My Panic Attack History

My very first panic attack happened about thirteen years ago, at the age of fourteen. It happened on the school bus. I grew up in a pretty snotty town in south Florida. The junior high I attended was nicknamed “Gucci Middle” by the community. Dealing with the other kids was rough, but I had my own thing going on too. On the way home from school, the same horrible girls were saying the same horrible things they said to me every day. It was always upsetting that they were so nasty, but like I said, I had my own thing going on with my own friends. I didn’t really need these people to like me, though at the time I thought it would have been preferrable. Minimum, it would have been easier. But I digress.

They were crowding around me, as they always did, saying whatever awful thing came to their mind on that particular day, and I freaked out. I felt like there wasn’t enough air on the bus. It had gotten so stuffy. I couldn’t swallow. But I couldn’t let them see me physically freak out, or it would just get worse. It was taking forever to get to my housing development. I remember blinking really hard, hoping to blink it away I guess. And tears came running down my face. I wasn’t crying in the traditional sense, no sobs or anything, but the tears just kept coming. I sat there thinking that this was it. I was going to die. What seemed like years later, the bus pulled up to my stop, and everyone got off. If I walked fast enough, the jerks usually didn’t bother following me. I think I’ve maybe ridden the bus, any bus, three more times since that day. They happened frequently after that, for the next year or so. It wasn’t long before I was frequently absent, eventually withdrawing from school to have a home tutor. At the end of my sophomore year, my father was relocated to Los Angeles. I eventually went with my parents and agreed to attend outside school so long as it was a private, very small school. It was a nice enough school, but my habits had been set. I could never bring myself to actually go. I stopped going after the end of junior year and got my high school equivalence. I got a job working in technical support at the local ISP.

I started making a lot of friends. I moved out of my parents’ home and got my own place. The panic attacks seemed to disappear as suddenly as they had come on. I even quit taking all of my medications and was fine for a few years.

In 2000, I entered into a very bad relationship. We brilliantly decided living together would make it better. I began withdrawing more and more. Somehow, and the main details have faded, but I ended up in another state with the boyfriend. I had no friends and wasn’t making any. I hadn’t gotten a job as quickly as I’d hoped. I was stuck at home, but I didn’t seem to mind. One day we had just had a fight, and I had to go to a part of town I didn’t know. I got lost, as I often do, and couldn’t find my way home to save my life. I had to pull over for about 45 minutes while I regained my composure. When I finally made it home, I couldn’t leave my bedroom for a good six hours.

About six months after that relationship ended, the panic attacks stopped. They started again when I enrolled in college that was an hour commute one way every day. I endured them, excusing myself to the restroom when necessary, and using other means to hide my distress in the classroom when possible. I made it to graduation and wanted to never drive again. The panic episodes went away again for a while after graduation.

They came back again once I began to hate my job. And, as the pattern would suggest, I stopped going to that job. The episodes subsided again just for a short time. I ended up taking a job where I leased space. I paid for my time and got paid for my work only when I actually showed up. It was significantly less stressful, but I still dreaded making the trip there and interacting with people. I cancelled at the last minute a lot. Eventually I didn’t have enough clients to make it seem worthwhile. I withdrew from that, too.

I got sick of myself. I decided to move to where my best friend lives in Texas. We became roommates. We had a blast. I didn’t have a panic attack for almost a year. Then my other best friend died. Followed by another close friend. Then, despite my efforts and cautiousness, I found out I was pregnant with my son. The positive pregnancy test was enough to cause a few panic episodes in succession. But the real issue started when my lifelong friend, current boyfriend, and my son’s father decided to use my pregnancy as an opportunity to dump me and go back to his ex. Again, I ran home to mom and dad.

For the next nine months, I left the house only for McDonalds drive through breakfast and my OB/GYN appointments. I maybe went to the grocery store five times during my pregnancy. If I needed gas for getting to my appointments, I would stop on the way and pay at the pump. While it was pumping, I could get in my car and be anxiety free. Mostly.

Without getting into details, and without being judged by anyone, my son’s father and I worked out our issues. But it still left me pretty messed up in the head. I haven’t been free from panic attacks since then, unless of course I avoid everything that might cause one.

And this is where I am today. My world is narrowing. I don’t want to mess up my son, too. So it’s time to get this under control.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing….my heart goes out to you. I suffer from panic attacks too.

  2. Panic disorder is different from the normal fear and anxiety reactions to stressful events in our lives. Panic disorder is a serious condition that strikes without reason or warning. Symptoms of panic disorder include sudden attacks of fear and nervousness, as well as physical symptoms such as sweating and a racing heart. During a panic attack, the fear response is out of proportion for the situation, which often is not threatening. Over time, a person with panic disorder develops a constant fear of having another panic attack, which can affect daily functioning and general quality of life…

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