Tonight on facebook my older brother linked the following picture:
It got me thinking about the demons in the closet I lived with for many years without even knowing I wasn’t alone. I tried to think of the first time I suffered what I later came to know was a panic attack and I can remember the first two like it was yesterday. Both of them were the year I turned nine. The first ever one was my mother dropping me at school and I wouldnt get out of the car. I had no reason not to, I just recall this feeling of complete dread and an overcoming need to remain exactly where I was seated. I’m sure many kids have told there mothers, “I dont want to go to school today.” but this was more than that, this was a feeling that if I did very bad things would happen. Obviously having a great mum she took me home that day. (Love you mum)
The second one I remember was the same year. My parents had headed up to Geraldton on the day and I was in class when I suddenly got this idea in my head that they had a car accident. I broke out and sweats and starting crying, I told my teacher, “Miss Thompson” what I thought was happening and she told me to stop acting crazy and get on with my work. I contuied to flip out and so she sent me to the headmaster for disiplary action. That might sound harsh when I write it here but please remember this is 1985 and mental illnesses like panic attacks and such werent really understood.
I dont recall any other instances in daylight but I can recall an almost daily battle within my own mind at bedtime. I would climb into bed and battle all the demons in my head until I was so tired I fell asleep. As a youngster I dont recall these to much but as I hit my teens this problem ruled my night time. I’d just like to quickly say here that if any kid reads this and is suffering from anxiety and panic please, please seek some help! I battled night time anxiety and panic attacks without even sharing it with my family or friends for many years before I ended up putting them in in clouds through the use of marijuana, a treatment plan that while effective while using leads to some much more serious supression issues later on in life.
So jumping forward a couple of years, I smoked a lot of weed for a lot of reasons from the age of 14 till well into my late 20’s. I would be lying if I didn’t admit here I was an addict to the weed. I dont care what people say about addiction protocols in relation to weed. Psychological or physical addiction is just a term that gets banded about much to much. Yes it helped with my night anxiety but you know what else it did? Turned me into a drug addict. Anyways we are getting off topic here so let me return to what this post is about.
I used weed to get to sleep every night for over 10 years and it worked great, my biggest anxiety problems began when I decided I had the power to control my weed addiction. I can honestly say I had almost forgotten my issues with anxiety and panic attacks for all the years I was a stoner. Ok so I quit weed and all of a sudden I am getting nervous shakes, insomina, shallow sleep, night terrors etc. I tell my doctor and he tells me its not drug dependancy, its anxiety. I blatantly deny suffering from a mental illness, it has to be the weed. I fight for a few weeks then I pick up the bong again and BOOM, I am fine. Must be the weed. I quit again and same symtoms return so I go see a different doctor and he tells me the same thing the first one does except this time he prescribes me some anti anxiety meds. (note: The first doctor wanted to do that too but I was in denial of mental illness). I decline and decide to battle it myself, it is at this point that I would like to thank two groups of people.
1) My friends! Especially Jarrad, Rob, Miles and the girls. Without me ever telling them they were always there as friends. I am pretty sure some of them knew I was alittle different from normal.
2) My parents! After finding me shaking and freaking out in the corner of a room in my house on their farm I was minding for them they just locked the gates, closed the farm and took me home to their place so I had support and helped recreate my sense of reality. I can never thank them enough. I know I cost you alot of money, I stole from you, I used you and still you took me up in your arms and understood that I needed you. Oh and dad I am so sorry and feel a lot to blame for the rift that all the farm stuff caused between you and uncle Terry. I really hope one day you can both stand side by side and realise that love is the most important thing in this world. Its so very cliche but Money cant buy happiness, and love can cure all wounds.
I am now 35. I have a loving girlfriend, pets and a steady job. I have control of my life and I have learnt to let things flow. I would love to say I have found some miracle cure for anxiety and panic attacks but I havent other than that time seems to heal ones soul. I very rarely have attacks anymore and when I do they are much milder and less intrusive. Yes I still feel like shit for days after them and yes I still wish I didnt suffer from them but I did learn the most important rule if you suffer from this kind of illness and that is, “Talk about it.”
Panic and anxiety is always and I mean “ALWAYS!” worse if battled alone. By its very nature its something that if suffered alone can be crushingly debilitating. As a quick example I used to suffer from overwhelming feelings I was going to die and that there was nothing after death. I would just lay in my bed at night and freak out. I told my girlfriend about it one night and then next time it happened she curled up next to me and was telling me, “your fine, your not dying, breath, it will pass.” I have barely suffered one of those attacks since that night because I shared something that my mind was creating not reality.
Anyways this post when I read it back is a bit all over the place and I was going to just delete it but then I figure this is my life and as life rambles on so does writing about it. I hope someone reading this takes some of the advice or at the very least enjoys the read.