About six months ago, I had a bit of a scary incident which saw me in the A&E at my local hospital – emergency services thought I may be having a heart attack. I saw a wonderful doctor who gave me an ECG, checked everything he had to check, and asked me various questions.
It wasn’t a heart attack. It was a panic attack.
But I didn’t know I was having them. I wasn’t having to hide in a dark corner, I wasn’t pacing nervously, I wasn’t bursting into tears regularly….but I was having panic attacks. He explained that I was – unknowingly – hyperventilating. Now, when someone says “hyperventilating” to me, I picture someone breathing in and out of a brown paper bag like in the cartoons and old movies. He explained that my breathing was increased, which affected the oxygen and CO2 in my body which was affecting my brain…. and, long story short, causing me to have a tightening in my chest and a sense of panic though I hadn’t realised I was actually panicking.
I told him, now that I knew what it was, I wanted to try to deal with it myself – having discussed it with a professional, having had a professional tell me that actually, yes, my life is very stressful – especially at the age of 29, I felt that I could cope better.
I don’t like to complain about things in my life. I don’t like to think I have stress and crap going on. Especially when there are people out there with far bigger issues in their lives. It makes me feel like I’m being selfish, like I’m self centred. Well you know what? Then so be it. MY problems/stresses are MY problems/stresses. It doesn’t make anyone elses less stressful for them, it doesn’t make mine more stressful than theirs. Their stresses are for THEM to deal with, and mine are for ME. I had to keep telling myself that it’s okay for me to feel stressed and down. It’s okay to talk about my problems – heck, it’s better if I do, instead of bottling it all up.
I tried for a month to cope by myself. But I just wasn’t me. I would snap at everyone too easily, I had no energy, I couldn’t even give a stranger a genuine smile…and that, weirdly enough, was what made me choose to make an appointment with my GP. The fact that I fake smiled at a random stranger….. Talk about wacky. I have always greeted people with a smile – a genuine smile. I believe – always have, always will – that a smile from someone random can improve your day. And one day, a man walked past me, and I had to force a smile. And I knew I was no longer me. The doctor prescribed anti anxiety tablets and we discussed how they’d affect me, the fact we’d need a follow up, and also if I felt I needed any other assistance, to make an appointment.
The tablets worked. It was amazing. The stupid little things weren’t bugging me anymore. I was a LOT more tolerant. My husband noticed it. My kids noticed it. I noticed it. I didn’t have to fake smile anymore. Did it solve my problem? No. That’s a lot of work to come. But it was a start.
Last month – May – I took the plunge and made an appointment to see a psychologist. I have my first appointment in a weeks time. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I excited? Yes. Am I determined? Yes. Am I doing this for my family? Yes. But more so, I’m doing this for ME.
If you need help…. whether you are regularly sad, know you have a problem, need someone to talk to, do it. It’s hard. You feel alone, even though you know you’re not. You feel lonely even though you are surrounded by people. You feel sad but don’t necessarily know why. The best thing I could have done, for my family and for me, was to ask for help.
Take that step.
It’s worth it.