Here is my own story.
My Name is Michelle, I am a qualified Therapeutic Counsellor registered with the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists, using my personal as well as professional experience with anxiety to help others who are in need of support with their own anxiety and panic symptoms.
Long before I qualified as a counsellor I too suffered with Depression, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia and Agoraphobia on and off for 12 years after it triggered in the year 2000 with my first panic attack. Creating it's just a feeling gave me the drive and motivation to study to become a counsellor myself and to dedicate my working life to working with people who may need support with their own symptoms of anxiety and panic.
I have now uncovered the answers I needed to achieve long term remission from my actute symptoms and regain my own quality of life, free from unhelpful anxiety.
In my professional life, I work with clients with a range of emotional issues, however I specialise in supporting clients in their journey through anxiety as it is a subject very close to my own heart, as well as bereavement counselling through my continuous work with both adults and children within a hospice environment.
Looking back, I was always conditioned to feel fear in a negative way. I was abused as a child and as a teenager was bullied at school while at the same time coping with my parents going through a very messy divorce. I lived within a very negative environment for many years and often felt frightened and unable to open up about how I was feeling. I went through a kind of Depression and Panic episode while experiencing this bullying/divorce. I didn't know it at the time as I was just a child, but as my trigger in adulthood in the year 2000 seemed to be linked to having my own children. I often think now that this was because I worried so much about my children and tried to be a perfect mum due to my worries from my own childhood when in actual fact I was doing a great job just being myself.
When I started with acute panic symptoms in the year 2000 on my daughters first birthday, I recognise the feelings to be the same I had felt as a child.
I saw a Psychologist, and life carried on but then I found I was pregnant with my second daughter at the same time. This helped a little but once I had the added responsibility of two babies together with the hormone shift within my body that comes with having a child I spiralled into a black hole of anxiety and depression so severe that I was hospitalised for three days, just to try and calm me down.
It was a very difficult time for me and I remember not having a clue what was wrong and I had lost my ability to feel safe anywhere. My ability to function had gone, the only thing I could do was suffer, smoke and walk.
This was the start of what was to be a 12 year struggle and desperate search for answers. I didn't know why I was feeling like I was and for years I struggled along trying to act normal while not really having a clue how or why I felt like I did, it felt like I was going crazy.
At times it was so severe I could not function at all. I was an endless visitor to my Doctor, I saw a Clinical Psychologist, Psychiatrist, CBT Therapist, I tried every kind of medication, I drank alcohol to numb feelings, I tried vitamins, diets, self help books, relaxation and meditation. When all that didn't work I paid £1200 to hire a celebrity Hypnotherapist who came to my house for two hours as he was convinced it would take less than that time to completely cure me. Incidentally he didn't cure me, he left leaving me feeling much worse. Not only was I not cured, I was also £1200 worse off.
Many years passed in a blur of symptoms and research until I finally realised that I was the only one responsible for making me well again and I began to search for the answers I needed and work out why I was making myself worse and not better.
No longer was I going to let , Anxiety, Panic and Depression take my life away from me.
From the outside, I looked like I had a great life with everything I wanted, I had a good career as a Medical Representative, beautiful children, a family and everything material I could want but internally as I fell deeper and deeper into the habit of this negative thinking I was locked in a relentless battle of fear panic and total isolation, which during periods of being quite unwell, affected every moment of everyday.
I have had periods of wellness but at other times I have been a walking shell, sometimes for months on end paying no attention to the outside world often praying I would get through the next minute, never mind the next week or month. I suffered four major relapses during that twelve year period each time it happened my symptoms changed and I seemed to be much worse than I ever was previously.
I had lost my quality of life to the degree that I had slipped from an initial panic attack into an anxiety Disorder and then into Agoraphobia. With Agoraphobia I fell into the cycle of limiting my activities to avoid my feelings and I quickly became housebound.
Each time I relapsed self determination dragged me through the worst times and I slowly rebuilt my life only to relapse again and it all came back and took away my ability to do anything again. On reflection some years later, I understood that this was happening because I was not properly informed of what was happening or what to do, I was also locked in a personal situation that was not getting better and as I had no self esteem to get out of it, I remained stuck.
I can remember sitting up night after night staring at the clock willing myself to get through each minute while my family slept. I had a wall planner that I religiously ticked off the days as I made it through them. I don't really know why I ticked or what I was striving for, my life just seemed an endless pointless waste that knew only anxiety and depression and I could just not see how I could get myself out of it.
While I went through the motions of daily life and probably looked ok, I was actually just focusing on internal sensations, terrifying symptoms of intense panic and constant thoughts of how to rid myself of all this and be the person I was before this 'awful thing' started to happen to me.
At times felt I was dying inside, that I would never be the real me again and that there was no hope. The feelings were quite terrifying as I didn't know what was causing them or why I felt them. I had gone from a person who loved life, loved to travel and meet friends to someone who avoided everything that might bring on an attack.
As my confidence faded and the conditions really took hold, I avoided meeting friends, driving, waiting in traffic, my hairdressing appointment, shopping and even aspects of my work. For years I had no idea what was wrong with me despite searching endlessly for answers.
My life became more and more limited and very lonely, whilst giving the panic more and more to feed on. I became depressed with how my life was and felt unable to open up to anyone about how I was feeling. I could see no way out. I was stripped of my ability to do even simple tasks and lacked confidence to see anyone, at my worst I was so self conscious I didn't even want to spend time with my family.
Due to the stigma associated with any mental health condition, I suffered mainly in silence, and to this day there are still people who would be surprised to read that it's me writing this, for others it will probably answer unanswered questions, Maybe like finding a missing piece of a jigsaw.
I had enjoyed some periods of remission only to suffer a setback and fall back into what I now know is the panic cycle. I was completely unable to spend time with anyone who knew me in case they noticed I seemed to be acting odd or weird and if I did meet someone I spent the whole time analysing myself and trying not to crack, instead of actually enjoying myself.
Everyday tasks became Ordeals that I had to "survive and get through" rather than something I had once done without thinking.
I have gone to great lengths to hide the way I was feeling and appearing normal meant everything to me. I have quit job's before anyone noticed or just didn't see friends until I felt well again. I know that I have been about as bad as it can get and over the years have lost or given up fantastic jobs, I have lost good friends because I isolated myself so much that they just stopped contacting me, I even lost some family in my search to be the confident outgoing person I was before all this started to happen to me.
One thing though that I never lost was my strong will and my determination to get to the bottom of why this was happening and to get my quality of life back. Yes I have been through days with this so bad that it seriously tested my resolve to carry on but I would never have been content to just sit back and watch the way I was feeling destroy everything. I was determined to leave no stone unturned in finding out how to recover myself and then how I could pass on my knowledge to help others.
Now though I understand what is going on, how to manage my anxiety and regain and maintain my quality of life. I have reversed the cycle and gained my power back from a number of conditions that have tried very hard to take so much away from me.
When life handed me lemons I decided to make lemonade, and use my abilities to help as many people as I can.
It does not have to be a lonely battle and you do not have to do it alone!
I hope I offer the answers to your questions and whilst teaching you how to learn to manage your symptoms and regain your quality of life. I believe that inner peace and recovery are very possible for everyone, no matter how bad things get and how far into the cycle of panic you have fallen.
The good news is that these are actually very treatable conditions with the right tools and support behind you, all Anxiety Disorders come under the same umbrella and can be treated in the same way. By dealing with the root of Anxiety all your symptoms can and will be brought to an end.
Often Anxiety can be a misunderstood subject within the medical world and not every line of help available is actually helping you, this is simply because often, the person often treating you has no personal experience of Anxiety. No wonder pill will cure you in an instant. It often takes many years to develop these habits of thinking and behaviours and therefore will not get better over night. I will never condemn Medical help or advice, but I know after seeing just about every kind of medical professional possible over the years and trying every text book treatment there is, not much of it has helped me personally get better in my own journey.
This is not an illness, this is a learned reaction to an emotion, the emotion of Fear.
I was often given pill after pill, time off work, told to stop worrying, with no real explanation of what the problem actually was and what it meant.
The question I needed an answer to was, "What am I doing to make this worse and how can I understand and work with my body to make it better?"
What has really helped me is advice from people who actually know how it feels and have been through it and come through the other side. It's a very personal battle for each one of us and I have enormous respect for anyone offering help that has firsthand experience themselves.
The reason I think medical professionals can be hit and miss is that no one sits you down and explains in plain English what the problem is and why these feelings are coming. Often we are just given a label and sent on our way, more confused than ever convincing ourselves that if we still feel this bad after the pill then something really serious must actually be wrong and the doctor must have missed something.
To help people I feel that the person doing the helping needs to have felt the way these conditions feel as well as just knowing the symptoms of an panic attack or feelings of anxiety and text book treatments on how to reverse them. That said, you have to try the avenues that work best for you in your journey, not every ones journey is the same, we are all individual after all and you should never compare yourself with others. How we got to this point is different in everyone and everyone will recover differently too but by really understanding what is happening to you at the beginning, helps you to seek out the professional and treatment most suited to your individual needs.
If I had been given the answers I was looking for early into my decline, I know I would not have fallen so deeply into the habitual thinking and behaviours that kept me locked into this cycle for so long. I learned to fear the feelings and sensations and my natural reaction was to avoid anything that made me feel this way which is completely the wrong way to feel better.
Ultimately, change can only come from you and knowledge is power. Getting the right advice as early as possible can shorten the time that you are suffering as you don't develop the habits that keeps you there.
Always remember 'it's just a feeling' and the thinking, thoughts and habitual behaviours can be changed.
If you are prepared to accept and learn about what is happening to you as well as put in the work to challenge the beliefs that don't work for you, you can regain inner peace and calm.
I hope your visit to my site really helps you in your journey, it has become my passion to properly educate people about anxiety disorders and depression and provide the answers that often have evaded them in their quest to understand what is happening and where these feelings are coming from.
Finally good luck and very best wishes to you. There is nothing more rewarding than regaining your zest for life after suffering panic Symptoms. Yes it takes work and effort but is so worth getting your quality of life back for and I have no doubt it can be done.
I am living proof of that.