A History of Mental Illness: Panic

This is a series about my history of mental illness.  Please read the introduction for more information.

Imagine driving down a treacherous road when it is pitch black during a blizzard.  You lose control of your vehicle and are sent spiraling off the mountain.

That’s what happened during my sophomore year of college.

Starting college was refreshing and very difficult.  I could not fathom failing (which I considered a grade less than an A as failing) so I worked extra hard to succeed in my classes. When I received a B+ on my first test, I called my mom in tears.  I made it through the semester, mostly in tact (and with all A’s), and prepared for the next onslaught.  The next semester, I was taking 17 credits and working part-time.  After a month or so, the pressure became so intense that I started having panic attacks—my breathing was shallow, my heat beat fast, and sweat would pour down my face.   I felt like I was suffocating. This would often be accompanied by severe stomach pain; I remember a particular episode when my friend had to take me to the ER because I thought I was dying.

I would often call my mom, sobbing, because I felt so overwhelmed.

I started envisioning death and having fantasies about disappearing from the world.  My mom must have sensed that things were horribly wrong because she called me one day and convinced me to seek a therapist’s help.

If I hadn’t started seeing the counselor, I don’t think I would be here today.  Although I still denied much of my mental illness during our sessions, she gave me breathing and relaxation techniques that helped me get through the next semester.

It wasn’t until after my second miscarriage that I was properly diagnosed.  Considering my symptoms ranged from panic attacks to obsessive compulsive behaviors and included social anxiety, it wasn’t a simple diagnosis. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia but also had components of panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.  If left untreated, I could develop full-fledged panic disorder and OCD.

I’m still learning about these anxiety disorders and the more I learn, the more I understand myself.

Anxiety, though, wasn’t the only problem.  During high school, I developed a severe form of depression; the next few posts will be dedicated to that.

Continue on to Part Four.


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  1. Pingback: A History of Mental Illness: Go and Sin No More | Making the Moments Count