The History of Anxiety and Panic Attacks in My Life, PT 2

When we left off in part one I had just gotten a therapist. Sometimes we would speak in her office, other times she would take me on an anxiety field trip. We would go to restaurants, ice cream parlors, and stores to practice and desensitize my anxiety. All thru the summer I went weekly to therapy and worked on homework when not at the therapist’s office. Therapy homework is just daily repeating what you do in the office, but by yourself in real life. I was still working on school work until the day before the new school year. I also started back at school for my sophomore year. I made it. While I had a few panic attacks I was fine and able to return to school. Everything went pretty well from then on. I still had panic attacks, anxiety and depression but they rarely prevented my life from working. As time went on into my high school career, the attacks faded but never went away one hundred percent. When I did have one I was always able to handle it.

I will say my relationship with my parents started to go downhill more rapidly. “““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““You would think that one of them having the disorder and having issues with it would be more compassionate. Nope, it was the exact opposite. They were either mean or frustrated. I was very hard to be a teenager in this environment. Okay, I understand frustration. Anxiety can cause family members to become frustrated with the sufferer. You plan to go to the movies, get there, get your seats, and watch the opening credits, then panic attack hits. You start dry heaving, sweating, and fidgeting trying to “ignore” and “push through” the feelings. It only makes it worse. So you need to leave. Since they were your ride, they have to leave too. Now they are angry with you. Not only did you ruin their night out, but you cost them $xxx for the tickets and the popcorn they didn’t get to enjoy. You didn’t mean to ruin the evening. You tried not to. You fought your anxiety and lost. Mental illness can ruin relationships even with the closest people. Often it’s viewed as a character flaw more than an actual medical condition. Family are also full of suggestions. So are strangers. Have you tried using lavender essential oil? If lavender cured anxiety or depression it would cost a million dollars an ounce and you would need a prescription. I think alternative therapies are helpful in conjunction with an overall treatment plan. So I’m not knocking them. They just don’t “cure” anything.

One of the first things people would say to me when they found out I had anxiety or depression was “What are you scared of?” Also, “What do you have to be depressed about?’ This is where the lack of understanding of mental illness is. More like a big misconception about mental illness. We are not crazy and we are not faking it. I had to hide having a mental illness, and listen to people give disparaging remarks about people with mental illness.

My second bout with debilitating anxiety and panic was overseas. I moved to England in the mid-90’s. I was once again under tremendous stress. Money and time were big stressors as was my family. I really didn’t have any support or safe place to fall. I started having panic attacks where I couldn’t travel and it became difficult to attend class. My father is very controlling and not doing what he wanted as far as a major,what school to attend, that I didn’t have a boyfriend, among many other life choices was a constant battle and argument. Nothing, no matter what, was ever good enough. I was never good enough. I would attend university for a semester or a year, then leave and work and repeat, so I could save money to move abroad. I was finally able to do it. I had been in England for a year when the panic attacks started to get really bad.

I was able to handle them quickly with seeing a doctor and a therapist. The doctor didn’t do anything other then recommend yoga. Which I did. It helped a little to try and relax. If I do it (yoga) now it has very little effect on my anxiety now. That is the other thing about anxiety, your treatment may or may not constantly be changed to improve your ever evolving anxiety. I remember first walking into the therapist and crying uncontrollably. The stress was getting to me. How was I going to afford to attend school, where was I going to live, how was I going to pay for everything? I was in a state of worst case scenario and “what if” thinking constantly. This is where talking was extremely helpful. I just needed to get it out of my mind. I was stock piling worries which morphed into anxiety and depression. Fortunately, I was able to get through this rough part and stay in school.

In turn school and finally getting away from my family helped change me for the better. It would be several years and another bout of severe panic before I was able to see the forest through the trees. It was then, this third “episode” that changed the way I handled panic and anxiety.

Part III coming soon.

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