ANXIETY

A child’s anxiety

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.

 

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ANXIETY

CBT again (part two)

Sorry it has taken me so long to write this blog, I have been super busy with my children and I have struggled knowing what to write as my memory of this time is not so good.

I was seeing my counsellor every two weeks and I enjoyed going and talking through how I was feeling but I was struggling completing the tasks she set me for home. I was trying to retrain my brain into knowing that certain feelings and symptoms were normal and not due to me being about to have a panic attack but to be honest I was failing. I would try and tell myself that it was all normal but I would head in to another panic attack. Then my counsellor told me she was leaving as she had a new job, she said she could still see me one more time but then she would have left.

I knew I didn’t want another counsellor as it would mean starting all over again and what if I didn’t get on with them – it could set me back. So I decided that after my last session with her, I would finish CBT. The last session we talked about medication. She explained that she thought that I should give medication a go. I explained my worries over it and how propranolol had made me feel worse. She explained that there were other medications and that maybe I should go to the doctor and ask to be put on Sertraline as she had heard good things about it. I knew she was right – that I had to try something as I didn’t want the rest of my life to be like this. Worrying about having a panic attack and having them. It wasn’t just my life that was being affected but my husbands and my children as there was lots of things I wouldn’t do.

So I decided I had to go back to the doctors. The doctor put me on 50mg Sertraline a day, my next blog will be about how I found the Sertraline.

 

 

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

A family wedding – my first panic attack

In August 2013 we had a family wedding to attend two hours from our home and as the girls were bridesmaids we were going to be staying the night before the wedding in a travelodge and the night of the wedding at the wedding hotel. I was very anxious before setting off and I planned ahead, taking spare underwear, toilet roll and diarrhoea tablets (i had found i felt sick after taking Imodium, so i now took the shops own ones). I made it to the travelodge, we did stop at every services down the motorway for me to go to the toilet and to try and keep me calm. I also drove to keep my mind off it. The stay in the travelodge was fine as I knew we had our own toilet. On the day of the wedding the girls had gone to get ready with the bride (their Grandma had gone with them as i was too anxious). We met them at the hotel, I managed to stay mainly calm during the wedding as I knew there was plenty of toilets and we also had our own room with a toilet if i needed to disappear there.
I had a few drinks that night (I don’t often drink but we decided as we had a hotel and to try and keep me calm that i would drink abit). The next day, my stomach was a mess, I kept having stomach pains and having to run to the toilet. But luckily we were still at the hotel and we had our own toilet. But at 12pm we had to check out and i could not get off the toilet as i was anxious about where there was going to be another toilet.
The family had said we would all go to my husbands Grandads flat (where there was only one toilet and about 12 of us in the flat). As we arrived there I needed the toilet straight away. But once on it, I did not want to get off as I knew that someone else might use it and then I wouldn’t have a toilet to use. I did have to get off it in the end, and soon someone else needed the toilet. While they were in the toilet my stomach flipped again. I felt really hot, i was sweating and shaking and I quickly decided I could not wait and I asked my husbands auntie for key to her house (she lived a few roads away). I ran off to the house and shut myself in her toilet. The problem was even though I know had a toilet to use I was worrying about what would happen when everyone came home and also how I was going to make it home down the motorway for two hours. My heart started beating really fast, i thought it was going to break out of my chest, i was shaking, my teeth were chattering and i was sweating. My breathing started to get erratic. I rang my husband and said he needed to come, that i thought i was dying. This was my first proper panic attack – it was horrendous!!
My husband came and tried to calm me down but it wasn’t helping. He ended up asking everyone at his Grandads to leave and he took me back there, just me and him and we led down and he tried to get me to sleep so I would calm down. He kept telling me to breathe and would occasionally shout at me to calm down as he could feel my heartbeat getting faster again. After about three hours, I had calmed down quite abit but I was still anxious and I was still shaking.
We decided we needed to try to drive home, but as it was my husbands birthday (yes I had completly ruined his birthday and made it all about me – even though I did not want that) he had been drinking and therefore I had to drive us home. We set off but I soon missed the turning for the motorway as my mind was not on the road but on my anxiety and where there was a toilet. Missing the motorway turning freaked me out even more as atleast on the motorway i knew there would be service stations with toilets. My husband shouted me, and my attention came back to the road and i realised I was driving on the wrong side of the road. At this point my husband made me pull over to calm me down again. Once i had partially calmed we set off again. I kept my attention on getting to the next service station. I remember stopping at one of the services (we stopped at them all) and after i had been to the toilet i was walking back to the car chewing gum and I didn’t feel like me at all. I felt crazy, and even thought that I was going to be sectioned as thats where I should be.

It was an awful awful day – and that was the start of my panic attacks!