Pammy's layout inspired me...It's such a 'touchy-feely' page, but it's all true. And I guess that as a part of my story, it needed to be scrapped.
There are days when I wake up and know that it's coming. It's something that transcends all other feelings -
it doesn't matter whether the day is good or bad, what I have planned, or who I'm with. It's a nagging voice in my mind, and a sick feeling in my chest. Fear is a companion, and an uninvited guest in my life.
I had my first panic attack when I was eleven years old, following a church youth group discussion on the end of
the world. They say that eleven is a young age to start fighting panic. I agree. But anxiety does not discriminate. You never forget your first attack. Mine came that night, in the bed. Thoughts of the discussion were predominant in
my mind, and suddenly, it was like my body rebelled against me. My heart started racing, and I felt like my chest would explode. My whole body shook, and I couldn't get enough air into my lungs to feel like I was actually breathing. Nothing seemed real, like it was all some dream. I felt, not only like the end of the world was coming right then,
but like I was losing my mind. It was an unimaginable terror. And it was a frequent event, from then on. I've often
wondered whether or not things would be different had I not gone to the youth group meeting. But almost six years later, I've come to realize that that was only the catalyst. There is more to panic disorder than that. It's something that comes from inside me. At that point in my life, I was still very young. I didn't know what panic attacks were. And initially, it was only the one trigger. People around me passed it off as a phase that I would eventually outgrow. This wasn't the case. For the first few years, it was just something that happened. I felt guilty, for doubting my faith. I felt afraid that there was something actually wrong with me. I avoided my trigger - and as long as I could do that, the attacks went away. They were in my life...but they didn't control it. And they didn't control it for a long time. In fact,
there came a time that I almost forgot about them completely. Now I see that the panic didn't go away - it was merely waiting for the right opportunity to come back. And it did. At fifteen, I was already a highschool graduate, and a new 'gypsy.' My family and I sold our house, and decided to travel the country. I had a boyfriend who loved me, and a two week job lined up in San Francisco, where I would get paid to work on an advertising campaign for a computer game that I loved. Life was good. Until I actually got to San Francisco. We drove for five nonstop days to get there on time, and there was no period of rest. The day after I got there, I was up at eight in the morning, and working twelve hour days. This new work schedule, combined with being in the same location as my boyfriend for the first time,
was stressful beyond belief. And the third night I was there, the panic came back. It took on a new form. I no longer needed the trigger, as I had when I was young. The attack came out of the blue. Though it wasn't my very first, I think it may have been more terrifying. The symptoms were the same. The randomness was not, and that made it impossible to control. For the next two weeks, my schedule was this. Go to work at eight, work until around seven. Have dinner. Be in the hotel by nine. Start experiencing panic symptoms. Most nights, the attack would peak around eleven or twelve. When it was over, sleep became impossible, so there was mindless television watching, coupled with unrelenting anxiety about when the next attack might occur, until I could fall asleep, usually around four in the morning. Four hours of sleep, and the day started over. I know now that this was when I truly developed panic disorder. The fear of attacking was unbearable. When we left San Francisco at the end of the two weeks, I was a sleep deprived mess. And that was only the beginning of it. We followed my boyfriend home to Palmdale, a city near Los Angeles, where he and I were promised plenty of together time before my family moved on again. This was during the MTV exploit. It was people, constantly
wanting my attention. I was becoming more and more distant, more and more unwilling to be around anyone. When we left
California, I was emotionally done. The long distance relationship with my boyfriend didn't work out - I didn't think that he could understand what I was going through. My panic not only scared me, but it embarrassed me. I broke off the relationship. I turned sixteen in December, in Texas. The panic disorder was slowly getting worse. By May of this year, it had finally consumed me. I had triggered attacks. I had non triggered attacks. I was scared to death that I would have an attack while I was driving. It took nothing. I couldn't watch the news...or even blurbs of news between television shows. Titles of books in the bookstore would set me off. I had to avoid aisles at Wal Mart where I knew I would see Left Behind books. After being forced to attend a church service in June, I had an attack that kept me in the bed for the rest of the day. My world shrunk.
It was September this year that finally forced me to get help. We were back in NC, preparing to get our house sold. A sinus infection that gave me daily headaches for a month was what finally did it. In my panic riddled mind, a month worth of headaches had to be catastrophic. I started having nightly panic attacks, a part of me convinced that there was a serious health problem going on, and another part of me convinced that I had finally lost my mind. NORMAL people didn't feel this way. I finally went to the doctor.
What I got was an official diagnosis of Panic Disorder and GAD. Initially, I tried anti-anxiety medication... but the stoned feeling left me unable to function. Less functional than I was without it. So I quit. I have one prescription, for a drug that can actually stop an attack. I joined a support group online, and together, we're exploring methods of cognitive behavioural therapy. My parents have been supportive. My friends, even more so. My sister KJ, my ex Pete, and my best friend Kelly have been my rocks, keeping me sane when I started to feel like I was crazy. The ladies in my support group remind me daily that I am not alone. It's been two months. I know now that I may never be entirely panic free. I still have panic attacks. I still fight anxiety daily. But there are good days. And I have good friends reminding me that I can beat this. I believe them.
Panic is a nasty monster. It's like a terrorist that's taken control of your personal airplane. A little voice that whispers in your ear, "you're a psycho. You're not normal. Be afraid." But it's a monster that I will beat, one day at a time.