Monday, 16 June 2014

My Experiences with Anxiety and Panic Attacks

I've been writing this on and off since late March, but I've wanted to write it for a lot longer. However, I never had the courage or the confidence because it's so personal to me, and I'm embarrassed even though I shouldn't be when so many people worldwide deal with it. Ironically I'm really nervous about publishing this post, and you're probably wondering, "If you're nervous about it and it's personal, why are you doing it?" I just think it's strange that I have always put so much of myself into my blog...except this. Plus, maybe reading this will help one of you who might be going through the same thing. Lately I've seen some other book bloggers tweeting about their anxiety, and I recognised myself in them. Seeing those tweets helped me realise that I'm not alone in this, and so maybe I can pass that on. If they can talk about it so freely, why shouldn't I?

This blog post is going to be long, so you should probably get a snack or something. I didn't feel like I could leave anything out, and this isn't something that can be split into two posts. You could read it in two halves if you wanted... :)

What I'm talking about is anxiety and panic attacks. In December 2012 I suffered from a particularly bad virus which was going around school, and unsurprisingly, it was awful. I didn't eat for a week, I lost a lot of weight, and I didn't go anywhere during that time. You'd think after recovering that I would go out again after being stuck inside for so long, but I didn't. I was scared I would be sick in public. We thought it was Emetophobia which is fear of vomit, and this developed into Agoraphobia which is where the sufferer is scared to go out. I wasn't scared to go out, I just...couldn't. And I didn't want to.

Of course, school had started again after the Christmas holidays, but I found it extremely difficult to go in. I just physically couldn't, and my family didn't really understand. 'Just go in,' everyone would say. 'Try.' No one seemed to understand that I simply could not do it. I felt nervous constantly, and it was draining. I felt like I was tearing my own family apart because my stupid body wouldn't do that thing where it steps out of the house and has a normal life. I was confused. What was going on, and why was this happening to me? 

Eventually, after explaining the situation to my Head of Year, I was allowed to only attend school for lessons I felt comfortable going to, which were Art and Music. Usually I would only manage to go to school for maybe two lessons a week, which is only two hours. In short? My attendance record went from 100% to probably the worst anyone has ever seen. My family tried to make me go every day, but I wouldn't and couldn't. People in my class were starting to notice my absences, but I couldn't really tell them what was going on when I barely knew what was going on myself. I was scared and embarrassed and just not myself. Just two weeks beforehand I had been fine and my life had been perfect, but everything had changed. These few hours at school were the only times I ever left the house.

One day at the beginning of February, I was in ICT and something weird - although not unusual for me, anymore - happened. I felt sick, hot, and shaky, for absolutely no reason at all. All I'd been doing was answering some multiple choice questions on the computer and listening to my iPod - there was no reason for me to feel that way. I told my teacher I didn't feel well - like I'd told so many other teachers those last couple of months so I could be excused - and I walked out of school. I came home, not knowing that my teacher had reported me missing because I hadn't signed out at reception, and that if my mum hadn't rang the school telling them where I was, they would have called the police. I was in the middle of my first major panic attack but I didn't know that was what it was, which is why I thought nothing of walking out without telling any staff. I didn't care about the havoc I'd left behind for my ICT teacher back in the lesson. My mind just wasn't in the right place at the time. What I didn't know was that this was my brain activating my fight-or-flight response, which is something I'll explain later. That's why I was only focusing on getting myself out of there, and nothing else.

Unexpectedly, that ended up being my last day at that school, and the last day I saw some of my best friends. We scrapped the whole 'part time' idea and my Head of Year said I didn't have to come in for the foreseeable future, but I would still be on the register in case I wanted to come back at any time.

Then came the countless amount of trips to the doctors, who thought maybe I still had some of the virus from December. There were blood tests, all of which pointed to the fact that I was physically healthy, and not once did the doctor consider I might have anxiety. At this point I wasn't leaving the house at all, so those trips to the doctors were more stressful than they should have been. It was the middle of Year 9 and I had left school for the foreseeable future - what was I supposed to do? How would I do my exams? I didn't see family except those who lived with me, and I didn't see friends. I just threw myself into blogging - it was the only thing I could do. Remember in this post where I said "in 2013, there was a day when I literally had nothing to do, and it was incredibly boring. [...] So I wrote and scheduled twelve blog posts." That wasn't just one day, and the real reason was that I wasn't leaving the house and this was the only thing I could do.

So there was the school problem. There was also the problem that no one actually knew what was wrong with me; it was more than Emetophobia, that was for sure - I had barely left the house for three months. Eventually, even though I hadn't been diagnosed, my family and I deduced that I had agoraphobia, anxiety (mainly social), and panic disorder.

I still wasn't attending school so I felt a lot better knowing I didn't have to go. I got onto the waiting list for a therapist on the NHS but it was supposed to take a year for them to get to me as I was right at the bottom of their list. So my Mum started working with me on exposure therapy which at the time I hated, but now I'm very grateful for it. It wasn't an official thing. We would just do things in small steps. On the first day, we stood outside our front door for a few minutes until I decided I couldn't manage it. The next day we did it again, and walked down the road a little bit. This might be making me sound pathetic, but anxiety is a serious mental illness and 1 in 6 teenagers suffer from it.

Meanwhile, my Mum was looking into an online school called InterHigh. Online, I wouldn't have to be in a public environment and I wouldn't have to physically be with people, but I could still continue with my education and hopefully do my exams. It sounded perfect...but there was no way we could afford it. Luckily, my then-old school where I was still enrolled thought it was a great idea and said they would pay the fees for me to go there. If it was good, they said they would offer it to other students who were suffering with extreme anxiety if they needed it. Long story short: I was the guinea pig, but happy to be. The best education available in the world...for free? And I wouldn't have to see anyone or be anywhere public while there? Perfect. My first day was in March that year, and I loved it. I missed my friends from my old school - I still do - but my anxiety decreased slightly knowing that I hadn't completely messed up my exams after all.

On April 25th 2013 - round of applause for my excellent date-remembering skills, please - I went for a two-minute drive up the road for the first time in months. We went to a family member's house to hang out in the garden for a while. The family member in question was on holiday and had said it was fine if we wanted to go there as we don't have a garden where I live. It was a really hot day. I still couldn't cope with seeing people other than my parents but it was okay because, as I said, the family member wasn't actually home. We stayed for three hours and I felt really proud of myself. With my confidence boosted, we started going for short walks around town, but I couldn't go inside places i.e. shops, supermarkets, the cinema etc. because I was worried I would have a panic attack in them, or something else would go wrong in front of other people. I also tried to avoid people from the school I had just left, as I wasn't sure how to answer the 'why did you leave?' question just yet.

I'll explain the fight-or-flight response now that I mentioned earlier. When you are in danger, or when your brain thinks you are in danger, it will activate your fight-or-flight response. Fight = fighting whatever is happening. Flight = escaping the situation, like I did on my last day at school. This is helpful if you truly are in a dangerous situation, but if you have anxiety like I do, your brain will activate your fight-or-flight response randomly at any moment, no matter where you are or who you're with. You might not even be in danger, but having this response will make it feel like you are. For example, often when I'm in a supermarket I'll want to 'flight' i.e. get out of there as quickly as possible. My heart rate will speed up, my temperature will rise, and I might feel sick or light-headed. There are other reactions but this is what happens to me personally. The thing with anxiety is whenever you have the 'flight' response, you will remember every tiny detail from that moment. I mostly get anxious and panicky in supermarkets because that's where I had one of my first panic attacks, back when I had no idea how to try and handle it. Thanks a lot, brain. I handle it a lot better now and I can't remember the last time I had to leave the supermarket because of my anxiety, but it's still not exactly my favourite situation to be in. It's not just supermarkets though. This can happen anywhere.

That summer was so boring and lonely. I didn't feel comfortable seeing friends or family because I was worried I might have a panic attack and/or get sick while with them. I didn't like being in public places. Sometimes I found it hard to come out of my room because I felt nervous and sick constantly, so sometimes my friends would just have 5-hour Skype calls with me. Other friends didn't - and still haven't - spoken to me since I left school, even though I considered them my absolute best friends. I guess I liked them more than they liked me, which is usually the case. Oh well.

Some days my step-dad would take me to work with him which is in the middle of nowhere. He works on his own, and I mostly felt okay because of that (he was paying me too. Never a bad thing...) I wasn't on medication for my anxiety because my doctor didn't think it would be a good idea (he's stupid) but I was, and still am, using Rescue Remedy Soothing Pastilles which have a calming effect, and I have those whenever I'm starting to feel bad. I don't know if they really do work or if it's psychological, but whatever. They help, which is the main thing. If you suffer from anxiety, I recommend those.

I also started seeing a private therapist but she was not helpful at all. In fact, I think she made my anxiety worse because I knew that every Thursday I would have to walk the journey to her house, go into her house for fifty minutes, and talk to her. Sounds simple, but for me it just wasn't. It was a big deal. Every Thursday before I left for our session I would have massive panic attacks where I would struggle to breathe, and usually I'd end up on the floor of our hallway. Yeah, dignity wasn't really an option for me anymore at that point...
After a few sessions, I begged my parents to stop our sessions, and they did. I instantly felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

In October I went inside a huge supermarket for the first time in months. I felt really, really, really nervous, and I had to leave after 25 minutes, but that was okay. This will sound weird, but taking photos seemed to help me. If I was doing something and testing my anxiety, like making myself go into that supermarket for the first time in months, I'd often get one of my parents to take a photo of me. I suppose that's because 1) it took my mind off things and 2) it was something to look back on so I could prove to myself that I could do it.


After this I started going to the supermarket and into town and other small shops a bit more. I was also seeing one of my best friends very occasionally, but never for very long. We wouldn't go anywhere, we'd just chat on my doorstep for a few minutes.

In January I discovered Mindfull which is an online counselling service for teenagers. It's meant to be a stepping stone for teenagers to work up to going to see a counsellor face-to-face, and it's really helpful. It's free, and you can start pretty much instantly with your chosen real-time, qualified, adult counsellor who you can arrange appointments with either by messaging or over webcam, and I highly recommend it. My counsellor is lovely. She likes The Hunger Games, Divergent, and YouTubers. Basically she's awesome, and she's helped me a lot.

I'm still finding it really hard to see people, but in April I saw two of my friends for the first time this year. There are still a lot of my friends who I haven't seen since I left my old school in February 2013, and I'm still finding it hard to see family, too, although I'm working up to it. It's not really places that are difficult for me now, it's more...people. I don't know why, to be honest.

Plot twist coming up. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that in March I was invited to the Divergent movie premiere in London. And I went. None of you knew this, but that was a BIG thing for me. Here is a list of things I was anxious about:

  1. The car journey to London, which would be the longest journey I'd been on for a looong time.
  2. The 45 minute tube journey into the centre of London. I do love using the underground, I always have, but I was (irrationally) worried about being trapped in a confined space full of people. In the quiet. What if I had a panic attack? What if I wanted to get off? What if I drew attention to myself?
  3. The busy streets.
  4. The crowds.
  5. Seeing other bloggers in person.
  6. Walking the RED CARPET in front of THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE including KATE WINSLET AND SHAILENE WOODLEY AND THEO JAMES AND VERONICA ROTH. What if I had a panic attack or something else in front of THEM? I think this was the main thing...
  7. Being confined in a noisy, busy cinema for hours. The same cinema in which sat bloggers I knew and famous people. Bearing in mind I hadn't been with so many people since before I got ill.
  8. I was worried about having to leave halfway through the film as I really wanted to see it, and if I left I would never forgive myself. Plus, I was worried if I had a panic attack in the middle of the cinema, people would notice. If you haven't noticed already, I hate attention when my mind is full of anxious thoughts.
  9. Wanting to get away and not being able to.
  10. Doing the Fan Experience.
  11. The tube journey home.
  12. The car journey home. 
  13. What if my anxiety was so bad I didn't even manage to leave the house that day? I'd already tweeted about the event excessively. If I ended up not going, I'd have to explain stuff. Also, I probably wouldn't have ever forgiven myself for missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The whole week leading up to the premiere was stressful and I was extremely anxious 24/7. We went in numerous shops to find new outfits for me and both my parents, and as I've already said, I still found going in shops challenging. This time I had to be in various shops for hours at a time. We also talked about the event a lot as we planned the journey and what we would be doing on the day, which only increased my anxiety. At one point I just thought 'I'll be in the middle of London. If I have a panic attack, I'll just have to deal with it.' I said in my vlog of the day that I didn't sleep the night before the premiere. You probably thought it was due to excitement but it was because of all of this - I'd pretty much been having one constant panic attack all week.

But the day of the premiere came, and I did it. All of it. I even bumped into some other bloggers, but I pushed through the anxiety somehow and, while I definitely wasn't my usual self around them (which is a shame. I hope they didn't think I was being rude.) I think it went okay. I even walked the red carpet in front of thousands of people, and I sat in a cinema for hours with thousands of people, and I didn't panic. The tube journey was fine, too. YAY.

So that was surprising, and very cool. It ended up being the best day of my life. I think preoccupying myself with vlogging the day and taking photos for my blog post helped, as it was a big distraction and didn't let me be alone with my own annoying thoughts for too long. 

This time last year I could barely leave the house, and it's only in the last couple of months that I've started trying to fight my anxiety instead of letting it take over. I just don't want to live with it anymore. I'm done. The premiere really boosted my confidence, and when I said thank you to the PR company in my vlog for inviting me, it wasn't just because I got to go to the premiere. It was because their invite made me want to do this massive thing which, otherwise, I wouldn't have thought of doing. Everyone needs a little push sometimes, and without that event I probably wouldn't be any closer to feeling comfortable with busy places and long journeys. It really was a massive help.

Something that annoys me is when people joke about panic attacks. 'Oh my gosh this book was so good, I had a panic attack on, like, every page, haha.' I see tweets and comments like this all the time. I don't think people realise how insensitive they're being by saying that. I don't know if it annoys anyone else but when I see people saying that - especially to me, when I actually suffer from panic attacks - it puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. It seems like having anxiety and panic attacks has become 'cool', and that's not okay. It's like saying to someone with depression, 'This book was so sad it actually gave me depression.' Why don't you stop joking about mental illness and think how lucky you are to not suffer from these things.

I saw this photo on Twitter the other day and it sums up anxiety perfectly. I'm not sure who this image belongs to so if it's yours and you want me to take it down, I will do so instantly.
Anxiety isn't just limiting my ability to go out and have fun and interact with people face-to-face. Something that commonly goes along with anxiety is having difficulty concentrating. I'm really starting to feel the effects of this so I'm hoping it will be a phase. I'm a teenager, I should be worrying about exams and other teenager-y stuff, but instead I'm worrying about all of these other things like seeing family and talking to random strangers and being in public places and being trapped in a confined space like a train and having panic attacks in public. I know these are not rational thoughts to have. I'm hoping I'll improve even more this year.

Being a book blogger with anxiety is really hard. I'm lucky enough to get invited to quite a few bookish events, and 99% of them I have to turn down because of my anxiety. Some recent ones I've had to decline invitations to are the City of Heavenly Fire launch party (which I was DESPERATE to go to), and a blogger evening at Movellas HQ. My anxiety is also part of the reason I didn't go to Hay Festival like I'd planned. I love being invited to these things, it just frustrates me sometimes that I can't go.

Anyway. Fifteen months later at the time of writing this, I'm far from being back to my old 2012-self, but I feel like I'm recovering gradually. We're going on holiday to Cornwall in July which will include two ten-hour car journeys, and before the premiere I was really nervous about it, but now I'm not, even though I'll be forced to go outside for a week, non-stop. Somehow, I'm looking forward to the challenge, because if I get through all of that, I know it will be a big help just like the Divergent premiere was.

Last year I did not want to go places or see people. There wasn't one tiny part of me that actually wanted to. It was like anxiety had come storming into my brain, shoved a bag over 'Old Amber' and taken her away, because before I started suffering from this I loved going everywhere and being with everyone. But now, a year later, it's like I've 'paid the ransom' for 'Old Amber' and she's coming back, because I now want to go places. Like, everywhere. All over the world. It's nice to have a part of me back again, if that makes sense. While this time last year I didn't want to go out and interact with people, now I do. That's a big change that has happened in my mindset.

I know I haven't properly explained my illness and I haven't done it justice at all. I highly recommend watching Zoella's video on anxiety as our thoughts are pretty much the same and she is much more coherent than me. This time last year I tried to watch it and couldn't finish it without having a panic attack myself. I finally managed to finish watching it a few weeks ago.

In a way, I'm kind of glad I went through all of that. Because I wasn't going to regular school, I had time to complete an Art course online at Penn State University in which I got 96%. I also managed to get a job as a columnist at a newspaper. If I hadn't developed this anxiety, I wouldn't have left regular school, and it wouldn't have occurred to me to do these things, nor would I have had the time. Developing this anxiety also allowed me to leave a school which was then in special measures (for those not in the UK, it basically means the government declared it as one of the worst schools around), and transfer to one of the best schools in the world where I'm now getting a really good education. So yes, anxiety is extremely hard and obviously I wish I never had developed it because life would be so much easier now if I hadn't. But it gave me the opportunity to do a couple of cool things. With anxiety, it's good to think about the silver linings, as hard as they may be to find.

I just wanted to share this with everyone. It's been a huge weight on my shoulders and it will continue to be until I fully get back to my old self - if I ever completely do - but I think writing this post has helped slightly, although I'm kind of terrified about publishing this and the response it could get. Maybe it will give a bit of hope to someone else who is suffering that things do eventually start to improve, and you're not alone.

Lastly - if you're still reading - thank you for reading such a huge post. I've been writing this post on-and-off since March, and it's finally done and - clearly - ready to be published. Sorry it's so long but there's just so much to anxiety and I wanted to try and get everything in. I was thinking of writing about how I deal with my anxiety, but then this post would be even longer. If that's something you would like to know about, let me know and I'll start working on another post.

Hopefully this post will help at least one of you who might be going through something similar. Thank you for reading, if it was all of it or just one paragraph. And of course, if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask me. :)

47 comments:

  1. This is beautifully written. In my view, one of the problems with mental health issues is that they affect every sufferer in a different way. There may be similarities but the severity, the triggers and the coping strategies differ. I am so glad that you are finding ways to work your way through. Thank you for writing about it; the more openly people talk about such things the more chance there is of gaining support and understanding. I wish you well.

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  2. Thank you for this, Amber, and can I just say that I think you're really brave? I've suffered from anxiety and panic attacks in the past but they were NOWHERE near as bad as what you've been though, so the fact that you're managing to tackle your anxiety and do things which are really difficult for you is amazing :)

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    1. Aww thank you, and I'm glad your own anxiety didn't become a permanent thing :)

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  3. This post is brilliant. As a long-time sufferer of anxiety, I can relate to this post so, so much. My anxiety got bad so much in the last few years that I had to leave mainstream (face-to-face) school for home-schooling because it was just too difficult for me. I wasn't being bullied or anything, the teachers and students were nice, my parents very supportive, but I just couldn't handle the work load and pressure that I (ironically) put on myself. I had counselling sessions, seen therapists and psychologists, and I'm now on Prozac, which *does* help, but there seems to be no shaking the anxiety that's heaped on my shoulders. I still struggle in social situations, even with friends I know well, but it's better than before.

    Anyway, I just want to say that you are an expectationally brave person for writing this post, and it makes me feel less alone in my condition.

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    1. Thank you! You're definitely not alone in it. My email inbox is always open if you ever need to talk about it :)

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  4. Having known the jist [is that even a word it has a red line underneath it which means it isn't but i'ms ure it is or am i spelling it wrong?] of this already it still makes reading your story sad because even though I have never suffered from anxiety or panic attacks and can never claim to *know how you feel* i can understand what you are saying and where is this going i have no idea?.
    Let me start over.
    Basically.
    You are awesome for having gone through this and to still be going through this and to have the courage to share it with the internet world and try to conquer it. <3
    I find it extremely annoying when I see people belittling illnesses that are not *obvious* like anxiety and depression because just because someone can't see how it affects a person's life, it still does and they have no idea how much it hurts them and changes their life.
    I DON'T THINK THIS COMMENT ACTUALLY MADE ANY SENSE but hey, you know what I'm trying to say. <3

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    1. I think it might be gist? I don't know, actually. It doesn't have a red line under it, so...:P
      Ooh, I don't think you've ever said so many nice things to me before ;p Heh, thank you :) And yes, just because an illness might be invisible doesn't mean it's not serious.

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  5. This is ridiculous how similar our experiences are. Like I just said on Twitter, my anxiety problems started after a bout of the flu where I was really ill - couldn't eat, was throwing up and most definitely couldn't leave the house. I was essentially bed bound for about 3 weeks and after I got better I was TERRIFIED that I would be out and feel light-headed, dizzy, faint, sick - like you do when you have the flu. In those 3 weeks my life completely changed so I totally understand how weird and scary it is.

    I too, couldn't go into shops. I still can't go into big ones like Tesco - the thought of it scares the absolute cack outta me! I also use Bachs Rescue Remedy as well, I like the spray because it's really handy. I did get given medication but I never took it so massive well done to you for coping with this without medication :)

    It's so crazy how many people out there suffer from stuff like this and you would have absolute no idea! It's amazing that you've been totally honest and opened up about your experiences and I can see it will help a lot of people :) Which is the main thing I think is that people don't think they're alone with this xx

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    1. Wow, I can't believe how similar our experiences are. That's exactly how I was - I didn't want to feel like that when out and about.

      Big branches of Tesco and other supermarkets are hard for me too, but luckily the nearest one is pretty small so it's just about manageable most days. Haven't seen the spray but I'll have a look next time I'm in town. Well done for coping without medication, too! :)

      It is crazy. I've had a few emails as well from people suffering exactly the same thing and I never knew. xx

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  6. Oh Amber I'm so sorry you've been going through this but seriously I am so proud of how brave and proactive you've been in working on your recovery. I suffer from anxiety which stems from the diagnosis of a chronic illness and have spent years declining invitations and avoiding my friends, I've been lucky that I've managed to overcome a lot of that fear but it's still a serious struggle to put my foot out the door and I also know that I have serious work to do and putting it off will only make the situation worse so it's inspiring to read this. Thank you so much for sharing this and know you're not alone! Big hugs xoxo

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    1. Thank you, that really means a lot to me :) Well done on overcoming most of the fear *hugs* xx

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  7. Well done for posting about this Amber! I've noticed a lot of bloggers, and book bloggers, seem to have suffered from some form of anxiety or depression-related issue which could be coincidental or just down to statistics. Mental health issues affect SO MANY people and yet for some reason it can still be stigmatised, and people don't seem to understand how it works at all. I have two friends training to be nurses and they've downplayed the effects of mental health issues (not in a bad way, just a lack of understanding). I've suffered (I don't like using that word!) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since I was 17 from when my mum took very ill and have had anxiety attacks and anxiety-related issues since then. Talking (or typing) about it brings it out, I'm a little light-headed right now, but I also know talking about it helps in the long-run as I've come to accept that these anxious symptoms are just a part of me now, and I've learned to "listen" to my symptoms so I can control how I feel. I've done Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (after basically having a break down - my GP didn't actually diagnose me or help me at all for 3 years claiming that I was possibly collapsing due to low blood pressure - even though my blood pressure was basically fine). It's been around three years now since I've properly passed out from an anxiety attack. I still get symptoms when I'm anxious but I can control them much better now, and instead of hiding it I pretty much get on a soap box and tell everyone about it, employers, friends, etc. People need to realise that fully functional individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds can suffer from a wide variety of often inexplicable mental health problems and that they aren't something to belittle or ignore. And increasing awareness will also helpfully stop people who don't suffer from mental health problems from abusing the system, another bug-bear of mine, as this just makes a mockery of the illnesses and issues.

    Great Post!! R x

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    1. I've noticed that too. I don't think it's that unusual though, they're just common illnesses and the blogging world is a massive community. Maybe it's just more noticeable because, as bloggers, we all have a platform to get the information out there.

      It sucks that two of your friends don't really understand. Some of mine are the same, and certain members of my family can occasionally come out with things that show how little they understand, although they do try.

      I wanted to do CBT but it wasn't really available to me when my anxiety was at its worst. I know it's really helpful though, so it's great that you did that and that it seemed to help you. And well done for writing about your own anxiety! :)

      Mental health definitely shouldn't be belittled or ignored, you're right. :)

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  8. I'm really proud of you for writing this post Amber (and many other things)
    Mum xxx

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  9. I know I talked to you about this when I read the draft of this but this is such an inspiring post, and well done for writing it. (Look at all the comments! - I told you people would appreciate you writing it :) )
    Also thank you so much for helping me this morning, you helped me get through that panic attack and I'm really grateful that you did. xx

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    1. That's okay, I didn't think I helped much but I'm glad you got through it. I'm always there if you ever need to talk again :) xx

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  10. Well. I'm not sure what I want to comment, but I'm going to try. I have a lump in my throat right now. And I'm not nearly crying because of sadness, but out of how proud of you I am.

    I'm not friends with you in real life, or known you for longer than a year. But I am so damn proud of you right now. I find your story amazing, inspiring...

    It's not so nice that you haven't been able to attend events, but I hope you can come to YALC next year and we'll all look out for you and spend the wholeeeee day with you.

    I love you, Auntie Amber. Thank you for being there for me when I've needed it, and please know that I'm there for you too, if you need it.

    Charli xxxx

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    1. Aww Charli, thank you :) I'm definitely going to YALC next year if it's on again. The reason I'm not going this year isn't because of my anxiety - I'd love to go - but it clashes with my holiday. xx

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  11. Wonderful post - really truthful and eye-opening as to what anxiety is like, and you're so brave for posting it! I suffer from anxiety myself, and random attacks of depression and other things which make it hard for me sometimes as well. I'm currently working on my own blog post of a similar nature to this, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to post it just yet. I can completely empathise with a lot of feelings you've described here. Some days I just want to cry, even though there's nothing wrong, and whenever I get invited to social events I always worry about panicking and try to talk myself out of going. It's comforting to know that none of us are alone! I think it's great that you've raised awareness to this, as more people need to understand that anxiety is a genuine condition. Many times I've felt ill or had a panic attack and people have told me to 'snap out of it' or 'stop being so dramatic' which isn't helpful in the slightest. I hope you have a lovely time in Cornwall, and keep making good progress. You're an inspiration for posting this and reading it has given me a little more courage to work on my own post. Thank you :)

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    1. Good luck with your post, I'd love to read it if you decide to publish it. It took a long time for me to publish this post too, but you'll know when you're ready. :)

      It's horrible that people talk to you like that when you're feeling ill/panicking. A lot of people don't understand, and I often get the 'snap out of it' line too, along with 'you need to face reality.' Not helpful.

      Thank you so much for your kind words! :)

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  12. Beautifully honest post Amber on a subject that alot of people are still ashamed to talk about. It affects more of us than we care to admit it, young and old.

    I was alot older than you when I had my first panic attack so can't even begin to imagine what it must be like trying to deal with this whilst still at school.

    Small baby steps are the way to go x

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    1. Thank you so much Sharon. Yep - small steps. :) x

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  13. I have so much to say! Your post was well-written and crystal clear. You helped me feel what you have felt. I have some anxiety issues, but they pale in comparison with yours. I am so proud of you for pushing thru. For homeschooling, so you didn't have to quit. For persevering in the exercises your mom helped you to do. Just about bursting with pride in you for the Divergent trip. On top of all of that, I'd like to think that you have given people around the world a starting point for talking about all this. Go you!!!

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    1. I think that may be one of the loveliest comments ever, thank you so much Trece! :)

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  14. Amber I am so proud of you for having the guts to open up about something so personal and scary for you. I don't know what it's like to have anxiety but I do know how it feels when your brain works against you. The fact that you've been dealing with this for so long is astounding. Seriously, one of the strongest people I know! It must have sucked to miss out on events because of the anxiety but just think of the day when you'll be able to whatever the heck you want and GO wherever you want :) If you ever need to chat or talk to anybody about how you feel or even just random stuff, I'm right here for you :D
    Big hugs and huuuuuge respect for posting
    xx

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  15. What a beautiful post! I'm glad that something turned out actually good from all of this. About jokes on depression/anxiety, don't bother about that too much. I suffer of anxiety and panic attacks since years, and at first hearing people joking about that made me almost sick. But I eventually got the hint and left it alone, because it's just sarcasm and I ended up discovering that it could be sort of therapeutic. It is for me, and now I tend to joke about that too! :)

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    1. Thank you :) I don't think I'll ever be able to joke about it, it just makes me sad. Maybe one day :)

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  16. You are amazing. Your courage is stupendous. I know we're not bff's but <> and also: your courage to write about this, so beautifully, so eloquently, is incredible. You have, without you knowing it, helped some people out there who are unable to express how they feel or who feel trapped by their situation. I admire you hugely for everything you've gone through and the fact that you're here now, writing this, and sharing it with us. That takes a lot of fortuity. Just know that you are a splendid human bean. L xx

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    1. Yay I'm a splendid human bean! Hehe thank you so much Liz :) <3

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  17. You're so inspirational and I'm super proud of you for trying to push yourself out of your comfort zone. More teenagers need to be like you these days; strong and determined!

    I understand quite a lot of what you went through because even though I haven't suffered from panic attacks and anxiety, I went through and still do go through a serious case of severe depression. After I came out in 2011 at the age of 15 the bullying became so bad that I had completely isolated myself. For five months I went to school, came home and stayed in my room. I only came out when my parents had gone to bed and then had dinner (it could be at 1am in the morning.) My parents never noticed until a few months later down the line when they saw a red mark across my neck where I had tried to commit suicide for the first time. I couldn't speak to teachers and my friends never understood, doctors couldn't even help me and I didn't want them too. I was fine for a few months an back at the beginning of 2013 I went through another serious case of it. I couldn't concentrate and my grades were terrible. I self harmed to be in control and I became addicted to a range of different tablets (I found out recently that my liver is badly damaged from the overdosing.) However, in November of that year I went to the doctors. they diagnosed me with severe depression and tried to sort out counselling, but it could only be in school (I was too young for anti-depressants despite it only being a week until my 18th birthday back then) But now I feel like I have come a long way. I try and stay positive, if I feel depressed then I let it happen because it's going to and I work with it. However, my school never found out about it and I wish I could've gone back and told them to make other students aware of it! <3

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    1. Thanks Kieran! You've come such a long way since then, well done for trying to stay positive. *hugs*

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  18. I've never suffered from panic attacks myself but I have a friend who get's them regularly and I have been with her for a few and i know how horrible and scary they can be, even though I'll never truly understand what its like for myself. I think it's important to spread the word because I think people misunderstanding is one of the worst things. I don't know you as well as some of the other bloggers but I think it is so courageous of you to write this post and I am so proud of you. The way you write is beautiful and really shows people the truth about anxiety and also shows the truly wonderful person you are. I've been thinking about writing a post about a different issue which I have had to deal with but each time I start to write it I just delete it because i'm worried about what will happen. But reading this beautiful post and seeing your bravery and the wonderful responses has really helped me to begin the steps to writing a proper and coherent post so thankyou. I hope it keeps getting better for you and always remember we all love you. <3
    Helena @ http://lifeinafewnutshells.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you so so much for your lovely comment Helena, and I hope starting your own post will help you :) Having people misunderstand is definitely one of the worst things. Just because an illness is invisible doesn't mean it's not there, and that doesn't make it any less important than more obvious issues. <3

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  19. Ah wow, I am so glad you posted about this because talking about issues can definitely help. I am glad you are feeling better and coping well, and regaining the old self no matter how slowly. Here we have a saying that 'slowly, you get far', and I hope that will work out for you well!

    I am glad you opened up about something like this because it can help you and some readers that might suffer from similar issues as well.
    I have troubles shopping myself, not really in small stores, but buying clothes is really making me uncomfortable, and I often just dart out of the store without buying anything. Or when I have to food shop for a longer period, I almost run down the isles so I can be out of the store as fast as I can. I have only one store where I can be somewhat relaxed, otherwise I just begin panicking about the people and everything, get hot and dizzy and have to leave. So I know what you mean describing those feelings. It's silly really to think we can't shop like normal people, but you just can't help it sometimes. It's why I never do sales, and all my Christmas shopping gets done by the end of October most of the time. You get to find little tricks like that that help you cope.

    I am so happy you also found silver linings like you said yourself, not only is that important for healing but also because there's always something good in every bad thing that happens. And it also shapes you into a stronger person later on, and when you look back at it, you can actually see how far you've come.

    I've had bad anxiety attacks at the start of my first uni year. I failed my first year because I took it too easy and after that I was a mess. All summer I was hectic and nervous, I slept badly, my skin was weird from all the stress of last minute exams, trying to salvage my scores and failing. I had a meltdown or two as well where I couldn't stop crying for hours on end, and it was insane! I had to redo certain classes next year, and I got a job in the mean time as well, trying to get busy and not think about it. I soon developed a better system of studying and working, and by the end of the 4th year I felt much better. I also handled exams more easily and managed to be better every year. I'm finishing masters now and exams this year were a piece of cake. I didn't even have sleep problems due to school work, which was the first time that happened. You just have to get yourself in gear and try and fix it, otherwise you can drown in your brain's crazy concoctions forever.

    There's still a long path ahead of us all that suffered like this, and I think there will be more challenges soon (like me looking for a proper job atm and so on), but now that we know we can survive through the thickest (like your Divergent premiere which I am totally jealous of!) we are prepared for the future!

    All the best!

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! I'm not so bad clothes shopping, but I can definitely relate to what you said about doing a big food shop for a longer period. You just need to get out of there as soon as possible, don't you? I can relate to the coping tricks as well. For you, you shop for Christmas early. I do it all online so I can avoid shops completely (although I might push myself this year.)

      I'm so happy you got through your exams more easily and actually slept properly! Well done for getting through it. Good luck for the future! <3

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  20. This post is so helpful! I myself often suffer from anxiety, but no where near as bad as you. For me it's more just upsetting, irrational thoughts, and a 'horrible feeling in my tummy' (what I used to call it when I was little and didn't realise what was wrong ;)) which can interfere with things sometimes, which is quite annoying, like a few times I have had to say no to going to sleepovers etc, as I have had ridiculous irrational thoughts that something disastrous is going to happen to my parents.

    I would love it for you to write another post, letting us know how you cope with it! You were so brave to write this, you're such an inspiration. Unfortunately I think there will always people that can't take things seriously in life, and will turn anything and everything into a joke, not caring about who they hurt. I don't think people know as much as they should on this matter, even my parents haven't really done anything to help me. I think that's because they don't know a lot about it, they just told me, "You're a teenager, you'll grow out of it.", and that kind of annoyed me, but I know they mean well!

    Thank you so much for this post Amber!:)x

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    1. I used to say that exact same line! I'm sorry you get anxiety too, and it sucks you're not getting any help. If you ever need anything, you can always email me. :) x

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  21. <3 Im a 39 year old woman who suffers from agoraphobia and laxophobia (I dont leave the house for fear of getting diarrhea and having an accident.) I know EXACTLY how you feel and for many years, I could not step out of my apartment. I found my therapy appointments a gigantic source of stress and would panic the entire day before and day of. But I pushed myself, I constantly told myself this wasnt real, my body is lying to me...I am safe.

    I am to the point now where I wouldnt call myself agoraphobic, the days of being dressed, ready to go, coat on, standing in front of the door and crying because I just KNEW as soon as I set foot outside, I would need to go, get trapped and have an accident...those days are gone. I still start to panic if I am standing in line too long, or if I am in traffic that isnt moving. All of this because I continue to push myself. I go out often, as medicine, to remind myself I can. Now when I start to feel the panic, I remind myself I'm strong, I can do whatever is scaring me and no matter what happens, I love and forgive myself. This has helped me tremendously.

    I understand your dislike for people playfully using the term 'panic attack' when you know they have zero idea just how crippling, demoralizing and shameful it is to actually have one. I get told that I'm 'lucky' a lot. "You're so lucky you dont have to work", "..you get to stay home all the time." I dont GET to stay home, I dont have a choice.....and I DO have to work, we arent rich, we have bills to pay....I CANT work, because of the whole not being able to leave the house thing. I think people just have no idea how to react to it when you tell them you suffer from crippling panic attacks. We're always told fear is a choice but sometimes its so strong you cant push passed, you have to stand still inside yourself and let the fear pass over you.

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    1. Wow I know what you are going through I myself am suffering from laxophobia for about 2 months now and I really don't know what to do.. I had to drop university and now I am always at home with my daughter and I feel sick just thinking about having to go outside to the playground with my kid or going to the supermarket. I am starting to think I will never be able to do anything with my life.. It scares me so much. Everytime I have to go outside I try to think positive but I just can't control my body..ughh. How do you do to feel better ?

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  22. Hi Amber!

    I don't believe I'm yet to comment on this! I've read it, of course, but definitely needed to say how brave I think you are! I think we're all aware of how hard it is to discuss personal issues like anxiety, and you have just done it with such honesty! Don't ever like it hold you back - after this you can do anything! I'm so proud of you! :)

    -Sophie :)

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  23. Bravo for you Amber! You are being brave and taking the right steps for you! Anxiety is such a big issue and so misunderstood sometimes! I have a friend that suffers from it and although she's really got much better after meds and therapy, she no longer has to take any meds and doesn't go to therapy any more, it's been a very long process for her too!
    Big hugs for you!

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  24. What an amazing post. So beautifully written, so honest and helpful. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  25. Mental health is such a topic that we often don't understand, unlike physical ones there not always noticeable. It's amazing that you managed to get through your extreme anxiety without a therapist. It's really good that your managing to do this with medication too. Your character and strength is so much more than you think.

    Amelia @ YA Bookologists (ya-bookologists.blogspot.com)

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  26. You are a rock star. Thank you for being so brave and for posting your story. I wonder if you are familiar with PANDAS, which is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by strep? So much about our bodies that we just don't understand. Keep reading and writing.

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Feel free to leave me a comment. I will get back to you as soon as I can! :)