Where to begin? I guess from the very start…
Around 10 years ago, I was sitting minding my own watching my usual evening T.V programs when all of a sudden I couldn’t breath. My chest was tight, my breathing and heart rate quickened, what was happening to me? I must be dying! It must be a heart attack. I was taken to the hospital where it was decided I was OK. Umm excuse me, no, I was not ok, I just suffered a major heart attack. Didn’t I? That’s definitely what it felt like, or what I imagine one would feel like. I had a doctor sit me down and explain that all of my vitals were fine, bloods and urine was fine. However, the whole time he was talking I was just thinking “Do them again. This is wrong. You’re wrong. The medical system is wrong. I’m dying”.
I left the hospital sobbing. I felt unsupported, cheated, lied to, hurt, patronised, embarrassed and scared. These feelings didn’t leave me any time soon, and the very next day I had another ‘heart attack’. I called NHS24, to be told to calm down. I’m sure it wasn’t as simple or as straight to the point as that, but it’s certainly what it felt like. Over the next few days I had more of these ‘heart attacks’, I was besides myself. What was wrong with me? Am I dying and they’re just not telling me?
An appointment was made with my G.P, although I had no faith that they would be able to help me. What use would a G.P be if an ER doctor couldn’t diagnose the fact I’m clearly very very ill. When I got to the surgery I was given a doctor I’d never had before, so this naturally had me believing the appointment was totally pointless. I still remember the day well, although not the doctors name unfortunately, I just remember he was a middle aged man, slender, softly spoken and probably the first/best start to my getting help. He walked me in and sat me down, he sympathetically listened to my somewhat incoherent ramblings of our failed medical system and why I needed someone to take me seriously. He calmly said that he would do everything he could to help me, there and then, and that he recognised I needed to be checked. He sent me to the nurse for blood and urine samples to be taken, when I returned he took my blood pressure and listened to my heart and lungs. Then we just spoke for a bit.
During our conversation I had revealed that I was a Mum to 3 children under the age of 5, and I was only 22 years old. He also asked about how I coped with this, what else did I have going on, and had anything big happened in my life recently? Well it had; around 3 months prior I had hemorrhaged in my womb, which had lead to me ending up in hospital. I had hemorrhaged that badly, I required 3 blood transfusions before I was able to receive anesthetic for the operation, I then hemorrhaged during the surgery and required a further 2 transfusions when I was back on the ward. I nearly died. The last thing I had said to my children before this happened to me was “Goodnight, love you, see you in the morning”, but they nearly didn’t see me in the morning. The experience was scary and I guess traumatic, but as soon as I was well enough to go home to my kids, I hot footed out of the hospital. I hate hospitals, always have, absolutely no intentions of staying longer than required. I didn’t dwell on the situation. In fact, I dare to say it wasn’t even a thought. I was just happy to be better and home.
I believe the G.P asked this, due to having looked at my medical history and realising that this was probably a pretty significant thing to have happen. He went on to explain that he feels that I may have been suffering from ‘Anxiety’, and continues to explain that this is a very common thing, especially when people can feel overwhelmed and have significant triggers happen in their lives. This was not the answer that I wanted to hear. I was essentially being told that this is all in my head, I’m making it up, it’s not real. When it is real. It’s physical, It hurts. I cried. No, I sobbed. I was devastated at his proposed diagnosis and again, refused to believe it.
When leaving the surgery that day, I felt worse. Even more patronised and humiliated. I refused his diagnosis and I refused his suggestion of medication and a referral to talk to someone. The days went by and these attacks got worse. I stopped eating, my stomach was in knots, I sat in a permanent state of fear. I longed for sleep, as I was sooo tired and drained, but I couldn’t switch off. My thoughts were racing a 100mph, I was thinking about thinking, then overthinking the thinking about thinking. It was horrible situation to be in. It felt like I was losing my mind. The level of anxiety I was now feeling, left me in a permanent heightened state, that rendered me unable to function daily, and definitely not able to leave the house. Oh no, I wasn’t going outside for everyone to see the mess I had become. They’d know. They’d see that I was now crazy!
It was at this point, my Mum came to stay for a few days. Naturally I got the whole ‘pull yourself together’ talk, of which was of no help what so ever, it just made me feel even more out of control, as if it were that easy would I not have done it? Who actually wants to be in a situation where they cannot eat, sleep or function? I know the words came from a place of good intention, but that didn’t mean they were helpful. My Mum then decided I wasn’t staying in the house anymore, I was to get up, get dressed and get to the shop. First stop? Asda. Yup, busy supermarket. As I walked in the door I felt my heart pounding out of my chest, the lights were so bright I could barely see. People were looking at me, they must see I’m not right. They know. They know I’m crazy. My thoughts are racing, and I’m trying to keep pace with my Mum, but now I can’t breathe. I’m on the ground, gasping for air. I now have a crowd around me and my Mum telling me to get up. I can’t. I can’t breathe, I can’t see. I hear someone shout “Someone get a first aider, she’s having an asthma attack”. My Mum is trying to tell them I’m ok, I don’t have asthma. She manages to get me off the floor and get me out to the car. I sat in that passenger seat and shouted at her. This was all her fault. Why did she make me do this. Then I just burst into tears. The realisation of what had happened. I had just shown the world I was a crazy!
Another appointment was made with my G.P for the next morning, and it was the same doctor. This time my Mum came in with me and she proceeds to tell the doctor I’m not coping and he needs to help me. I let out a sob “Just tell me, am I crazy?”, to which he replied “No. Do you know why I know? Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy”. After another long chat, with my Mum and I, he strongly urged me to accept his suggestion of medication and a referral for someone to talk to. I’m pleased to say I did, and that it was the first step on my journey to be able to better manage my Anxiety.