Since I can remember my eldest daughter has suffered from anxiety. She has always worried about her families, friends and her own health, she has worried about the house burning down, everything she can worry about – she does. We use to think it was something she would grow out of. She would check we had locked the doors, check we had turned off the hob and the oven and would ask us to check too.
But then came the 22nd May 2017 – the day that changed her life and most peoples in England. She and her sister had received tickets for Ariana Grande’s concert for Christmas. As I was due to give birth on the 20th May (he came on the 15th) we had asked my sister to take the girls to the concert. They were very excited as they had watched Ariana on TV for a few years on Victorious and Sam and Cat and loved her.
After school they got ready and went to the train station with my sister. The train was cancelled and the next one they could get was going to mean they missed the support acts. But this is what happened as they couldn’t get an earlier train. I had a text off them to say they had arrived and then a photo of them enjoying the concert.
I then went to sleep as my baby was only a few days old and I was trying to sleep when he was. My husband was going to drive to Manchester to pick them up so I knew they were in safe hands.
But I was awoken by my phone ringing, my sister spoke and said “I am just letting you know we are all ok”. I said “ok” i thought it was wierd her ringing to say they were ok as i hadn’t thought they wouldn’t be. But then she said “have you not seen the news?” I hadn’t. She told me what had happened.
They had been enjoying the show and then Ariana had gone off stage and had been called back on for a final song. She came on and sang “One last time”. Hollie had needed the toilet at this point but my sister had said for her to wait. As you all know what happened next, i won’t explain it. I know a lot of people’s lives changed for ever that day – 22 lives lost, many injured. My daughter Ella’s story is that of post traumatic stress disorder.
Ella was trampled on in the fight to escape the building – her shoe had come off and she was trying to get it back. She was very slightly injured but nothing that needed medical attention – she was very lucky in this respect. My sister did an excellent job of keeping my daughters both safe and i will be eternally grateful to her for this. When my husband arrived he saw what had happened and was focused on finding the girls and my sister and getting them to safety – which he did. When the girls arrived home they were in shock – all they could think of was praying that Ariana was ok. I don’t think at their age they had understood the scale as to what had happened and all the people involved. At that point we wanted to shelter them from it.
But the next day at school (they went in late, but it was their sports day so we knew it would distract them) everyone was talking about what had happened. The news was all about it (as obviously it would be) and so our plan to shelter them from it, came to an end and we had to answer their many many questions. This continued for the following weeks as everytime the radio was on there would be a report on it and the girls would have more questions.
At first we thought they were both dealing with it well, considering. But as time went on we realised Ella was struggling.
Over the summer she stopped eating, her anxiety over everything had got worse. She found chewing hard, as she thought she was going to choke on her food, so instead she stopped eating. This was horrendous to watch your 9 year old daughter being too scared to eat. We took her to the doctors, who confirmed to her there was nothing wrong with her physically to stop her eating but obviously her anxiety needed treatment. She had also started having panic attacks.
CAMHs thankfully got her in very quickly – this was mainly due to the Manchester Resilience Hub ensuring that anyone who had been present at Manchester on that night, that needed counselling, was seen within 2 weeks of seeing a doctor. The Manchester Resilience Hub also sent out questionnaires around this time for anyone who attended the concert to fill in, online. From the results of Ella’s questionnaire – they had phoned me to speak about her results and see in what way they could help.
CAMHs deemed her not to need the post traumatic stress counselling, but that she did need regularly counselling for her anxiety and panic attacks. She started having counselling once a week – i wasn’t allowed in with her. After a few weeks she came out and said i have told them i do not need the counselling anymore. I couldn’t do anything about this, even though i think she should have carried on.
Things got a bit better, she started eating again but she still won’t eat any meat that is chewy as it gets her into a panic. Over the last year or so the panic attacks have become more regular again. Anytime she hears a loud noise from an unknown source or their is an alarm of any kind she goes into a panic. She says she can hear screaming and thinks that their is another terrorist attack. It is horrendous as a parent to see her like this and not be able to do anything to help. A few days ago we were in Morrisons cafe and the fire alarm started going off. Ella started having a panic attack. People were running around, others were hardly moving as no one knew what to do. It turned out to be a false alarm but this did not help as Ella was in a full panic attack by this point. We have realised that we need to find her some more help and support as she seems to be getting worse rather than better.
The Manchester Resilience Hub has been brilliant, they send regular questionnaires which she answers and due to her answers they also ring us quite regularly to see what help they can offer. The problem is that they signpost us to CAMHs who are so overrun that nothing seems to come of it.
I know many people were affected by the attack and alot are far worse off than my daughter but i wanted to share her story to show that it is not just us adults that suffer from anxiety and that although the affects on her are not physical they are still deep and affect her everyday life.