It was coming towards the end of high school when I realised I had anxiety. It was after talking to family members and professionals about how I was feeling that I knew I had this within me. I had my first panic attack when I was 11 years old. I had no idea what was happening to my body and neither did my parents due to no one really talking about mental illness back then. I’ve had many panic attacks since the first one, but that one will always stick out to me. I still remember exactly how terrified I felt during that attack 10 years ago. There were days during middle school and high school when I would feel physically sick at the thought of attending. I missed quite a few days and people did question why I was always ill. In my mind, I just put it down to a sickness bug or flu, it wasn't until later that I found out it was anxiety. 
Before being at the peak of my anxiety (early 2018), I thought that it was something I would have to deal with on my own for the rest of my life. I found it very hard at school. I was always comfortable just sitting back and learning, staying in my own bubble. But when do the teachers ever allow you to do that? I started skipping a lot of lessons in sixth form because they always preached about how important it was to talk in front of my peers and to communicate, but honestly, it set me into a darker hole. I was always the shy kid at school, from the beginning of primary to the end of high school. I didn’t like talking in front of people. I was comfortable with that. 
My anxiety peaked at the beginning of this year (2018). My panic attacks were happening more frequently, at least 3 times a week. I was put on Citalopram back in April to try and control them as I found just walking to work a struggle. In May, my panic attacks changed. I don’t know if that’s possible but I was experiencing something that I have never felt before. Before May, my panic attacks usually consisted of the same symptoms: racing heartbeat, sweating, struggling to breathe etc. But one evening, when I was having a meal with my boyfriend at a local restaurant, I started to experience a few horrible symptoms that I had never felt before. I honestly thought I was at the end of my life. My neck was stiffening up; I had this horrible taste in my mouth that no drink could budge; I lost entire control of my body. 
I went to a holiday resort for a week in the middle of May and experienced some of the worst panic attacks of my life. I was terrified. I stayed in the villa for the rest of the holiday, scared to leave just in case another happened. I urgently had to get a 2 week sick note for work because the thought of leaving my house flipped my stomach. I was trapped. I tried walking down the road with the help of my boyfriend and step mother but my legs couldn’t get me any further than about 10 metres. 
Talking to my family and friends about everything I am dealing with has helped me so much. My sister was the first to notice it a few years back and she has been my rock ever since. She took me to the doctor back when I was 18, in which they referred me to a therapist. It wasn’t until 2018 that I spoke to my dad about my anxiety. My parents knew I was dealing with it, but I don’t think they knew how bad it had actually gotten. My father has been my hero throughout my life, therefore, I think in some way this made me nervous to tell him as I wanted him to remain strong. However, I know it was the right decision to make and now I am so grateful for everything my family has helped me with. 
As I said previously, I am on Citalopram. This is an anti-depressant but also helps with panic disorders. I tried seeing a therapist back when I was 18, but it didn’t last longer than a few sessions as I think I kind of denied to myself that I had anxiety. Now, I am 21 and I have my first appointment booked with the same therapist later this month. To be completely honest, I’m excited. For the first time in my life I feel like I can take control of this. It’s not something that I will have to live with or deal with. I will come out the other side and learn how to control all of these emotions. I know it’ll be a long journey, but I’m positive that I will get myself back. I will have control over my own body. I can do this. 
My advice to someone going through something similar would be just to talk to someone, whether it is a friend, family member, teacher or doctor. It does help. I know you may feel weak or stupid that you are experiencing such things, but anxiety is real and you can get control again. I talk about my anxiety to everyone that asks. I’m not ashamed of having it, it’s just something that I’m going through at the moment, just like someone with the flu or a broken leg. It won’t have hold of you forever. Speak about it. Do not let it control you. 
Story written by Natalie Phipps 
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