(above - Me and My Boyfriend Neil at T in The Park )
The Seroxat seemed to be working and at the end of January i waved goodbye to the family home and moved into my new flat which i had bought with Neil.
Neil and i had been together for 3 years by then and i was very happy. Our new place was perfect, my panic attacks had settled down and we were in love. Once again life was sweet.
Neil and my mum were my 'safe' people. When Neil was around i was ok. I would say that the first year in the flat i was 99% ok. I had no major panic attacks. A few wobbily moments but nothing i couldn't handle. I settled in easily and was instantly very comfortable in our little home. Maybe too comfortable....
As i mentioned before i had recently lost my job so i had to find myself some work. This was the easy part. I always had the gift of the gab and could talk any interviewer round my finger. It was rare that i wasn't offered the job. Getting the jobs was the easy bit. It was holding on to them that seemed to be my problem. It was mostly office work, administration, reception, that kind of thing. Suddenly i realised i wasn't interested in working. I know that no one REALLY enjoys going to work but this was different. I didn't want to go, i didn't care about it. I was freaquently taking days off because i 'just couldn't be bothered'. I had this new home which included new bills but i didn't care. I was shunning all kinds of responsability and leaving poor Neil to deal with the outcome. Staying at home just seemed like a better option. I realise this sounds incredibly selfish but i now think this was a sign of my panic attacks becoming agoraphobia.
It is quite common that people who suffer with panic attacks can become agoraphobic. If they have a panic attack in a specific place for example, a supermarket, then they will avoid putting themselves in that situation again for fear of bringing on a panic attack. This is what happened to me.
I remember travelling to work one day and getting a bus home which went straight along the motorway. The bus was packed and there were no seats available downstairs. Being a double decker bus i was able to get a seat on the top. It was a miserable day and the wind was blowing making the bus sway from side to side. On my way home the bus would have to drive over a bridge which was very high and not being a fan of heights i didnt particularly enjoy this part of the journey. When the bus got to the bridge the swaying became worse and i started to panic. I was once again terrified! I didn't know what to do, i felt trapped. I couldn't just get off the bus as i was on the middle of a motorway so i had to sit there and bear it. I remember gripping the seats till my knuckles where white. I closed my eyes and didn't care what i must have looked like, although i'm sure i must have looked ridiculous. I thought the trip would never end and being a smoker i had a cigarette lit before i had even stepped off the bus to help my nerves. It was such an ordeal! The next day i decided not to take that bus route again. I would get the train instead. I now know this was me avoiding things but at the time i didn't care, i just wanted the easy option.
It was going to take me longer to get to work using the train but off i went. Got my ticket and stepped on the train. The train was full. No Seats avaiable. I had to stand. I was standing there surrounded by strangers when the train doors closed. PANIC!!! The negative thoughts kicked in.
I can't breathe, i need air. I can't get to a window, People are looking at me, i can't get off this train! I managed to keep myself relatively calm as i knew it was only a short journey but needless to say the panic attack had scared me enough to make me avoid any future train jouneys.
Next option was to get another bus which didn't go directly on the motorway. This bus would add almost another half an hour onto my journey but once again i didn't care. Then another problem cropped up. Another bridge. This bridge wasn't very high but for some reason it still scared me. It took me a long time to admit why i was scared of bridges as i knew deep down it was totally irrational. I had got it into my head that the bus driver would just decide to drive off the end of the bridge. Whatever their reason may be i had the fear that maybe that day the driver would be suicidal and drive over the edge and take us all with him. I was embarrassed that i was having such a thought but it didnt take the fear away. So everyday driving over the bridge i would panic and hold on for dear life and everyday my anxiety got worse. I got to the stage where i would get the bus and ride to work, but when the bridge was ahead i would get off. I would then walk over the bridge and catch another bus at the other side. I remember how i would feel when i would see the bus i had been sitting on driving over the bridge and continuing it's journey without me. I felt stupid, embarrassed and ashamed.
Getting to and from work was becoming an ordeal. It took so much longer than it needed to and at the end of it i would be exhausted. I can understand why staying at home seemed the better option.
I spoke to my doctor again and explained the problems i was having. I was completely honest about the thoughts i was having, even though i was embarrassed. I was given some releif though as the doctor told me these thoughts are quite common and that i didnt need to feel as though i was losing my mind. Ok, i wasn't losing my mind but this also wasn't exactly a healthy way of life so the doctor signed me off work permanently. I left my job and was put on incapacity benefit. It was time to stop worrying about work and start worrying about my health and how i was going to make myself better.
Monday, 28 January 2008
(above - Me and My Boyfriend Neil at T in The Park )