For most of my teenage life, I suffered from panic attacks. One was so bad that I ended up in A&E. While over the years, I have learnt how to manage and hide them, I always remember my very first, full-blown anxiety attack.
I was eleven, in my first year of high school and was overall in an OK place in my young life. While I had experience extreme moments of hysteria in the past, as my Emetophobia had been triggered the year before, they were nothing compared to what I was about to experience.
I was sat in my French class, the first class after lunch and my seat was towards the back of the room, next to my best friend. I remember it so clearly. Randomly, my best friend had a stick of string cheese in her blazer pocket and despite it being out of its packet and dry around the edges, we shared it. I don’t know why this sticks at such a prominent part of the story, perhaps I blamed the cheese when I was younger,
The class began and about 20 minutes in, I wasn’t feeling so well. I couldn’t explain it. My heart was racing and I getting increasingly anxious and fidgety, I could hear every tick of the second hand on our room clock.
As time went on, I tried to concentrate on the lesson but with little luck. The anxiety kept building and the walls felt like they were closing in. I was hot, sweaty and scared. I couldn’t take it no more. Not knowing what was happening, I got up out of my chair, walked to the front of the class to approach the teacher but before I could say anything, I burst into tears and became hyperventilating. In the confusion, several of my friends had gathered around me just as the school bell rang. Caught in the crowd of pupils heading to their next class, I ended up in the corridor, surrounded by people. I couldn’t breath and the more people who gathered around, the more overwhelmed I became. The corridor got more and more crowded and my outburst had drawn the attention of strangers I’d never met, wondering what had happened to create such a chaotic scene. My teacher was trying to talk to me but I couldn’t hear what she was saying, I was just so frightened.
I had alarmed my fellow students so much that I distinctly remember one of the girls who bullied me, trying to pull me into a hug to calm me down.
The next few moments are really blurry but amongst the confusion, I ended up in the school nurses office with the class teaching assistant. I had calmed down by this point though shock and shaking had taken over my body. I had no idea what had just happened. I’d never experienced anything like that without bring triggered by an event of some kind. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be my last panic attack and they plagued most of my teenage years and early 20’s. Particularly when I was ill.
Nowadays I am much better at controlling and hiding them. When I get particularly stressed, I can feel my body getting into the same state it had when I was in that french class. There have been times in the middle of this year where life seemed to overwhelm me but I had to be brave and breath in order to help those around me.
Panic attacks are scary. The whole sense of losing control, sometimes for no reason at all. They can take over your life, prevent you from going into certain situations, make you avoid any potential triggers. But you need to show them you are the boss. This is your body. You are in control.