You know when you take a deep breath, fill your lungs with oxygen and exhale and everything seems better? Great, right? Now imagine taking a deep breath, breathing in until your lungs are filled. But wait a second, that took less than a second to do so and breathing out is too quick and doesn’t seem normal at all. You try again, breathing in but being cut off after just over a second, your body repelling the oxygen. What’s wrong, you ask, why can’t I breathe? For me, this is sadly a fairly regular occurrence. For me, this is the sign of a panic attack on the brink. If I can’t stop what I’m doing, sit down and really concentrate on my breathing for a moment or two, I’m going to absolutely panic and find it ridiculously difficult to breathe.
It’s shit, there’s no two ways about it. A few years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and let me tell you that is an extremely shit thing to happen. It’s so difficult to explain if you’ve never experienced these symptoms and I’d never wish them on my worst enemy. They’re two totally different experiences, but both take you to the edge of your sanity.
Luckily I know the feeling of when a panic attack is coming on. Take this evening for example, I was on the tube on the way back home from an excellent evening with a friend. There had been no negative discussions, nothing that to my knowledge could bring an attack on. Sure I’ve been drinking, I’m writing this after around five or six pints of lager which sounds like a fair bit, but I know I can on occasion drink this amount and be fine. So whats different now?
Some of it will be due to me losing my job a few months ago. I was called into a meeting and made redundant literally there and then and my whole world pretty much fell apart. I’d previously moved to London for this job, I was pulled away from friends I’d made in Bristol to a company I trusted and felt sure would help me become satisfied with life. But then, out of the blue, redundancies happened and I was unfortunately one of the unlucky few. I’m not going to pretend that this was a good thing for me like countless people told me it would be, at least not yet. Four months on and I still don’t have a job and this I know becomes a part of why I have panic attacks. Unless you’ve personally gone through a redundancy, I don’t think I can explain how it can make you feel, especially if you don’t bounce back straight way.
But this isn’t the first time i’ve gone through this. A few years ago I was working for McDonald’s. I had a degree, I’d experience in other areas but no one was accepting my job applications. This was the lowest point i’d ever experienced in my entire life. I started having panic attacks daily, making working in a customer facing role a complete nightmare. I’d take an order and then have to go to the back office in order to fall to the floor and try and control my panic attacks. Just a single negative comment could be devastating, leading me to uncontrollable sobbing in public areas while being unable to catch my breath. Now, people will occasionally comment to me that they’re miserable, but I feel i know the true meaning of the word. I was a devastating mess.
I was this way for a good month or two until I saw sense to seek help. My doctor signed me off work for a few weeks and during this time I somehow landed the job that I now feel literally saved my life. No one, not my family or the people who worked there have a clue about this, but working for SecondSync, a social media analytics company based in the South West, saved my life. I was actually happy for the first time in years! My panic attacks stopped completely and my depression took a back step, it was honestly one of the greatest times of my life.
Now, two years on from that job and I’m sitting in my flat in East London trying to keep my panic attack at bay. Apart from the lack of job I know my life isn’t that bad. My depression is still there though, it steers it’s head from time to time and makes an appearance when I least want it to, but I try not to let it affect my day to day life. I don’t want my depression to define me. Similarly with my anxiety, it’s pretty much always there and when it stands up and tells me I’m not good enough I always try to fight back and say I am. Because that’s the thing, I am good enough. I am good enough to experience life and enjoy it. Sure there’s always something inside me telling me not to do so, but fuck that. I am a strong woman. I have dreams, I have ambition, I have things I want to do that every fibre in my body tells me I can’t do, but fuck it. What’s life without proving yourself and others wrong? Because that’s basically what depression and anxiety is. It’s your body telling you you’re not good enough, telling you that you shouldn’t do something because X and Y might happen. Fuck that. I am good enough. We are all good enough.