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When I Had My First Panic Attack, Nobody Knew What It Was

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It’s not easy having it at a young age, especially when you don’t realize what it is until you’re almost an adult.

Growing up, I never realized the issues I had (anxiety disorder and depression) were mental illnesses or something uncommon. My family only knew the symptoms of schizophrenia and a bit about depression, seeing that we had family members who had those.

The first time I ever had an anxiety attack was at the age of 8. Life at home wasn’t really great and I was always worried about my mother (who dealt with a lot of harsh things). I don’t exactly remember why or what I was over thinking about. All I can remember is going to the doctor’s afterwards.

I was crying at home telling my mom I couldn’t breathe and panicking. So of course, my worried mother took me to the hospital assuming I was having an asthma attack (my brother and father has asthma, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if I had it, too). I went to the doctor’s and he tested me for asthma and did other tests. He concluded I didn’t have asthma, and that I was possibly lying about my symptoms. He told an 8-year-old who was crying and unable to breathe that she was lying and making it all up.

After that, I stopped telling the doctors about the breathing issues I had, thinking nothing was wrong. So for another eight years I coped with it, along with depression that came soon after, whether it was in the middle of the day, after I woke up, or even in the middle of the night when it would wake me up. Even in the middle of dinner I would have a full-blown episode. I was so anxious all the time and couldn’t even focus on my school work or daily routines. I began to fear every waking and sleeping moment, worried I would lose my breath. It started to control my life.

Finally, sophomore year of high school, I told my friends about my situation and issues. Most suggested it could be anxiety and that I was having anxiety attacks. So I researched for days to see if my symptoms matched up. Which they did — down to the T. It was weird for me. I denied it instantly. I didn’t want anything to be wrong with me and become a burden to my mother. Still, I endured it, and it brought on a lot of issues — unable to wake up and face the day, living in fear, skipping school to where I almost failed and couldn’t do much anymore.

However, with more issues at home, I never brought it up. It wasn’t until I turned 18 and had another horrid episode at home while a friend was sleeping over that my mother realized how bad it was. (Actually, she realized it was bad when I collapsed to the floor crying and on the verge of passing out). She left work early when I called her the next day and took me to the hospital. I couldn’t take it anymore, and after dealing with it for 10 years I finally caved in.

I was scared to tell the doctor the symptoms I was having in fear of being rejected (this doctor also had no clue what was wrong), but I caved in and told her everything. And after listing all the symptoms, I told her it might be anxiety. After that, she nodded and gave me a prescription for some medication to try, telling me to come back a month or two later to check in.

I’ve been on the medications for about three months now, and I haven’t had a major panic/anxiety attack since. And when I do have one, it’s minor and doesn’t disturb my sleep.

If you believe you have something and show all the symptoms, consult your doctor and ask them. It took mine 10 years to finally realize what was wrong and give me the proper medications. It is worth it, especially when things start to get better, you begin to function properly and suddenly, you’re able to face the day.

Originally published: June 28, 2016
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