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Generalised Anxiety and Agoraphobia - Kelly's Story

This page created 28/09/12

By Kelly

Where do I start?

I was reading the article by Anna in that’s life magazine and was relieved that for once, somebody was able to  publish an article on an issue that, to me, maintains much stigma, and also, the fact that so few people understand what we go through. I tore the page out of the magazine after completing my puzzles and made sure I contacted Anna as soon as I could.

Anna replied immediately and it was such a personally written email that I was particularly touched.

I then had a look at the ADAVIC website and felt my world had opened.

Living in Tasmania, we have limited networks for support and outlets to receive help. Being such a small state, and personally employed within the Health Department of Tasmania, it becomes isolating, as you begin to identify with health professionals on a working basis. It also leads to a range of obstacles when seeking professional help. So I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank Anna for providing an outlet for people like myself who feel isolated.

I don’t know when my anxiety started. What I do know however, is that I have always been an excessive worrier and always a lot wiser and before my time.

I have had a few stressful events in my life and looking back now, I can see how that eventually builds up when you don’t take time out to grieve and make time for recovery. Ultimately one day, your body says enough is enough.

My nervous breakdown came on without any warning signs so to speak. I had arranged for my son and I to attend one of his friend’s birthday parties when all of a sudden I experienced what I now know to be my first panic attack. At the time, I was  unaware of what was happening, so it was exasperated significantly.

One thing that really irritates me is when health professionals say that panic attacks only peak for approximately 15 minutes, when in my experience the panic can last for hours and even days on end. My panic was consistently in my life for at least eight weeks. I went into complete and utter fear, and days rolled into weeks. I would watch the clock and as every hour passed I would feel blessed to still be alive. I couldn’t function in any way, shape or form. I had only just signed a lease on a property after separating from my partner, and had to move back in with him as I was unable to care for my son. I couldn’t sleep, despite the numerous sleeping tablets my GP gave me. I wasn’t eating, I had diarrhoea, and I was having convulsions. I was shaking uncontrollably and felt so weak that it became a chore to stand in the shower. Every second day (if not more often), I would be at the doctors with a new symptom. While I now see it as reassurance, at the time I was completely convinced that I had something sinisterly wrong with me. I had every blood test available but still wasn’t convinced. I was also confused by the medical advice; the doctors kept saying I had something viral.

I would pray that I would wake up the next day feeling somewhat better. I wondered if it would ever end. I couldn’t venture anywhere. I was uncomfortable in my mind and body, and I was unable to describe the fear to anyone. I truly felt and believed that no one understood. I felt people were forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do and pushing me further and further into my fear-driven state. I was becoming angry, upset and distraught with each day that passed. I felt absolutely no improvement. Doctors failed to ease my mind as they (after several weeks) still believed it to be viral. I felt they were not assessing me    properly and felt I was being looked at as a hypochondriac. I eventually took my Mum with me to an appointment, as she is a registered nurse and I wanted her to see if they were missing anything. It wasn’t until this particular day that the doctor said to me “I’m sorry to tell you, Kelly, but you are not dying. This is psychological, not physical”.

I remember walking out of the surgery and saying to Mum that I didn’t agree. Up until this point, I found it hard to grasp the concept of how powerful the mind can be, and just how vital and important mental health is to your physical health and the impact it has.

I was then sent to a psychiatrist, but this didn’t work, as I left the consultation with four scripts. I walked out crying and questioned my mother as to how (as a single parent), I could possibly function on the tablets that had been prescribed to me.  If I pursued and took the medication, I would have been a complete zombie or sadly, may not have even been here. So instead, on I went, up and down. I am highly sensitive to anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications so finding one that suited me without dramatic side effects was quite challenging. Twelve months after my breakdown I went back to work, but I was still suffering from spontaneous panic attacks and still not feeling myself. I wasn’t even sure who I was anymore.

By the Christmas of that year, (which I spent alone as my anxiety had peaked again), all I wanted to do was stay in bed where I was safe and warm. I went back to my GP and we decided it was time for me to see another psychiatrist because I wasn’t improving at all, and the reasoning for her doing this was to look at changing my SSRI’S.  I changed my medication and felt it did make a difference, but I still had the side effects from these that I didn’t like at all. I am starting to think that medication is not the answer, but for anyone who is on medication or has just started to do so, this is just my opinion, and I have been dealing with this for quite some time now.

I think the saddest and hardest part is that we (as sufferers) are not allowed the time to heal. I had no family support and living in Tasmania there are limited resources and facilities for people suffering with this illness. As mentioned, working within the Health Department also isolates you because you begin to know health professionals in a working relationship, and this becomes a costly expedition, because you have to seek private health professionals instead. I would love to see centres where people can go to recover and get back on track with the support of health professionals and other people going through the same ordeal. I think there is too much pressure on people to get better quickly when there is still a limited understanding of what the person is going through and the belief that people should just be able to snap out of the problem!

It has been two years this month since my breakdown and I have come a long way. It has been a very long and hard journey and I still have my days where I don’t know what caused it and I still don’t know what my triggers are. I still feel lost and empty at times and also frightened of returning to that place again. I would say I still have relatively high anxiety levels, but I am able to work fulltime and remain a single parent who has just enrolled to university to complete a Bachelor of Arts with a major in psychology.  I remain a very frightened and lost soul. I see my GP regularly and I utilise the website (thanks to Anna) and see a psychologist once a month. I try to get a remedial massage once a month and I read a lot on anxiety.

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