When I was 18 years old I was under a lot of pressure. I know, which 18 year old isn’t, right? But I really did have a lot on my plate. I was attending College three days a week and also working three days a week, which as you can imagine didn’t leave me with a lot of spare time. That “time” didn’t actually exist though as I was also a carer for my 80 year old Nan who suffered with dementia and incontinence.
See. Pressure. Over flowing plate.
It was a lot to handle.
I can’t pin point a specific date or time when my mind broke, but it did.
As exams edged closer and adult choices about the future grew into a bulbous cancerous burden I started suffering with dizzy spells and a kind of constant sickness that became a thicker mucus at the back of my throat with every passing day.
I started missing work and college.
I couldn’t make myself leave the house, I would come over all weak and shaky.
It continued, getting worse with every feeble attempt I made.
One day I came over all dizzy, my heart started racing and palpitating. Pins and needles crawled up and down my arms making me break out in cold sweats! I thought I was having a heart attack!
Apparently, according to my Doctor I was a hypochondriac, just exaggerating my symptoms and trying to get out of college though.
One – I LOVED college! Two – It felt like I was DYING!
Never say persistence doesn’t pay off.
Seven appointments later, I was finally sent for an array of tests.
Diabetes Test – Negative.
ECG Test – Negative.
EEG Test – Negative.
Labyrinthitis Test – Negative.
Hypotension Test – Negative.
Pregnancy Test – Negative.
You know your desperate for an answer when you start wishing that something would come back positive. Even if it was life threatening. Just so you could know what it was and that your not imagining it.
I was prescribed Lorazepam and told to take one daily, to help “calm me”.
The Lorazepam calmed me to the point where I began to feel unreal. The air felt like it had solidified and I was walking though it, like it was a giant jelly castle.
I lost my job and I couldn’t attend college.
Then came a letter.
My English A-Level teacher had took it upon themselves to write me a letter, detailing how I was a lazy stupid girl, and that I could really go far if I was to just stop being silly and come back to college.
Not that I hadn’t been trying!
That night I laid in bed and all I could think about was that letter, I was so worked up about it, didn’t she understand how hard I was trying? I was grateful for my education and I had worked hard for it, I wasn’t subconsciously throwing it away was I?
All of a sudden my heart went into overdrive. Palpitating and hammering against my chest.
I couldn’t breathe, I grabbed my phone and called my Mum. ‘Help’ was all I managed to say on the phone but within a minute she was in my doorway.
Through half drawn breathes I told her that I thought I was having a heart attack, she placed her hand on my chest and her face said it all. She told me to relax and to try take deeper longer breathes whilst she went and called someone for help.
She called the NHS help line and the adviser said I should take another Lorazepam first to help me calm down a little and then I should head over to the local hospital where an emergency appointment was being made.
So there I was, three o’clock in the morning, in my pyjamas, walking down the road to the local hospital.
I didn’t care though, my mind was all over the place. The fact that an emergency appointment with a Doctor had been made for three o’clock in the morning had me thinking all kinds of things.
The nearer we got to the hospital, the more worked up I became and the more intense my symptoms came back.
As we walked into the hospital I felt as though I was the character from ‘Trainspotting’ who had taken an overdose of heroine.
It felt like I was being sucked into the floor! It was swaying and swooping around me. Everything looked like jelly wobbling on a plate. I was sure it was some kind of weird third dimension where the walls had become sponge and that if I where to touch them I would simply disappear into them.
I clung to my Mum as though we was surrounded by shark infested waters. I daren’t let go in case my legs suddenly gave way, allowing the sponge looking walls to take me to their different dimension.
By the time we got into the Doctors office I didn’t trust a thing. I was scared of the walls, the floor, the chairs, everything!
He sat me down on the seat opposite and asked my Mum to explain what had been going on. To which he simply replied ‘I think your suffering with panic disorder’.
I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden the world stopped spinning and all I could focus on was what he had just said.
At three o’clock in the morning, sitting in a doctor’s office in my pyjamas, overdosed on Lorazepam I was finally diagnosed.
The Doctor wrote down the names of the conditions he was diagnosing me with, panic disorder, depression and agoraphobia, and told me that I should look them up on the internet to understand more about them.
He also changed my medication immediately, telling me the Lorazepam my Doctor had put me on was in fact stronger than heroine and was only meant to be used for a maximum of 6 weeks, on and off, in extreme cases (by this stage I had been on the medication for more than 3 months).
For 6 months I had been going through hell, thinking that I was dying and / or going insane, only to be given the answers to it all within a half an hour emergency appointment.
I changed Doctors the very next day.
Why have I created this blog?
I was diagnosed back in 2009, it’s now been three years since and honestly nothing has got easier. I have had to fight every step of the way, pushing to be recognised medically and fighting for the treatment I need. Mental health is only just being recognised and where I live, the best treatment for panic disorder, cognitive behavioural therapy, was actually only introduced to our earlier this year.
For the last three years I have been on a steady stream of medication, with no other offer of form of help. It’s not my Doctor’s fault, I mean at least my new Doctor actually recognises anxiety as a condition and not just an inconvenience. The point is my Doctor is good, but there is no funding or services around for them to refer me to.
The only way you can get any help with a mental health problem where I live, is if you sit on their door step slitting your wrists. Bit harsh but I kid you not! My Mum was told by a ‘mental health professional’ in our local area, ‘they will only consider helping you, if you are threatening suicide’.
I’ll admit in April I was close to this point. Nothing was changing and I felt stuck. The panic was still there and stronger than ever. Things where not looking good and I needed some kind of help before I took matters into my own hands.
I went to my Doctors crying and begging for help. As luck would have it, guess what had been newly introduced? Cognitive behavioural therapy! Tar Darrr!!
I have now been attending cognitive behavioural therapy sessions for just over two months. I won’t say it is easy and I won’t say it is a miracle cure. Everyone is different and respond to differently to treatments.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is about retraining your brain, recognising your thoughts, putting a stop to the negative, focussing on the positive and challenging the fears. As part of my cognitive behavioural therapy I have been keeping a diary of events that have happened within the weeks between sessions.
I use them to read to my therapist to help explain things clearer instead of me just blurting out everything back to front and in the wrong order.
I’ve been reading my entries to my therapist for a while now and it was actually her recommendation that I create a blog. Something positive for me to focus on and something for others in the same position to relate to.
I will never forget how scared I was not knowing what was wrong with me, and if my blog can help just one person recognise their symptoms as anxiety then I will be happy.
If my blog can bring comfort to one person suffering from anxiety then I will be happy.
If no one reads my blog then I will still be happy.
This is a positive thing for me and I am proud of myself for doing it.
Isn’t it all a bit personal sharing it with the big wide world?
Yes, it is very personal but since being diagnosed and becoming aware of my condition I have noticed how uneducated the world is about mental health.
People don’t understand, and I can’t blame them.
I didn’t understand.
I hadn’t even heard of these types of conditions until I was diagnosed with them.
Things are slowly changing and people are starting to be more understanding and recognising of mental health conditions.
This is my contribution to the movement.
My name is Charlotte, I’m 22 years old and I suffer with panic disorder, depression and agoraphobia.
It is apart of me but it doesn’t define me.