Mental health is one of the most talked about topics at present and so it should be. Having dealt with anxiety and panic attacks for just over 2 years now, I can honestly say it’s nothing but horrendous. They started at random and sadly, since having experienced my first one I easily get panicked and revert to an anxious state. Even when I’m in situations that really shouldn’t phase me, I get phased. This blog will explain my experience battling anxiety and panic attacks.
When My Panic Attacks Started
I can’t remember the exact date but I believe it was in October 2016. At the time I was in year 12 at college. I’m not going to go into the full details because it was horrible and it’s personal to me. I was driving in the car with Tyler and all of a sudden my body felt extremely weird. It was as though my heart was beating that fast it kept jumping beats and I’d get a sensation that the inside of my body was being drenched in water, making me shiver and shake. I was with my boyfriend, Tyler, so I kept talking to him saying I really don’t feel well. We were sat in my car on the way home, though I immediately had to stop and get out. I began feeling extremely claustrophobic as if the car was caving in on me. I couldn’t breathe. To make it worse it was dark outside and everything felt kind of eerie and creepy. Though, that was most likely due to feeling like I was going to die.
In the Thick of It
Tyler was trying to calm me down by talking to me, saying “your fine, just calm down.” As sweet as it was I couldn’t calm down and the fact I didn’t know why the hell I was feeling that way made it so much worse. I honestly thought it was “my time”. I could feel my heart pounding and pounding and pounding. My head felt as though it was pulsating, going bigger and smaller with every breath I took. I remember leaning into Tyler for comfort. At first, it seemed to work. I took one deep breathe, deep enough to stop me thinking of death for a split second. Only, when I had fully exhaled I could feel my heart racing again and it was emphasised when I was pressed against his chest. I immediately stepped back, scared my heart was going to fail.
We got back in the car in an attempt to go home. We were about 10 minutes from my house. I just wanted to go home and tell someone to get the ambulance but I couldn’t. We started on our way back. My legs shaking on the pedals making it hard to drive. Tyler couldn’t drive my car, he wasn’t insured and considering we’d both passed only last year, we didn’t want to risk anything. I tried to grip the steering wheel but my fingers were so tense and they started curling up and widening out until they looked deformed. They wouldn’t go back to normal. (I can’t actually remember why your body does that, though the ambulance did tell me when I had another panic attack a few months later.)
I’d managed to drive us down the road slightly before it all became too much. I pulled to the side of what was a pretty busy road. Cars were able to go up to 50 mph so yeah, it was pretty ridiculous of me but I could not for the life of me continue driving. Tyler was going to risk it and finish driving us back. It was only 5-7 minutes away. We got out the car to swap seats. I was an absolute state, I was near to tears saying “I need an ambulance!”, though I wasn’t crying. To this day, I still don’t cry when I have a panic attack but instead, get extremely frustrated and annoyed that I’m feeling that way.
In my mind, it was life and death and I felt so scared and helpless. He held me at the side of the road as I kept trying to flag cars down to get reassurance from another driver, that I was okay. The thing is, as much as Tyler tried to reassure me I just couldn’t take that what he was saying was true. I wanted an adult figure or someone who was experienced, preferably a doctor or just mum or dad to tell me that everything was okay. I felt so young and vulnerable.
After multiple failed attempts I was finally able to flag someone down. I remember looking at her and without meaning to offend, thought she looked just as creepy as I probably. I started by asking her to feel my heart and for her opinion if I was dying or not. What an embarrassing moment in my life. She kept saying “you’ve probably just got heart palpitations”. I kept thinking “right, right okay, what the fuck are heart palpitations?!” Whilst I was talking to the lady, Tyler was on the phone with his best friend. I remember overhearing him say “mate, Kate’s in a bad way, can you come to her house?” Of course, he didn’t believe Tyler at first. He sounded like a madman. Tyler finished his call; the lady drove off and we attempted to go home.
Tyler got into the driver’s side and as much as he was shitting himself, drove us safely home. I was in the passenger side and had reclined my seat so that I was practically lying down. He kept talking to me telling me how far away we were. We got home, I walked straight upstairs shouting “hiya” to my dad and sister in the living-room. I got into bed and lay there, slightly less panicked but still feeling atrocious.
Tyler’s friend came shortly. We told him about what just happened and oddly enough, explaining it all acted as a distraction from my breathlessness and racing heart. I slowly started calming down. They both sat with me for a while and looked after me, making sure I had a drink of water and was relaxing. Anyone would have thought I’d just come out from an operation and my body was too sore to move. Weirdly, that’s exactly how I felt. I was both mentally and physically exhausted. I ended up drifting off to sleep after some time and they went.
Panic Attack Round Two
I had work the next day and unfortunately the anxious episode I had the night before led to me having another panic attack the following day. It was that bad I ended up getting sent home and my dad came and picked me up. Due to feeling that awful on the drive home, we decided to go to my mum’s house and call an ambulance as it was closer than my dad’s. Both my mum and Emma were there already and I remember my sister crying thinking I was going to die which made me start to tear up.
On the phone to the ambulance, they were asking my mum to check my legs to see if they were blotchy, which they were. I confirmed this and she asked me to get someone to check my temperature which came out as very high. I remember thinking all of the symptoms she was asking me to check for were true and that I really was ill. The ambulance got there and after taking my blood, oxygen levels and heart rate, he basically confirmed it was only a panic attack and I need not worry. I sat there and felt like “What was all the fuss about?” Though, when he’d gone I still felt quite shaky.
The Importance of Supportive People
Since then, I’ve only had the ambulance come out to me one more time, though I’ve had plenty more panic attacks. It’s been over 2 years since my first one and I’ve come a long, long way in terms of dealing with it. I am so, so, so grateful to have had both Tyler and my family with me when I went through each panic attack. They’ve experienced the whole thing with me first-hand and as a result, couldn’t be more understanding of it all.
Most people who weren’t there don’t get why I’m so against doing anything that can cause a panic attack. (Such as drinking alcohol.) Though, I don’t blame them. When I was in year 10 – 11 of high school I was drunk every weekend, some weekdays too. I was always partying and couldn’t think of anything better than getting hammered with my friends. Although I still want to have fun with everyone, if it involves me drinking alcohol I won’t do it.
With my anxiety being so bad, I went to the doctors a few times. They confirmed drinking alcohol is a reason for them to happen. If I do, I end up waking up at 3 am in the morning with crazy heart palpitations. It’s weird because I’m able to fall asleep pretty okay, though I cannot sleep through. Apparently, it’s something I will end up growing out of. In my head I know it’s “just a panic attack” yet, I can’t seem to escape that anxious state I get into. I get stick for not drinking and people find me boring but I’m not going to put myself through those horrific feelings for the sake of socialising. My mental health means more to me than drinking alcohol which isn’t good for you, panic attacks or not.