I laid there all afternoon. I even went to bed early. When school resumed after break I tried to go. I couldn’t even make it out of the car. I started crying and felt like throwing up. I would hyperventilate and start to dry heave. So I got brought back home. The attempt at school was tried several more times. All failures. I felt terrible. Everyone was asking me where I was. Friends and teachers wanted answers. I had none to give. I was already starting to fall behind both academically and socially. I wanted to go to school, but I couldn’t. I truly couldn’t.
Then began the endless stream of doctors appointments that would mark almost the rest of the year. I saw so many doctors. I think all told it was over twenty medical personnel I was sent to . I went to regular doctors, specialists,and the hospital. No one could find anything wrong with me. I had blood draws, a barium test, things stuck in every orifice, X-rays, MRI, and was poked and prodded at every turn. I remember one doctor was an infectious disease specialist for toddlers. I was sent to him in case what was wrong with me was a childhood disease or a hold over from something I had as a child. So there I sat, the oldest patient in a room of toddlers and their moms. For the record, my mom came too. We explained to the nurse and she said the doctor had read my file. I was next asked to undress. The nurse handed me two sheets. They only had toddler gowns and toddler size sheets, this was the only way to preserve my” modesty.” So I got to hold them over my private parts until the doctor came in. There was discussion and then he started poking me everywhere. In the stomach, the groin, the neck you name it. He then said he wasn’t sure and ordered more blood tests. Yea! Blood tests! At this point, I was getting two huge vials of blood drawn each week at the hospital for a battery of tests. They were the big vials, not the little ones they use now. After awhile, they couldn’t get any more blood out of my right arm and then started with my left. When would they find something?
Still I had no answers. I was so worried at this point. No one could figure out what was wrong with me. I felt so scared I had some sort of rare disease. I felt so alone as my family was angry that I couldn’t do anything. I would get blamed, lectured and forced to do things like calisthenics to “build strength.” Then the doctor’s started suggesting there was no reason for me to not return to school. I constantly felt ill, how could he say that? Sometimes I would throw up. I would also have headaches, stomach aches, feeling faint, feeling light-headed, had weird visual sensations, diarrhea, chest pain, and even a weird rash one doctor thought was measles. He tested me for it, but wasn’t sure. He had never actually seen measles in person. Only in a text book. Three other doctors came in and looked at me during that appointment. Tests came back negative for measles. I was, at this point extremely depressed.
Not only had I missed months of school, I hadn’t seen any of my friends. Their lives went on and I was left behind. I would cry, have insomnia, sleep for over twenty hours, and be unable to do anything. My parents were not very kind either. My father in particular was not very nice. My mom was slightly better, but frustrated with me. Looking back I don’t think I got the support or care that I needed. This was the start of my disconnect with my parents.
Since I was far behind in school and unable to attend, the district sent a teacher for the home bound. The guy would come over for an hour, give me all the homework I was behind on and then go. I’d immediately head back to bed for an hour or two, then get up and work on my school work. He was the only person I saw regularly that was not my parents or my grandma. I did not finish my freshman year homework until two days before the start of sophomore year. Mind you, now there are a variety of ways to learn in person and online. In the late 80’s/early 90’s that wasn’t the case. If you couldn’t figure it out you were screwed. The one class that suffered the most for me was German. It’s very hard to teach yourself a language, even if it’s your second year. I missed all the tenses, it made my third year difficult.
One day my mother took me on a walk outside the house. By this time it was summer. I was so depressed and hated my life. My mom asked if I remember when my dad had his illness. At first I thought she meant his skin cancer. My dad had a severe skin cancer bout and had part of his cheek removed. No, she told me. When dad had his panic attacks. I had no idea what she was talking about. Mom asked if I remembered when dad would come home from work and would go straight to bed when I was little. I would have to bring him his dinner in bed. When my mom and dad questioned me further they asked what they thought was wrong with him if it was not anxiety. I said I thought he was sick or really tired. I was eight. What the hell did I know then? No one told me. How was I supposed to know? My mom then explained what happened and how they dealt with it. She asked if I thought this was the same thing in me. I said it sounded familiar and I would go where ever she wanted me to. I just wanted it to be over. It was a nightmare. My home had become a prison and my family the wardens. It was getting bad and I was desperate to be better. I was tired of people thinking I was faking it. I wasn’t. Everyone was angry. Making comments like it was my fault I was ruining everything. So we finally made an appointment with a therapist. I can’t remember if we had a referral or we just picked a phone number out of the phone book, but the appointment was set.
I went to meet this therapist, a female, and started seeing her weekly.
Stay tuned for part two of THE HISTORY OF ANXIETY AND PANIC IN MY LIFE.