Panic attacks: I’ve been there

I can't stop panicking

I’m not sure where my anxiety stems from. I mean, I never had an obvious reason to be anxious. I grew up in a happy family and had a lot of friends at school. I didn’t have any real bumps in life and maybe I expected too much.

One day I got a report card that wasn’t great, with lots of C grades that nobody was really ready for, least of all me. And I think in some way I started to realise that everything wouldn’t be smooth or easy all the time and I began to worry more, not just about my grades or school or what my parents thought, but about everything.

I got really anxious when I realised that I couldn’t control things and I felt like I was on a roller coaster. Then it got really bad. I was supposed to be flying interstate and I usually like flying but this time I started to sweat and then I couldn’t breathe and my heart was racing. I didn’t want to get on the plane, I was so sick with panic. My parents had to talk me through it, and the flight attendants helped, but it was incredibly stressful.

After that I kind of went into meltdown: even going out to meet friends would make me panic and I’d be doing things like digging my fingernails into my hands to try to stop the feelings while saying ‘Please, please stop’ in my head. Once I went to a party but couldn’t go in. I came home and got into bed with my clothes and shoes still on, I was so paralysed by anxiety. I just lay there under the covers, hoping it would stop.

I went to see my doctor who assured me that I wasn’t going to die or anything but still wanted to refer me to a psychiatrist. I felt safe as soon as I sat in that room, like the things that were getting at me couldn’t find me there.

I learned that breathing is the important thing: you have to slow yourself down but there are so many other ways you can learn to cope. I found out that my panic was related to depression and the doctor put me on medication which helped.

Once I didn’t have the threat of panic hanging over me, I immediately felt more relaxed and could see things a bit more clearly. It’s a circle really: once you stop the panic, you immediately feel less worried that you will go into a panic and things start to improve from there.

Taking the tablets made it easier for me to see things normally and rationally again, and most of all it helped me get some control. It’s been eight months since my last panic attack, but I’ll never forget the feeling and I don’t want to feel that way again, ever.