After I started beta-blockers at my doctor’s recommendation, things improved for a while. I started to feel more able to attend my classes (and made a friend!), I was able to go out again with my boyfriend and I reconnected with an old school friend. It started to feel as though I had my life back on track and things became more positive.
But I became really dependent on my medication and felt like I needed it to go out anywhere. I would have panic attacks about not having my medication in my bag or panic attacks when I was close to running out of tablets because they became my crutch to leave the house. My largest allowance was up to 6 tablets a day and I would end up taking the full dose in one go on longer days of classes because I couldn’t attend any other way. I felt awful. As it was beta-blockers, they slowed down my entire body responses. My GP explained that they weren’t affecting my mind, but stopping my body’s response to the anxious thoughts, so whilst my head was panicking, my body was relaxed. But that feeling overtook everything and honestly, I don’t remember much of my third year – it’s all a blur. I just had that constant hazy, lifeless feeling going through each day, and as my heart rate and fight or flight responses slowed, I became too exhausted to function. I ended up spending most of my time at home in bed and I couldn’t bring myself to do anything because of the complete exhaustion that gripped me every day.
One day, I couldn’t take the tiredness and exhaustion anymore. I felt like a zombie, and I hated feeling that I wasn’t in control of my situation anymore. I stopped taking my medicine. This was something that always terrified me because my doctor told me I couldn’t stop taking them or else I’d have the worst panic attack of my life and so I had always been terrified of that.
I didn’t have a huge panic attack. I started to practice mindfulness in place of the medicine, and I became obsessed with colouring in instead of the alarming calm the medicine made me feel. I got the same effects from a bubble bath and deep breaths and I started to feel more positive in a real way this time. I think this was due to the huge support my family and boyfriend provided me, but also the new-found confidence I had in myself as I had managed to make a new friend and had started a new job. I wanted to make a new chapter for myself and I deliberately didn’t tell my new managers or coworkers about my medication or troubles or anything. I could be anyone I wanted because none of my new coworkers knew anything different and so I painted myself the life that I had been jealous of for so long. I didn’t tell my new friend any of this either, which was harder as university was, to some degree, the root of my problem. I would sit beside her in lectures, taken over by panic, but determined not to let it show.
I found that having water with me constantly really helped to calm me down, and I made sure I would sit close to the doors in lecture halls so that I could leave if I needed to. For some reason, I never needed to.
I haven’t had a panic attack since.
I have no idea how I managed to push myself to stop the medicine and sit through the panic (it does fade after 10-20 minutes), but I managed. I was just so sick of myself I guess. I felt like I was letting my family and my boyfriend down, but I also seen all the other girls at uni with their lives SO together and always out and always confident and everything I wanted to be and I just felt like I had to push myself there. Starting a new job at this time definitely helped (although I nearly cancelled my interview because I was so anxious about having a panic attack/making a fool of myself/being sick etc). My mum had to talk me into going that day, and I’ve been there ever since. It helped me to play the part of an anxiety-free life because eventually I started to feel like that could be possible again. I still get anxious from time to time in certain situations, and there are some things I still won’t do (like go out drinking/clubbing/be in taxis) but there are so many things I can now do that I don’t mind missing out on those things.
*This post is part of a series*
http://www.samaritans.org // 116 123
http://www.mind.org.uk // 0300 123 3393
http://www.sane.org.uk // 0300 304 7000
http://www.supportline.org.uk // 01708 765200