When I first began experiencing anxiety and panic attacks I had no idea what they were. I would walk around a shop and suddenly be hit by a wave – I’d feel dizzy and convinced I was about to pass out. I can’t tell you the number of times I ditched the basket and walked home as quickly as I could, to hide in bed for the rest of the day. For years I lived in fear, certain something was seriously wrong with me. I was too afraid to go to the doctors and I didn’t really talk about what was happening with anyone in my circle. I closed up and as a result things got worse and I ended up scared to leave the house. I was unable to work, I stopped seeing friends, answering the door and the phone. When I did try to explain what was happening I felt worse and it would bring on a panic attack – not that I knew that’s what is was, I always just thought I was going to die.
I wish in those lost years that I truly explained to the doctors how severe things were. I told them the basics, that I would think I was dying, feel dizzy and like I was going to pass out. I told them that I didn’t like being out or going to shops and they put it down to social anxiety. What I didn’t explain is that I would cry and panic before I had to leave the house. If I had a family do coming up I would spend the weeks before not sleeping a wink, getting more and more anxious each day. I wouldn’t eat. When I did go out my heart would be racing and I would be filled with panic and fear. My legs felt like they wouldn’t work properly, my eyesight would blur and my ears and head would be filled with my racing heartbeat. I wish I had told them I would cancel plans that were made, hide in my house and avoid seeing family and friends and if someone knocked on the door I would freeze and hide until they left. I wish I had explained to the doctor that I was not going to go to counselling because the thought of getting there and sitting in a waiting room was too much for me to cope with.
I let friends and family down on countless occasions. I wish I could have told them what was happening sooner, because when I did it took some of the stress away. It didn’t matter if they couldn’t fully understand why, but at least I wasn’t lying or hiding any more.
Move on 20 years and I know exactly what was happening to me back then. I know two decades of my life were spent not living because I was unable to manage what was wrong. I could have spent those 20 years enjoying life and not living in fear of dropping dead.
If you’re struggling with life and living in fear of what’s going on with you I beg you to seek help. Speak to your doctor and be 100% honest. If they offer you options that you cannot face, tell them your concerns, don’t just say OK and walk out and not do anything to take steps in the right direction. There are groups available where you can find help if you’re not able to go to the doctor yet or for additional support.
Speak to your friends and don’t be afraid to speak to your colleagues. Tell your family, let them know that you don’t mean to let them down but that you are struggling. You’ll be surprised how many people have lived through the same issues or know people who are. There is help out there and you are not alone.
I wish I had talked.