ANXIETY

Panic Disorder – asking for help

The panicking about having another panic attack continued. I felt low about myself and angry at myself for succumbing to the panic and missing my friends hen party and now her wedding. Another of my friends was getting married in a few weeks and I knew I needed help to be able to go. So I went back to the doctors and asked for help. I explained what had been happening since the last time I saw him and my symptoms of a panic attack. He agreed with the doctor at the hospital who said it was panic disorder. He offered me tablets but after my experience of taking propranolol, I never wanted to take tablets again. I asked if I had could have another course of CBT.

In the meantime, while waiting for my CBT to start I tried my own techniques and my husband helped me. Every time I felt a panic attack coming on I would try to distract myself or if that didn’t work I would lie in a quiet room with a YouTube calm down video on.

During this time, it was my other friends wedding. Me and my husband were going and we were staying in a hotel very close to the venue with a group of my friends (including my friend whose wedding I had missed and her husband). I was nervous about seeing her as I felt so bad about missing her wedding, I had wanted to be there so much. I managed this wedding ok. We set off in plenty of time to ensure we had time for me to stop and use a toilet if needed. I had my water, diarrhoea tablets and listened to music to distract me. For the actual wedding I made sure to sit on an aisle seat so that I could leave quickly if I needed too, but I was determined not to miss another friends wedding. I wouldn’t say I was relaxed during the service, but I was able to enjoy seeing my friends get married. I also knew that they knew all about my panic attacks and they would understand if I had to run out, which made me feel more at ease. The party bit of the wedding was great and I ate my delicious three course meal and even enjoyed a dance. But later through the night, the music suddenly got to me. The loud bass suddenly made me feel very panicky, and I told my husband we needed to go back to the hotel as I could feel a panic attack coming on. All our friends tried to get us to stay but I knew I couldn’t. Walking back to the hotel my husband had to basically carry me. I was shaking so much and just couldn’t hold my own weight. We got back to the room and led on the bed, my husband was trying to distract me and he put a YouTube video on his phone but it wasn’t really helping. My breathing was getting faster, he decided to get me in the shower to try and cool me and calm me. This worked a bit and after he distracted me with playing cards. But the thought of staying in a hotel overnight was frightening, as the last time I had done that I had ended up in hospital with a panic attack and I had thought I was going to die.

I did try and stay but my mind wasn’t having it. So we decided it was best to drive home. I hadn’t been drinking (as it makes my panic worse, so I was able to drive home).

 

Even though I hadn’t managed to stay out overnight I hadn’t missed my friends wedding so I was proud of myself for that and I had had a good time at the wedding.

ANXIETY

A and E – Panic disorder

The trip to the hospital was long, the paramedic sat in the back with me was talking to me the whole way, she was telling me about her own dealings with anxiety and how she had only recently returned to work about an episode of panic attacks, (il never know whether this was the truth but it helped me at that time, knowing I wasn’t the only person going through it). When we got to the hospital they stayed with me for a while but as the hospital was so busy I was just on a corridor on the bed I had been on in the ambulance. By this time my breathing had calmed down and my heart rate had slowed but I was still on edge. They finally got me a room and a nurse came and did all my obs. They decided I needed a blood test and told me it would be a few hours wait for the results and that I could not leave until they were back as they were unsure what was wrong.

I realised at this point that I had missed my friends wedding. My husband had rang another friend to let them know what had happened and how we wouldn’t be there. I couldn’t believe I had made it all the way to Essex but had missed the wedding of one of my best friends. It was a long wait for my blood results and the girls were getting bored and started playing up, but at least that meant my attention was on dealing with them. My husband was amazing throughout all of this. We spoke about what we were going to do, but as I was still very panicky (my breathing and heartrate were back to normal, but the thoughts in my head and the feeling of not really being with it were still there) we decided we needed to cancel the other hotel and drive home.

My blood test results came back normal and they said I had suffered from a panic attack and that the reason my obs had been funny was because I hadn’t eaten anything for so long. I asked them what they could do to help me return home without having another panic attack. I wanted them to inject me with some sort of relaxant but they said they could not give me anything and that I would have to see my own doctor at home for some medication. This made me even more panicky as I didn’t know if I could make it the whole way home. My husband convinced me to just take it one step at a time, and the first step was to walk to the car. I did this, he was driving (obviously in the state I was in I could not have driven a car), and then we set off. I remember feeling like I was in a trance and that I should be locked up in an institution. I thought I would never feel normal again. I listened to one song continuously – ‘Cheerleader’ I sang along to it with my knees pulled up to my chest. Somehow we got home. I went straight to bed but I couldn’t sleep as I was still feeling on edge. This lasted all night and the next day. It was like I was going to slip into another panic attack at any moment, my brain would not stop whizzing, my heart was beating faster than normal and I just didn’t feel normal at all.

The next day my husband persuaded me to come with them to a playcentre (seen as the girls had missed out on the wedding and we had also planned to go to London the day after the wedding to see Buckingham Palace). I did go, and I spent most of the time going to the toilet and back, I felt sick and I did not enjoy being out of the house one little bit. I knew a panic attack was on its way.

As soon as we got home I went upstairs and within 10 minutes of being home a panic attack had started. My husband didn’t know what to do. He had the girls to think of who had no idea what was happening to their mum and were worrying about it. He was worried himself and then I was in a full blown panic attack again. He rang his mum to come and help. I tried listening to Cheerleader to try and calm me and then I tried listening to a YouTube calming video, which talks you out of your panic attack. I did settle down once listening to this but I still felt on edge for days after, just waiting for another panic attack to start.

I was now worrying about having a panic attack. Panic Disorder is what I had developed and it was horrendous.

ANXIETY

“I’m dying”

So I had missed out on my friends hen do and also on over £200 on which I had already paid out and didn’t get to enjoy. I felt awful, £200 is a lot of money to waste when we do not have much money and I have a family to provide for. We had already booked our hotels for the wedding, and I was determined to be able to make her wedding. It was in Essex and the church was quite along way from the venue so we had two different hotels booked, both premier inns but one near the church for the night before and one for near the venue for after the wedding.

The day we had to travel to Essex I was working during the day and the girls were at school and we were to set off once we had finished. I tried not to think about the journey during work, but I didn’t dare eat as I was scared of needing the toilet while in the car. I had taken diarrhoea tablets (as I now took with me everywhere and took before I went anywhere). My husband was meant to drive but he had not managed to sleep the night before and was shattered. So I had to drive, I took toilet roll and bin bags in the car with me so if I needed the toilet I could go in the car if the worst came to it. I managed really well driving, listened to music to keep me calm and played I spy and Who am I? with the girls. As we were driving down, our friends who had set off earlier in the day had rang to say that the M25 was closed due to an accident and that the traffic was not moving. This got me panicked. So we decided to stop at a services for me to go to the toilet and I got a subway as I had not eaten all day. We got back in the car but I had asked my husband to drive as I had been working all day and then driving for five hours by this point so I was tired, hungry and anxious. I only managed to eat a couple of bites of my sandwich as I felt sick with my anxiousness. The next three hours were so long, we kept getting stuck in traffic that was not moving, I was desperately trying to keep myself calm by playing games with the girls, singing to the music, opening the window to cool myself down. By the time we arrived at the hotel it was nearly midnight and so we unpacked the car and all climbed into bed. We were all sharing a room, and the girls and my husband fell asleep pretty quickly. I tried to eat a couple of biscuits as I knew I hadn’t eaten all day but I really had to force them down.

That night was probably the worst of my life – I did not sleep at all but instead spent all night panicking. I don’t even know what I was panicking over as I was now safe in a hotel room with our own toilet but I just could not calm myself down. I didn’t want to wake my husband as I knew he had not slept the night before. I just lay there shaking, my heart beating so fast and worries going over and over in my head. I remember my husband hugging me at one point in his sleep and he suddenly woke up and said why are you shaking so much and told me to slow my breathing down. But I could not.

In the morning we went into the pub next door for our breakfast (which was included with the room). I knew I needed a lot of food to get my strength up after not eating the day before and being awake all night panicking. I put lots of food on my plate and went and sat down to eat, but the first mouthful had me running to the toilet to be sick. I then told my husband I did not feel well and I left them to go back to the hotel room. Walking to the room, I had to hold on to the wall as I was shaking and struggling to stay upright. When I got back to the room I sat on the toilet for a while, shaking so much. My breathing was erratic and my heart was beating so fast. I thought I was dying. By the time the girls and my husband came back to the room I was a complete mess. I was screaming at them to get me help, I told them I was dying. My husband had to try and calm me but also calm the girls down (they were only 7 and 5 and their mum was telling them she was dying).

It got so bad that in the end my husband phoned 111. But they were taking so long to get back to him and I was just getting worse that he ended up phoning 999. An ambulance turned up not long after and they did my obs. They asked me to control my breathing but I couldn’t. They said they thought it was a panic attack but something in my obs was worrying them and so they wanted to take me in to the hospital. They had to call for an ambulance as the one that had attended had been a car and they couldn’t take me in that.

My husband said he would get the girls ready and pack up the hotel room and then come to the hospital. The paramedics had to decide which hospital to take me too as there was a few all within the same distance of the hotel. They decided on Harlow.

ANXIETY

Continuing Anxiety

For the next year things were still the same. I would worry about going to the toilet and I would get myself worked up before going anywhere, but I was trying to use the tools I learnt from CBT and make sure I still went to different events. I managed to go to the Grand National – although I did have a bit of a panic when getting on the train. I had to sit near the toilet, I made sure I had taken diarrhoea tablets before and I took a bottle of water with me. My husband kept talking to me to keep me calm. The first train was only a short journey and then we had to get off and wait at the next station. There was so many people waiting for the train, I felt a bit panicked at how many people were getting on. When we got on there was no seats left, and we were stood in the doorway with lots of other people. I felt all hot and flustered. I started shaking and I knew I could not stay on. I quickly pulled my husband off the train. He asked if I was ok and I said I could not manage the journey with all those people and not being able to get to the toilet. Anyway, we managed to get on the next train (which was 45mins later) and I managed the day as I knew where all the toilets were and I used them regularly.

We also went on family days out, and I managed to go on them but didn’t always manage all of the activities. On a trip to the farm there was a train ride (and when I say train ride, it was like a tiny train that was just 5 mins to a little playground and then 5 mins there and 5 mins back) I said yes il come on it. But as I sat on the train waiting for it to start I was panicking about the fact I wouldn’t be able to get to the toilet, and I got off the train. My children still got to go on with my husband but I missed out on their enjoyment. Now writing this, I can’t believe I could not manage that very short train trip but my anxiety was so much worse then than it is now. Another time we took the girls on a steam train ride, again it was only short, probably about 10/15 mins each way. I did get on this, but as we set off I started panicking. My husband went to look for a toilet and he did find one but it was an old one that was not in use or hooked up to anything. But I was so panicky by this point, so I went and sat on the toilet to make myself feel better. I didn’t actually use the toilet but it made me feel more at ease knowing I could use it if I needed. But again even though I was technically with my family on the train, I had actually missed being with them.

These were just some of the events I can remember where my anxiety was a major problem but there was a lot more of them.

By the following year one of my friends announced her engagement and the wedding was booked for a couple of months later. Her hen party was organised for a weekend down in London. I so wanted to go, she had been one of my best friends since high school. So I paid for the hen do as I really wanted to be there to celebrate but I knew my anxiety would be an issue. I did my research before and found all the toilets on the train, I found all the toilets for everywhere we would be going. I did feel ok for the few nights and days before. But the night before the hen do I was led in bed panicking. This was my second proper panic attack. My husband managed to calm me after a long time of panicking and he said I wasn’t going on the hen do.

I missed out on an amazing weekend that all my friends had celebrating the last few weeks of my friend being unmarried.

ANXIETY

My Graduation – I did it!

The day before my graduation I was feeling nervous and as I had won our family sweepstake on the world cup I decided to treat myself to a massage. I don’t think that any of us treat ourselves enough, and a massage is definitely something to have as often as you can afford as it is very relaxing and helps relieve the stresses of life. I had an aromatherapy massage with specific oils good for anxiety. My friend Kath Matthews has her own company ‘Elite Holistic Therapies’ (find her on Facebook) and she came to my house which is brilliant for my anxiety as I can feel very relaxed. The massage was amazing and definitely helped to relax me.

So I slept well the night before but in the morning woke up anxious. I got the girls ready for school and my son ready for his childminders. I got myself ready and me and my husband took everyone to where they needed to be. My stomach was doing somersaults and I ended up stuck on the toilet at my parents house while waiting for my mother-in-law to pick us up. I felt sick with nerves at the thought of not being able to leave the room to go to the toilet (even though I knew I had been ok recently since taking my Sertraline). We got there and my husband kept having to tell me to calm down (I was getting narky with him for nothing because of my nerves).

Then it started – and it was long but my nerves had mainly gone, I was just worried I would trip on the stage as my gown was pretty long. But I did it, and I didn’t fall. I realised that everyone around me was also nervous of falling.

My friends and me had done it – we had completed our foundation degree (me with a distinction) and had graduated. It was photo time and celebration time, and we had been told we got to keep our hats so I wore mine out for lunch.

I am very proud of myself for managing my graduation and I am reminding you all to praise yourself when you make little steps!

ANXIETY

My Graduation nerves

Tomorrow is my graduation from my Foundation Degree. Three years ago when I first started my degree I did not think I would ever attend a graduation. Even the first day of uni was hard. I remember feeling very anxious about starting, especially thinking about whether I will need the toilet during a lesson. I was worried that I would have a panic attack. As soon as I arrived and was sat in the class waiting for the lesson to start, I started panicking. So I got up to leave, but the tutor (the best tutor iv ever had who has supported me so much throughout my degree) stopped me and asked me if I was ok. We went into a private area and I explained about my anxiety and panic attacks and also my IBS. She said I was not to worry and if I needed to leave the classroom at any point then that was fine and to just come back when I was ready. This made me feel so much better and I was able to get through my first day without having to leave the classroom.

Now three years later and my anxiety is a lot more under control due to my Sertraline and also the tips I have learnt from counselling and making sure I explain to people how I feel, which always makes me feel better as I know if I have to leave they understand why. I am looking forward to my graduation tomorrow. I am still nervous as I do not like being in rooms that are hot and packed full of people and I am also very nervous about walking across the stage. What if I fall? (which is quite likely for me as I am pretty clumsy) What if I laugh at a bad time? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I don’t hear my name being called? What is going to happen?

But I am pretty sure that all these thoughts are normal for anyone about to graduate. Surely no one feels completely calm and happy in these situations. I know I have my uni friends to support me and I will support them and hopefully we will all be able to celebrate our success.

ANXIETY

Tips for calming your anxiety

The counsellor gave me many tips and sheets on how to work through your anxiety and panic attacks which I will get on to. But I have found a few of my own

  • Adult colouring books (these are not rude like my husband thought I meant) they are just colouring books for adults and they really help me distract my mind from my anxiety.
  • Watching the soaps and reading as they take you into a different world that is not your own – again distraction
  • If I am in the car I open the window and listen to music
  • Listening to music
  • Listening to you tube channels with a calming voice specifically to calm you from anxiety
  • write down your worries when they come

Now for the counsellors tips:

  • stop and breathe, think you can do this
  • think I have done this before and I can do it again
  • remember how your feeling won’t last forever, it is only temporary
  • Create a worry period, and when a worry comes postpone it till your worry period
  • Breathing exercises
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Use the worry tree

 

The Worry Tree

Notice the worry

“What am I worrying about?”

“Is this worry about a current problem or a hypothetical situation?” or “can I do something about this?”

If the answer is no then:                                                                       If the answer is yes then:

Let the worry go                                                                                      make an action plan

Change your focus of attention                                                            then let the worry go

Change your focus of attention

ANXIETY

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

I finally started my CBT, I felt very anxious about my first one as I was worried about needing the toilet while waiting for my name to be called and that I would miss my name or being in the appointment and needing the toilet and not having the courage to say I needed to go. But I had nothing to worry about as the counsellor straight away put me at ease, she said if I needed to leave that was absolutely fine. The first session was mainly just me explaining what had happened to make me attend CBT. Then over the next few weeks (I had 6 appointments in total) we worked through my thoughts and feelings and how these affected my actions. We talked about how I was avoiding certain situations and how this was not helping. I had homework to complete each week, where I had to keep notes on the thoughts that went through my head, the physical changes that happened to my body and then my actions to try and deal with these.

Each week we would set a target together for me, one week it was to go to my parent in laws and have Sunday dinner and not to sit at the end of the table where it was easy to get out. This was really hard for me as I always needed to know I could get to the toilet quickly, and this was a situation where there was 8 of us in the house with only one toilet and I was going to be sitting where I felt trapped in. But I tried really hard and managed to do this but I did feel very anxious while doing it. At my next session the counsellor explained that although I had felt anxious, I had managed it and nothing bad had happened. She said I was to congratulate myself every time I did something like this and got through it. To be honest I felt a bit silly saying well done to myself but in time I realised that I really needed it to help me succeed.

As my counselling was coming to an end I didn’t feel like I was ok but I felt like I was working towards it and she gave me the tools to help myself. She also gave me handouts to remind myself what I needed to do. The day after my last session we were due to fly to Disneyland Paris (somewhere I had never been and I was very excited to be taking my two little girls, who were 5 and 3 at the time). I was very nervous about the drive to the airport, the flight and then being there. I took toilet roll and spare clothes in the car, my husband drove and I sat on a bin bag just to make myself feel better in case I needed the toilet. We listened to a YouTube calming channel the whole way to keep me calm. I managed it, and every little step I did my husband would tell me well done for reaching that part. Before the flight I must have gone to the toilet about 15 times just to make myself feel better, on the plane I quickly identified where the toilets were and watched intently when people used it and made sure I went regularly. Iv got to say although I kept putting things in place for my anxiety and IBS we did have an amazing time. I got to see my daughters faces when they met Cinderella (one of the best experiences of my life) and their thrill on all the rides. I was so proud of myself after that I had got to share in their happiness with them and that I hadn’t ruined it for them.

For now my anxiety was under control – I was still avoiding social situations and I was putting things in place when I did do stuff (checking for toilets, taking toilet roll with me) but I was coping.

Things were to change again though…

ANXIETY

The long wait for CBT

For the next few months while waiting for my CBT to start, I really struggled. I would leave the house for work, but I had to ensure that I got myself and the girls ready in enough time so that I had time to spend on the toilet. Knowing that the ten minute car journey was too far for my anxiety to cope with. I would avoid going to anyone’s house who had only one toilet or where there would be lots of people, this included my parent-in-laws as they only have one toilet and my anxiety would spike every time someone went to the toilet, so I would put off going at all, which would obviously cause problems for all the family, as we would not all be able to be together and it was me that was stopping that. Everyone was brilliant and tried to understand how I felt, but if you have never suffered from any anxiety or depression it is very difficult to understand how that person feels.

I didn’t go out with friends, I didn’t go out with the family. I just lived in the confines of my own house and went to work. I explained to everyone at work my difficulties and they were all really understanding. Knowing I could walk out of class at anytime if I needed the toilet, kept me calm. I also could not go on any trips with the school children.

I had to know everything in advance so I could plan and ensure there were toilets and as soon as I arrived anywhere I would scan for the toilets. My whole life was taken up with finding toilets.

As some people will know it is that thought that you can’t go to the toilet that is often the hardest. So going to watch a show is a definite no for someone with this mindset as you feel you cannot go to the toilet as you will disturb other people and annoy them. Even though a lot of people will think this is silly, it doesn’t feel silly when its you feeling like this.

 

ANXIETY

Time to get help

Having a full on panic attack and feeling like I needed to be sectioned made me seek help from the doctor. Prior to this I had never asked for help as I thought I would be laughed at. But this panic attack had scared me and I realised I was not going to get better without some help. I went to the doctors on my own as I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone else to hear what I had going on in my own head (like the feelings of ‘I need to be sectioned’). The doctor was brilliant and really listened to me (I know they don’t always listen, but normally with mental health they are brilliant). The doctor said that she would refer me for some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). I was happy to be referred, but she said there would be at least a three month wait. That was a shock, as I needed help then not in three months. I couldn’t imagine how much worse I would be in three months time. So I explained that I could not wait, and she said she would prescribe me some Propranolol. She said I was only to take it if I was going to be doing something where I would get anxious.

I was nervous to take the tablets, as I didn’t know what to expect and I had never expected I would end up on tablets for my mental health.

But that next week we were off to Centre Parcs, and my husband was going to be driving up later as he was working. So me and the girls were going with my Mum. I got up and had some breakfast and took the Propranolol one hour before my Mum was due to pick us up. I felt very nervous about the journey (its only an hour away but a long way for me not knowing where the nearest toilet was). I also felt nervous about taking the tablets. I was on the toilet most of the time waiting for Mum as my anxiety was causing me to need it.

By the time my Mum came I was not feeling good at all. My heart was beating so fast. I believed the tablets were causing me to get worse. I felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest it was beating so fast. The journey was horrendous and we had to keep stopping so my Mum could calm me down. The tablets had made me so much worse.

I never took the Propranolol again!