Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Dr Weekes

(Above - Dr Claire Weekes)

A few people having read my blog have got in touch to tell me about Dr Claire Weekes. I have listened to her recordings on the website linked above.

In the last year i have noticed a shift in the way i think and they way i approch my illness. It is in my OWN opinion that therapies don't really work. But i want to stress that this is my own opinion. If there are people out there who have used therapies and have found success then i congratulate them and i am glad they have found what works for them.

However, i have spoken to so many people who have over come their anxiety or their agoraphobia and that is due to feeling the fear, but facing it anyway. This is how i plan to get my life back. I am going to put myself in the situations that will cause me to panic but instead of running for home i am going to stand there and accept the sensations no matter how horrific they may be. I know this is not going to be an easy task.... but it will be worth it.

Having spoken to various people i have learned that this may take 6 months, 8 months or a year, but really that is nothing compaired to the years we could spend suffering and giving into our situation.

This year it is my goal to face my fears and to BEAT them. Who know's i may go out tomorrow and panic and run straight home but instead of feeling defeated i will try again and again untill i have mastered it.

I would love to hear from ANYONE who has gone through this. Wish me luck

Me Today

So this is me today. Have i made any great progress??? I would have to say yes and no. Obviously my agoraphobia has me limited in so many ways but mentally i feel far more able to deal with it. I have spent so many years working myself out, questioning why this has happened and how i'm going to fix it and now i feel i have the answers.

I am happy. Life isn't how i planned it. Having just turned 27 i had imagined a career, maybe marriage and kids but that's not happened for me and do you know what? That's ok!

I have my family. I have a beautiful home. I have my 3 wonderful nephews how make me smile. I have the 3 best friends a girl could ask for, Lynne, Laura and Angela and i have Chris.

What's the point in getting upset about what i don't have or what i've missed out on? I am young and i have my whole life ahead of me. People say they feel sorry for me, that someone my age shouldn't have to deal with this. Oh well, it's happened so no point complaining!

My life is just the same as any other girl my age. Ok so i don't work and i don't go out clubbing etc but i have the same day to day issues that they do. Love, Family, bills etc
I love the gossip magazines, watching my favourite tv shows, complaining about my apperance. I've been on a diet since November last year and have lost quite a bit of weight so that's given me a boost. If people think i'm a weirdo because of my condition then that's fine, they obvously don't know me very well and that's not the kind of person i need in my life.

I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe this was just something that was meant to happen to me and instead of feeling sorry for myself, i am going to turn this negative into a positive.

I have enroled in an open university course. You study at home and i have plenty of time for that ha ha. The course is in Health and Social Care and i plan to get into counselling or Social Work of some sort. I want to help people who have gone through the type's of issues as me. Instead of them meeting someone who will say 'Yeh i think i know what you mean, i've never had a panic attack myself'. I will be able to say 'I completely understand, i've been there' and hopefully i can put this experience to some use. Just need to help myself first.


The EFT website desribes it as follows - EFT is based on a new discovery that has provided thousands with relief from pain, diseases and emotional issues. Simply stated, it is an emotional version of acupuncture except needles aren't necessary. Instead, you stimulate well established energy meridian points on your body by tapping on them with your fingertips. The process is easy to memorize and is portable so you can do it anywhere.
A family friend put me in touch with another therapist. This was only a few weeks before christmas, and this time it is a man who specialises in EFT. The first session was pretty straight forward. We discussed the therapies i had tried in the past and the man, who i'll call John, taught me about the places to tap on my body.
We went over the sequience of tapping a few times untill he was sure i knew what i was doing. John told me to focus on different problems i was having and to tap on them over the next week.
I had previously tried TFT which is similar but i can admit that i probably didn't do it enough to take effect. So with the EFT i decided i would make a point in tapping every morning and night. John told me that you don't even need to BELIEVE in EFT for it to work so that made me feel a bit better since i seem to have lost faith in some therapies.
I have now seen John 3 times and he also phones to check on my progress. At first i never seen any results from the tapping but only last week i discovered that maybe this could work after all. I can go through phases of feeling completely fine, it can be months and i won't feel any anxiety. But usually once a year i will go through a fortnight of feeling extremely anxious for no reason. I have gotten used to this. I don't particulary like it but i seem to be able to cope with it. Last week i was having a hard time with the anxiety so i decided to tap on it. I don't know if it was the tapping that worked or just that fact that it distracts me but i was on the verge of a bad attack and after tapping i felt fine.
Then the following day when feeling the anxiety come back i tapped again and like the day before my anxiety seemed to fade when the tapping was over.
I am not saying this is a cure, but it could be a handy tool to have should any panic attacks come knocking. I am expecting John to call over the next few days and i will discuss what has happened and in the meantime i will continue to tap.

Winter Blues

Am i the only agoraphobic who is affected by the winter weather?

When it's summer i am out all day. Even if i am only lying sunbathing in the garden i am much happier. I feel more confident and i am able to trying pushing the boundaries further. I enjoy walking in the sunshine, or going for a ride on my bike with my mp3 player on..... but then there's winter.

When the bad weather arrives (which it does very quickly in Scotland) i go into hibernation. I don't want to go out on my bike because it's too cold and i don't want to go out walking and trying to push my boundaries because, let's face it, who really wants to go out walking in the rain? My progress comes to a halt. I sleep a lot. I spend a lot of time in bed watching tv or going online. I lose my routine and the days all just blur into one. I know that sounds really dull and depressing but i just want to be totally honest about this.

I know it's me who allows this to happen. I know nobody REALLY wants to go out in the winter but hey they have lifes to lead so they just need to get on with it. But for an agoraphobic like myself it's really not the best time of year. Does anyone else have the problem?

My Little Bubble

To give you a rough idea this is a map of my 'safety zone'. Inside the red area i am fine. The Pink dot shows the local shops, and the yellow dot is 'The Club'.

Not a great distance.

No Wonder I Drink!!

There is a social club not far from my home and within my comfort zone. Now that i was able to walk a little more i decided i would try and get to the pub for a night out with my friends. This would of course involve a little alcohol which seems to give me a bit more courage (not that i am saying anyone should rely on it). I had a few drinks with friends and then set off for the pub. Amazingly i made it! I was totally delighted. When i was there i felt absolutly fine. I did think to myself throughout the night 'Do i feel ok'? and told myself 'If i start to panic i can be home quickly enough' but i was fine. Happy and proud. Go Me!!

This became a regular event from then on. It's not the nicest place by any means but i started to go there every Friday night with friends. Karaoke night. So again i had a bit of a social life going on. The club was always packed, i always had fun, and i always got up and sung....badly.

I knew that going by past events i would need to keep up the routine of going every Friday. If i missed it one weekend it would make it harder for me to go back and that's exactly what happened. I missed one week, then two, then three untill suddenly going back seemed like it was going to be a challenge.

The last time i went to the club i actually had to laugh at myself. It was a friends 21st birthday party and i really wanted to attend. I was so determind but the walk seemed a bit too difficult. Oh well i always had my bike!! My friend Laura came to get me and i told her that i might need to take my bike. She said it didn't matter what i needed to do as long as i made it to the party.

So off i went walking to the club, with my bike.... in a skirt and heels. I didn't really care what i looked like as long as i made it to my destination. Even better was when the party ended and i cycled home in my heels haha. I must have been a sight for sore eyes and would that be classed as drunk driving???


Next i decided to try Hypnotherapy. I contacted a local women and explained my situation. She came out to my house armed with her cd player and calm voice.
She started to play the soothing music and talk me into a 'trance'. I lay there waiting for something to happen. She talked about how i would be able to go out, to feel relaxed etc etc.

This was taking place in my living room. I had unplugged the phones so as not to be distracted but just as i was getting into a state of relaxation the door was opened and i heard someone shout 'JAN ARE YOU IN'. My mum's friend had decided to pop by! After that i was so uptight and annoyed that the session was basically a waste of time...and more money.

I had tried Hypnotherapy once before but again i honestly don't think it worked for me. I didn't feel any significant change, it didnt reveal any hidden fears from my subconscious but most importantly it didn't make me start going out.

So another therapy tried...another therapy failed.

I should say however that even though hypnotherapy didn't work for me, that doesn't mean it won't work for others and when your living with panic attacks or agoraphobia i think it's worth giving anything a try because you never know which therapy is the one to suit you.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

'I Will Cure You'

My dad came across an article in a newspaper about a man who was curing phobias. I had a look and i admit the stories were very impressive. Each person had a different phobia and after only one or two sessions with the man in the article they had been totally cured.
We decided that i would get in touch with him. Thankfully he was based nearby so i called him up and arranged an appointment. So the day arrived and so did James (i'll change his name for this). He arrived in his top sports car and expensive outfit and you could tell he meant business.
We sat and talked about my issues and he informed me that he has worked with agoraphobics before. He insitsted that he has cured everyone he had ever worked with by using something called neuro-linguistic programming, otherwise known as NLP. He told me stories of people who had been scared of heights, he soon had them jumping out of helecopters. Then he told me about the agoraphobics who he had calling him from the other side of the world thanking him profusly. So i was excited. I believed in him. The cost for his services was more than i had but we figured it would be worth it as he assured me that after a couple of sessions i would be back to my old self.
Session one, we done some NLP together. This was mostly him talking to me, making me imagine things, change the images in my head. He explained how my mind worked and he helped me realise things which had gone unnoticed before. I was impressed. Session one passed and i was still the same. I didn't see any changes what so ever but i figured it was early days.
Session two we went out in his car. We drove within my comfort zone and although i had a few anxious moments it basically went ok. He also taught me another technique called TFT. This was basically tapping on different pressure points in the body. He also bought me the book about it 'Tapping The Healer Within' and i started to study that. So in the car i done some tapping, and like i said, it went ok. But that was session 2 over and i still wasn't cured.
By this time i had developed a new problem. I was still getting out and about within my comfort zone but i had started relying on doing it all by bike. In my head i felt it was better by bike because if i panicked i would be able to get home much quicker. That was fine at first but soon i was relying on the bike so much that couldn't go to the shops without it.
The next few sessions i had booked were cancelled as James couldn't make it. It was over a month before i seen him again. Then when i did see him we had another session driving around in circles. Session over... still not cured.
Again the next few sessions were cancelled. I was losing faith in James by now.
When James came back i told him i felt i needed to try walking to the shops again without my bike. So we set off. I talked the whole way there so that my mind was kept busy. I went into the shop, bought a magazine and walked home.
The next time i spoke to James was via email. I asked when our next appointment would be and he basically said that he would now support me by text or email. I was would that help me? He said that when i walked to the shops i proved that i could do it. That he had basically done his job. I was so angry. I wrote back and asked how he could say that he had done his job. We walked to the shops once but everything was in my comfort zone. We had NEVER tried going any further. I told him if he tried to make me go to the next town i would never be able to manage it, i would be terrified. So... i wasnt cured and i never heard from James again. A waste of a lot of money and another let down to leave me feeling frustrated, hopeless and alone.

The Internet

I always have spent a lot of time in my bedroom. Mostly this is because i like my own space and because i can do my own thing, watch what i want on tv etc but then i got myself a computer and i found a new way to occupy myself.

I could spend hours on the internet. Surfing websites or chatting and i found it was something i really enjoyed. I also joined a few sites like Faceparty and Myspace and suddenly i was back in touch with people i hadn't been able to see in a while.

There are a lot of people who are sceptical about meeting people online and even more sceptical about meeting those people in person, but thats what i done. I continued to have a social life all be it from the comfort of my own home but i have to say agoraphobia has never affected my ability to pull. I was able to get boyfriends without leaving the house. This amazed many people. None more so than me! I met a boy and we started a relationship. He knew all about me problems and seemed to accept them. We only lasted 8 months but once again i can say with my hand on my heart that agoraphobia was not the cause of our break up. I still think it is a good way to meet people. I always say you could meet someone in a club where the music is loud and you can't hear each other talk, but online you can spend hours talking and getting to know each other. Usually you will cover so much more talking online and discuss things that wouldn't be discussed in person for a long time.
So the internet provided me a social life in some ways, online and offline. My parents worried that it was unhealthy. That by having this new life from my own bedroom i would lose the need to leave the house at all. I would argue that this certainly isn't the case. Yes i could spend hours talking and having fun, but when the weekends came my online buddies would disappear. They were off out living their lives. They were going to the cinema, going for meals, going clubbing etc. Then they'd come home and i would hear about all the fun they had. So if anything it made me MORE determind to get out because i could see what i was missing.
I wanted to include this part about the internet because it has been the source of many a debate in my house. I just wanted to show that it isn't ALWAYS unhealthy. There have been times when i have been very low and i have opened up to someone online about whats on my mind. I have discussed things that i hadn't talked to anyone else about and came offline feeling refreshed and happier. So like i said before i am very VERY glad that i discovered the internet!


(Above - Me and My Nephew Luke, He's more like my little brother)

So i was living at my mums and by now i was scared to leave the house at all. I live in a small cul-de-sac but i couldn't even walk to the end of my street. I often wondered if i was the only agoraphobic who actually felt claustrophobic too? My whole existance was living in this small house and i was feeling very trapped.

When things are at a low point for me i try to remind myself that i am still lucky and life isn't so bad. Thing's could be so much worse. At least i have a roof over my head and food on the table. I am surrounded my family and friends that i love and unfortunately not everyone has that. So i think reminding myself of what i DO have instead of what i don't is what keeps me feeling positive.

I knew that i couldn't just give into the agoraphobia. I was in my early 20s and this was no way to live my life so i needed to push the boundaries. I started doing small things like just spending time in the garden. From there i decided to try walking to the bottom of the street. I remembered Donna telling me that when i was out, if i was feeling anxious i should distract myself by focusing on something else. So as crazy as it sounds i used to walk to the bottom of my street and count the lampposts that i passed. Eventually i made it.

I was lucky in that i had my mum with me on these walks and so i had support incase i did panic. Eventually over the course of a few weeks i had managed to make it to the local shops which i felt made a huge difference to my life. Before i was able to get the the shops i relied on family and friends to do pretty much everything for me.

  • Get me essentials like, deoderant, razors etc

  • Do my clothes shopping

  • Pick up my medication

  • Pay my bills

  • Go to the bank

Now that i could get to the shops i could at least do some things for myself and this increased my confidence. I live in a small village with only a few small shops like a chemist, post office and grocery store so i was still limited in what i could buy but i felt great not having to rely on other people quite so much. I was able to get out a little more than i had for a while but i was still living inside a comfort zone. My agoraphobia doesn't seem to be about the fear of open spaces, or crowds. For me it seems i am just happier in my safe place, my home, and when i go out i don't like to travel far from there. In my head i want to know that if i panic i can get home as quickly as possible. If i was to take a panic attack out side my instant reaction would be to run for home.

I am always interested in hearing how other people with agoraphobia cope with day to day things such as shopping or doctors appointments. All i can say is i am so glad i found the internet! That became my new source for clothes shopping, before then i had other people picking clothes for me and it's not really the same. Also i was lucky in that my doctor would visit me at home but there was also a lot i was missing...

My brother got married and there was no way i was going to be able to make it and if i'm completely honest i didn't even want to try. I'd rather stay at home and avoid putting myself though such an ordeal as i would have had to travel quite some distance to attend.

I have a nephew Luke who is in hospital quite a lot as he has spina bifida. He is the best thing in my life. My family was blessed the day Luke was born. I love him more than words can describe. He is such a character with a heart of gold and he is more like a little brother to me. When Luke was in hospital i didn't visit. Again this was way outside of my comfort zone. This hurt. Luke understood, he's a bright boy, so he didn't expect to see me at the hospital and he didn't hold it against me but i feel the guilt.

Then there's my mum. My mum is my best friend. I know most girls would say the same thing but she genuinley means everything to me. She is one of those people who spends her life putting other people first, always helping people in need. I have such a close relationship with my mum that i sometimes wonder if that's what caused my agoraphobia in the first place. Ever since i was a little girl i didn't like to be away from her for long and it seems this has continued into adulthood. But there is guilt in this relationship too. Guilt that i am her only daughter but she doesn't get to do the mum and daughter type things i know she misses. Going shopping, going for lunch etc. She doesn't have the best health so has to attend the doctors or hospital regularly and i feel i should be there to support her but these places are so far out of my comfort zone that it seems impossible.

Time to seek more help... Push the boundaries even further.

Relationship Breakdown

(Above - Neil, complete with funny hat)

My relationship with Neil had been going through a rough patch. We could have some very vocal arguements and during one of these fights Neil told me to move back into my mums. I knew he wasn't really serious but i decided to go anyway. I was more than happy to stay back in the family home. I was very comfortable there and even better i could be with my mum a lot. Neil regretted having asked me to leave but we continued our relationship anyway. It soon became an issue though. Not only had i stopped going out altogether but it meant that Neil was now living alone and if he wanted to see his girlfriend he had to visit her at her parents. I felt so bad. Very, very guilty. We used to do so much together but suddenly Neil was attending weddings, parties etc on his own. He would be surrounded by couples and he really didn't like it. Also now that i was basically house bound i couldn't get to the flat we had bought together. So we broke up. I can honestly say that agoraphobia was not responsible for the break up of my relationship with Neil. There were a lot of different issues but i do think it stopped me from making the effort that Neil deserved.
For Neil i would say his life moved in a positive direction. He is now with another girl and they are expecting their first baby together. I would never hear a bad word said about him. He was fantastic to me and had the patience of a saint. I will always be greatful for everything he did for me.
Losing Neil will always be a big thing for me. He was a huge part of my life. In the end we were together for about 9 years. He was my best friend. My protector. I relied on Neil to make me feel better, to keep me feeling safe. Suddenly i was on my own and i MISSED him. But i knew it was for the best and i knew that i had to get better for me! To rely on nobody but myself. Otherwise how would i cope when there was no one around?

Monday, 28 January 2008

Agoraphobia Confirmed

I had been living with my panic attacks for a couple of years by now. For a while i was able to live a some what normal life. As i mentioned before, i kept up working for a while and although i eventually quit everything else in my life was pretty much the same. I still saw my friends regularly. I would visit my family most days and my social life was as busy as ever. I never missed a Saturday night clubbing with friends. But i noticed the changes starting to take place.

When i was going out clubbing i would need alcohol before hand as the negative thoughts would already have kicked in. What if i panic in the nightclub? What if i can't get a taxi home quick enough? What if i panic in the taxi? So i would have a few vodka's for dutch courage and continue my night as normal. It seemed to be the build up to the night out that made me most anxious but once i actually arrived at the club i would be fine and would enjoy the rest of my night without a care in the world (the alcohol must have taken effect by then).

When i was out about about doing other things like shopping or visiting friends i realised i had this feeling inside me that i would really just rather be at home. I didn't understand WHY i felt this but i was aware of it, so i decided to tell my doctor.

I don't know if that was a mistake or not, but the day i told the doctor was the day that my life changed the most. After explaining how i had been and the feeling of wanting to be at home my doctor said 'It sounds like you have Agoraphobia'. I had heard about agoraphobia before. I was sure this was a condition which made people scared to leave their homes. I didn't realise that there are different types of agoraphobia or that people can have different symptoms. So i left the doctors feeling extremely worried.

That night i had to walk home. I was walking along and feeling ok when suddenly i started to think about what the doctor had told me. 'Well if i have agoraphobia i should be a nervous wreck right now'. 'I should be freaking out'. 'I'm not indoors so i shouldn't be handling this situation'.
Cue panic attack! Once again it was horrific. I was looking around and everything seemed huge and scary. The sky, the houses. I grabbed onto a fence and this time was literally paralysed with fear. My legs wouldnt move. I managed to phone my boyfriend and he came and prized me off the fence. From that day on i was full blown, never leaving the house, agoraphobic.

Getting Help

For me the main person who helped me at the start was my GP. I would make regular appointments and when the doctor told me i wasn't insane, that would be enough to keep me happy and calm for a while. However one of the first things my doctor done for me was refer me to speak to a counsellor. To be honest i don't have much to say about this. It's not that the counselling didnt help me or that i found it to be a useless experience, it's just that i didn't have many appointments. I think i maybe spoke to a counsellor about 4 times in all. I did find it helpful to talk about what i was dealing with. It wasn't something i discussed with friends and i still don't really. I feel they don't need to be dragged down by negativity, i'd much rather we have a good gossip and have fun when we are together. So it was a nice releif to be able to get everything off my chest. Also once again i found it a comfort when the counsellor would tell me my worries and thoughts were common in people with anxiety.

My next referal was to the Community Psychiatric Nurse. I would say that this was more helpful to me. I would meet with the nurse Donna once a week and we were going to be working on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The sessions took place in my home so i would be nice and relaxed and didn't have to go through the ordeal of travelling to and from appointments. We started with the basics, what i had been going through, my symptoms, how i coped with panic attacks etc. Donna provided me with a lot of reading material about anxiety and as per usual i found this helpful as i was realising i was not alone in this. She also taught me breathing excersises and how to relax, telling me that these would be the best methods in dealing with panic. Donna explained to me that i was thinking negatively and that by having these negative thoughts i was creating a vicious circle of anxiety. I began to understand my condition and realised she was so right! I did have a lot of negative thoughts and Donna tried to teach me how to over rule them. Ignore them. Why should i let these things control my life?

I was finding the CBT sessions very helpful. I was gaining a new confidence that i didn't have before. I could see that i could beat this. I had the strength to control my anxiety instead of it controlling me. That's when Donna told me she was leaving her job. She was moving to a job elsewhere. It wasn't the best news really. I felt i was making progress but with Donna leaving what would i do next? She told me that i would be assigned a new nurse. But after those weeks with Donna i never did see another nurse on a regular basis. A lack of staff or Staff sickness were the excuses i was given. I felt very let down, i was on my own again.

Moving House, Work and Love

(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.

Regular Panic and Medication

This is my family -Mum, Brother Derek, Dad, Brother Joseph and Me celebrating my dads 50th.

The day after my first panic attack i woke up with my mum popping her head into my bedroom and telling me she was going out to visit one of her friends. I felt ok for about 5 minutes then suddenly the feelings i had the night before came back just as strongly and just as terrifying. I had quickly forgotten just how awful it was and realisation that it was happening again was too much for me to cope with.
I threw on my clothes and ran to my mums friends as quickly as i could. This time i knew it was a panic attack but it didnt make it any easier for me to deal with.

Over the next few weeks the panic attacks came thick and fast. My life changed. When i was suffering with anxiety i wouldn't go out. I was completely dependant on my family to look after me. I didn't want to be left alone and i phoned my doctor regularly. I still remember this period so vividly. My panic would build and at it's peak it would be so intense i would fear i was going to lose control. My boyfriend or my mum would be with me at these times and i was tell them to talk to me, to distract me as that was the only way i found i could get myself back down.

My doctor decided it was time for me to try some medication to deal with things. I had always been sceptical about the use of anti depressants. Like most people i had heard horror stories and how you could become addicted but when my doctor offered me Seroxat (paroxetine) i was more than happy to try anything if it would make me feel better.

The doctor told me that the first week on the drug would be the hardest. My body wouldnt be used to it so there was a chance i could feel unwell and even the chance that my panic attacks could get worse....and wow was he right.

It was a living nightmare. I couldn't eat, i couldn't sleep. I felt like i was having a 24 hour panic attack. I was vomiting, sweating it was horrendous. I called my doctor constantly! It was probably verging on harrassment! I needed to know if what i was going through was normal. I was always needing the reasurrance that i was ok, that this would pass. The panic attacks i had at this time were the worst i ever had and the memory of those nights are the ones that will stay with me forever. Maybe i was wrong to keep taking the tablets? As far as i was concerned this medication would help me and after that initial week i never had anymore problems.

I have since heard a lot of horror stories about Seroxat. People being extremely addicted, people whose symptoms have gotten worse because of the drug, or people who experience suicidal thoughts because of them but i can honestly say that Seroxat hasn't given me any of these problems in 8 years (touch wood). All i can say is, i have no idea how i would have coped with my anxiety without medication as i was basically put on it as soon as my problems started.

However, Seroxat leaves me with new worries. Have i been on the drug so long that they no longer work? Worse still.. How bad is it going to be when i need to stop taking them?

The First Panic

Ok, so like i said, i was 19 years old. I was in a long term relationship and had just bought my first home. I had fantastic friends and a very busy social life, life was good. On the other hand it was approaching Christmas and i had just lost my job so that wasn't ideal but i didnt let things like that bother me.... or so i thought.

I remember complaining of dizziness for a few days so i had been taking it easy at my parents house. I wasn't particularly worried, i was a teenager. It was the perfect excuse to be lazy and lie watching tv all day. It was a Thursday evening at around 5pm, wow i remember it so clearly!
My dad and my boyfriend had just come home from work and we were all gathered in the living room for dinner. Suddenly i felt very strange.

I was looking around the room and i felt very detatched from everything. My vision had gone slightly hazy. My dad must have noticed i'd gone quiet because he asked if i was ok to which i answered 'yes'. But i soon said 'no i'm not'. The panic set in! What was happening to me. I was dizzy, my heart was pounding, the room was spinning. My head was tight but most prominant was that i felt utterly terrified!! My mum started running around trying to help me. She grabbed the phone and called the doctor. I crawled to the front door to try and get some air. Maybe i needed to cool down? My dad has suffered Asthma all of his life so he was worried i was taking an asthma attack but my breathing seemed ok. The doctor came on the phone and i was like a women possessed. I was screaming that i needed help. That i didn't know what was happening to me but that he better come see me quick! I remember him arriving straight away. He got me onto the couch and explained that i had taken a panic attack. He told me it would pass or he could give me and injection which would cause me to pass out. Funnily enough I prefered the option of just letting it pass. I actually calmed down really quickly with the doctor there. My whole body was shaking and my legs were actually jumping as if in a spasm. I didn't care, i was just glad it was over!

That night i was actually laughing about it. Saying how strange it was and how weird it had been to call the doctor out like i did as that was something i had never done before. I felt totally fine by then. I figured it was a one off. Scary but a one off, that was untill the next morning ...


When i first started having panic attacks at 19 years old i didnt understand what was happening to me. I had so many questions... Is this normal? Does everyone feel the same sensations? What has caused this? How long will this last? Am i going to have these forever?

It was these questions and the not knowing that caused most of my anxiety back then. I would sit on the internet for hours looking to find someone going through the same things as me. I needed to know i wasn't alone. When the agoraphobia came i would say i found it even more difficult to find someone i could relate to. So that's why i have decided to write this blog.
I want to help other people out there who have just started to experience panic attacks or agoraphobia. Or even to talk to people who have been living with them for years. Having just turned 27 i've had my problems for 8 years and its been so much fun!!!! (yes im being sarcastic). I'll talk about my first panic attack, how the agoraphobia set it, medications, therapies, relationships etc. Basically how my life has changed since 1999 and i would welcome anyone to leave comments or tell me their stories. So here goes.....