• Katie Lou

An Anxiety Story

I have anxiety and panic attacks.

Ever since I can remember I had

never been the most outgoing child. I remember never wanting to go to things on my own such as clubs like Rainbows or Brownies or swimming as I would cry when my parents tried to leave. I also wasn't the sort to go to birthday parties of people in my class or go out to places that I didn't know. This continued the whole time whilst I was growing up but it is only now that I can see it links. Such as once the night before going on holiday I remember vividly getting myself worked up to the extent that I thought I was dying and my parents phoned a doctor as they thought I was actually ill. This I now know was a panic attack. So that was when I was 7 and gradually they got worse, more frequent. Then they got better. I thought. But I hadn't 'grew out of them' they just changed. 

I didn't have a panic attack from the age of 10 to 14 that I can remember but my anxiety never subsided I just avoided certain things. I still felt ill every time I went anywhere even if it was just town. I would feel like I was choking as my mouth was so dry and my stomach would backflip more times than I could cope with but I knew if I backed out of going I could stop it and therefore didn't panic.

However, I couldn't avoid every thing forever. So at the age of 14/15, I got my first boyfriend, I had changed my group of friends and I started to feel happy within my school but it also meant I wanted to start doing things. Visit the cinema, go shopping, go on 'dates' like a normal 15-year-old. This is where I started to have panic attacks. I remember I met my friends in town to go to the cinema and on the bus just as I did when I was young I felt choked, I couldn't breathe and I felt sick. I remember I reached the town and just as we went to catch the next bus I knew I had to get away. I felt like if I stayed there something bad would happen. Of course, I hadn't told my friends I suffered from anxiety as I didn't really know myself at that point but some how I managed to leave and get home.

This continued to happen and worsen rapidly. I split up with my boyfriend after a year, my friendship group fell apart then all of a sudden I faced GCSEs. Whilst I was in the friendship group, every day at school was happy and I loved going to the extent I didn't miss a single day even when I virtually had flu. My attitude to school quickly changed when I found I was friends with different people and my first small panic attack within school happened in a GCSE mock exam a few hours after I broke up with my boyfriend. Everyone says high school relationships don't matter but at the time it does. And it very much did. I remember sitting there and just wanting to leave the room as I felt isolated and suffocated but by half way through I began to concentrate on the paper and managed to get a good result so didn't think anything else of it and continued but there was something different at school. I felt judged and I couldn't cope. 

After the summer holidays, I had a fresh start and seemed fine until the December mocks when I sat down for the first exam of maths. Before I went in I felt unusually nervous, unlike before I wasn't joining in with my friends singing Christmas songs but still insisted I was ok. That was before I sat down and I suddenly started to shake, cry and my throat tightened. It was the worst panic attack I had, had for years and it felt, unlike anything that had happened before. I felt trapped. I asked to leave but the teacher just took me outside for two minutes then told me to return. I still couldn't cope, I would slightly relax outside and then when I returned it got worse. I asked again and was told to doodle on the back of the paper to distract myself. I was so conscious I was disturbing people around me and just wanted to get out and after four attempts I was taken out and got to sit the remainder of the exam on my own in a separate room where a teacher who specialised in students needs. When she spoke to me after I realised it was a panic attack and all of a sudden I didn't have to go back into the exam hall and could sit my exams else where which relieved me and I didn't realise how much of a burden it had been. I still had very high anxiety over exams as I believed that I could still panic. My anxiety was also making my grades drop as I hadn't been concentrating so I had added pressure to catch up. Once my GCSE's were finished I began to regain some of my old passion, ambition and motivation as I passed them. I didn't reach my target grades but I knew that with all I had coped with I had done amazingly. 

Year 12 seemed to pass ok until I reached the exams and I returned to the exam hall which led to high anxiety beforehand but luckily only a very minor panic attack in one, however, this dramatically affected my grades so opposed to reaching a BBB I scraped a C in English and D's in the others. The exams severely knocked my confidence and I started to have regular panic attacks and didn't go anywhere in the summer holiday between Year 12 and Year 13.

Year 13 is where my anxiety got the worst it has ever been in my life and it has possibly been the worst and best year of my life. I began the year with the worst start possible and refused to go in for the first week as my anxiety was so bad I fully believed I was ill. I lost weight, I looked ill and lost all motivation. I finally managed to get into school for lessons but refused to go in when I had free periods and didn't do any extra curricular activities such as trips as coaches always increased my anxiety after a panic attack on one due to someone being sick and I have emetophobia too. So after missing numerous days off I decided I needed to take action so my mom started a quest to get a separate room for my exams which took so long and in the process added so much stress onto me that I started panicking more regularly in school as the school was also making me go to sessions to help my anxiety which was actually making it worse. I couldn't concentrate in lessons as I feared the next panic attack or time a teacher would bombard me with questions. I was making myself feel physically drained and this continued from around October, worsening in January/ February where I reached a place I never want to be again until March when all the problems had been solved. Except one and that was the devastating effect all of that had had on my already deteriorating mental health. The damage was left and I couldn't move on. I also had to face all the stress of A Level's which I just couldn't cope with. Nothing went well.

However, now I can say I am doing good. Once my horrendous A Levels passed I could concentrate on me. I then went to a job interview which meant the world to me and their feedback to why I didn't get the job was 'i was too nervous' of course this was my anxiety but I hadn't told them and this kick started my aim to recover or be able to manage the anxiety. As I couldn't keep missing opportunities because of it. I then didn't do as well in my A Levels this year as last years grades were combined and brought them down leaving me in a tricky position which you can read about HERE if you also didn't get the results you wanted.

Now I am me. Occasionally I think ooh there's that feeling but I can manage it. I have been on holidays with friends to new places which I wouldn't before, gone on trains, gone to concerts, saw new things and most importantly said YES!

Yes, I can, Yes, I am and Yes, I will!

I'm in a great place now with my mental health and even though I have some regrets because I loved school and certain things ruined the experience as I missed out on things I might never get the chance to do again. I am re sitting my A Levels but...

I can't replay or change the past but I certainly won't let it repeat itself. 

Onwards and upwards!

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© Katie Lou | 2018

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