My First Panic Attack.

Dear Blog,

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.

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The Career Pressure.

Dear Blog,

I have always had an issue with the way career pressure is subtly forced upon children. From the moment we go to school, we are asked about what job we would like as an adult. Usually, at 5 years old, that job is something like a bus driver or police officer. Once you reach 11 and go off to high school, the pressure really starts. You have to choice classes that will help you on your way to A levels and university. Not only this, but it is also implied that you will be in this career until the day you retire, 40+ years from now. That, to me, is terrifying.

I sort of came across my career by accident. I didn’t decide to go to university until I was 19. Before then, I didn’t see the point. I’d left school after my GCSE’s and after a year at art college, I was happy working in a minimum wage job. University only became a goal for me because of two reason: I wanted friends and a better quality of life for me and my offspring in years to come. To get to uni, I needed to complete a crash course of subjects in 1 year as I didn’t have the typical A-level’s you need here in the UK. During that 1 year, my career changed from Midwife to nurse to anything I could get my hands on (I’m stupidly impulsive). I had several University interviews but no one accepted me. It wasn’t until Clearing (a date in August where universities advertise their reminding spots on ever course with more relaxed entry requirements) where I fell into my career as an ODP.

What is an ODP might you ask?  Well, you know what a theatre nurse is? A nurse who assists the surgeon, handing over equipment? Well, that’s what I do with the added benefit of being able to also assist the anaesthetist while putting patients to sleep. It’s a great job in its early years of development. I love it, I do, but I wouldn’t say it was my dream job. I had no burning desire to do it, it sounded fun and they accepted me onto the course so I am very thankful to be where I am but I know I won’t be doing this until I retire. How could I when there are so many jobs out there I might want to try? I might want to work with animals or write books or even go back to my artist days and maybe sell a drawing or two. But this is my issue with the pressure they put into kids.

I will stand here and hold up my hand, I didn’t have a plan and you know what, you don’t have to. If I had known the stuff I knew now, I would have gone traveling for a year, taught english to chinese children, moved abroad and gone to university in Canada. No one tells you about this until it’s too late. Now I know I am only 25 and I have years ahead of me but in reality, I only have a few before I want to settle down and enter the next stage of my life.

If any teenagers who are getting stressed about exams happen to read this, please take one thing away from it, you don’t have to have a plan. You don’t have to finish school and then go to uni. Go get some life experience, do stuff your friends dream of. Go do stuff, get inspired and find your true passion in life, because I bet you it isn’t law or game design or whatever it is kids do these days.

 

My Time in Scotland

Dear Blog,

When I was a child, my family moved around a lot. By the time I was 16, I had lived in seven different houses and was enrolled in my 5th school. There was no real reason for us moving, my parents just got bored of where they lived.

Between the ages of 12-15, I lived in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. A pretty little town across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh. Overall, I was excited about the move. The town we were currently living in was rough and I was being bullied really badly so a change of scene seems like a brilliant idea. I had these visions of bright green mountain sides, nature on your doorstep and kilts. Kilts, everywhere.

Well that wasn’t exactly what I got. Surprisingly enough, Scotland is very much like England just with Scottish people and bagpipe buskers. That being said, our flat couldn’t have been in a better location. Planted in the middle of a hill, there was a huge park at the top of our road and if you stood just outside our home, you could look down the street and see the ocean all the way out to the horizon. The location of Kirkcaldy was even better during New Years where people would gather on the promenade, over looking the sea and watched the sky light up with fireworks from all across Edinburgh.

Up until this age, school hadn’t been my favourite place. Glasses, bucked front teeth and now a different nationality, I worried about how I’d fit into another school in a different country. Well, the bullying continued, though not as aggressively as before (There was a lot less hair pulling and thorny bushes). Mainly name calling. Turns out the English aren’t too popular in Scotland. But something different happened when I joined Balwearie High School… I made friends, good friends. I was part of a small group where I felt valued and not like that annoying tag-along friend. Every break time we would congregate to the hill next to the science block and just catch up.

One of my favourite memories was climbing trees in the forbidden forest during our lunch breaks. The forest merged into our hill at the far end of our playground and it was strictly forbidden that any pupil entered with out supervision. You were only given supervision during science class when you were learning outside (which was rare). These woods were huge. As we did this every day, we’d managed to map out the safest routes to descend to the bottom of the hill and would use to trees to help climb back up. It was a great workout! The embankments were particularly steep and it wasn’t uncommon for us to attend our afternoon lessons with mud caked down our legs and shoes. We did this for about a year before a particularly bad day put an end to our escapades.

Lunch time started, same as any other. Four of us went into the woods (we usually left 2 or 3 people to bag watch while we were gone) and took our normal path. Recently a wasps nest had been forming along a popular path of ours and on this day, it was fully active. No one likes wasps, they are natures jackasses, so we made the decision to bypass the nest and descending down the closest embankment, a steeper one. Usually going down one at a time, Zoe lead the group. I was second, Steph 3rd and Claire 4th. At this stage, I should point out that Claire was the baby of the group and the least experienced out of our climbing brigade. As we were still close to the wasps nest, we decided to decent as soon as possible. Once Zoe reached the halfway point, I began to climb down. I got only a free trees down before all of a sudden I heard a scream and Steph whizzed past me.  She had slipped and was effectively skiing down the embankment. We watched horror as she collided with an old tree stump and hit her head. She settled, lifeless. Zoe and I raced to her while Claire, sobbing, stood at the starting position. Steph had started to move by the time we reached her. Besides a few cuts and scrapes, she seemed OK.

So now three of us are at the bottom of a rather steep, unfamiliar embankment, one of whom may or may not need medical attention, we don’t know. One thing for certain, we weren’t going to re-climb this hill. The problem with forests is that they are complex mazes of trees and bushes and all though in reality we were probably only three minutes from our normal climbing spot, we were completely lost. We knew that if we could find the viaduct, we’d find our way back to school, so signalling to Claire to guild us, we tried to navigate though the undergrowth. We were like explorers in an Indiana Jones movie.  I remember cutting my leg on a stray bit of bramble, nothing more than a graze really but at the time it felt like a war wound.

After trekking for what felt like ages, we came to a path but to follow it would mean we’d lose sight of Claire as her path led a different way.  There wasn’t much of a choice for either of us.  The closer to the viaduct we got, the more civilization we could hear.  The end was in sight! Or so we thought…

So…. So. The path lead us to the viaduct, except it has somehow lead us away from school and behind a mesh fence. We were no longer on school property and period 5 was about to start. I probably began to freak out here.  Luckily Zoe knew whereabouts we’d ended up and it wasn’t too far from Balwearie but to get back into the school grounds, we’d have to go through reception and explain ourselves. WORST. WALK. OF. SHAME. EVER.

We did make it back, obviously. Heads hung in shame. Misses all of 5th period and were put into isolation for the rest of the week. Oh, and our actions resulted in the forest entrance to be monitored every break time so we had to find a new spot to hang out on. But even though that was our last memory of our climbing adventures, I don’t regret a single thing. I had the best time at this school and I so wish I could go back, just for one day and be a teenager again.