I remember the day of my first panic attack like it was yesterday. I was 19, married and had a son who would be one in another month. It was December, I went to a department store, with my friend, it was about 8 minutes from home. I left the baby with my Mom. My friend and I split up to get our shopping done and before I had put anything into my cart, I started getting hot, my heart was racing, I had no idea what was going on, I just felt the need to run out the door and I did, ran out the door, to the car, drove home and then remembered my friend at the store. This was before everyone had a cell phone so I couldn’t call her. I also couldn’t bring myself to go back there. My Mom saw what I looked like when I ran in and knew I meant it when I said I was feeling sick, so she went and picked her up. That was the start of the nightmare of trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
Over the next few months, it would happen more and more frequently, until it got to the point where I was afraid to go anywhere, afraid of the feelings, afraid of losing control, afraid of dying. I went to doctors, and finally to psychologists and psychiatrists, was put on medication taken off medication. I reached the point where going to get the mail was even hard for me. I tried walking a few steps further each day, getting to the driveway was a major success for me. I had some success with keeping my mind busy, one doctor suggested snapping an elastic on my wrist when I started thinking about the attacks, that helped a bit, but not as much as having someone to talk. A couple of years after my first panic attack, I had another baby, a beautiful baby girl. I am not sure how I made it to the hospital, I spent the whole pregnancy terrified of that trip. I skipped doctor visits, and ended up hiring a midwife to come to the house. We got to the hospital somehow, 15 minutes from the time I finally left the house, my daughter came into the world.
I missed so much of their life, and mine living in fear. Over the years, the kids grew up, Grandma took them out more than Mommy. I had months at a time when I could be normal and go and do things, then it would always come back. The only place I felt safe was home. My Mom passed away and my husband three years later, I was on my own and the panic came back even worse. I was with my husband since I was 18, he was my protector. I was afraid of everything, I started shaking, my hair was falling out, I couldn’t go out and get a job, I lost my house and now three years later here I am.
I am writing this to let you know don’t give up. Don’t get down on yourself, people will say just do it, just go and I want you to know that there is someone who understands that they might as well be telling you to build a spaceship and fly to the moon.
I also want to tell you that it can and does get better. I’m in a new house, it’s not mine, but I’m renting for now and I survivied the move, I am happier, I am venturing out more and more and have surprised myself by all that I can do. I still get nervous and panicked at times, but I’m working on not letting it win. You don’t have to run a marathon, just take baby steps. There are days when the baby step might just be getting out of bed, and if that’s it, do it and be proud of yourself for doing it. It’s OK not to be able to solve every problem or do everything perfectly. Give yourself permission to be happy. Sounds weird, I know, but I had to do that. I didn’t feel I deserved to be happy, I still have to remind myself of that sometimes. Try to find something to laugh about each day. Get dressed every day, even if you know you’re not going anywhere, get dressed, you’ll feel better.
YOU’RE NORMAL, yes I wrote in caps and I’m yelling because you need to hear it. Say it over and over and believe it. You are. If you need help or someone to talk you through going somewhere, help finding a job you can do, or just someone to listen, feel free to get in touch with me. I am not a professional, but I can be your friend. Good luck. You can do it.