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First semester of the final year at uni. I finally got to take the lectures I'd been waiting for since my first day stepping through those doors! I knew I wouldn't be with any of the friends I'd gained since being at uni which, let's face it, haven't been many so I was already a little anxious. I got to the class nice and early and couldn't wait to get started. These lectures were the ONLY reason I wanted to do this course!! The lecturer arrived and let us in. There was only a small group of us.
When we sat down I had a quick glance around the classroom and I noticed two girls who had been friends with someone who had given me trouble in the previous two years. I began to get prickles down the back of my neck.I ignored it as best as I could. I was concentrating on what the lecturer had to say. The prickles were getting more intense and my foot started twitching. I carried on concentrating as best I could, taking notes where appropriate but my hands were now tremoring.
The lecturer then announced a break and I breathed a hugh sigh of relief. Just before we left the classroom she also announced that upon our return there would be group work. GROUP WORK! Those two words were like a knife through my soul! I had enough trouble doing group work with people I knew. In my class now were two people who I really didn't want to be with and about 10 people I didn't know.
My breathing started getting quicker, my head started to swim and those prickles were becoming more intense. I hastily exited the classroom and made for the stairs. I needed air I decided. I paced back and forth outside the building, taking huge gulps of cold, fresh air. I wasn't helping, it was getting worse. I sat on the ledge with my head between my knees taking long deep breaths. I felt like I was going to vomit!
I went back into the building to get a cup of tea. Tea has magical powers for me, it works on almost anything. Almost! By the time I got to the front of the queue I couldn't speak, I could feel tears forming at the backs of my eyes, my hands were shaking quite violently and I felt so embarrassed.I left the cafe without my tea and made for the ladies. Perhaps a splash of cold water and a stern mirror talk would help.
I spent about 5 minutes in the bathroom and the anxiety was not subsiding. I knew by this point I was almost due to be back in the class. I took the lift up the three floors fearing my heart wouldn't cope with the stairs. Inside the lift my chest began to tighten.
Those tears were now falling down my face and I was shaking so badly I couldn't hold myself upright. I burst into the classroom and could feel the few people already back from their break staring at me. I went over to the lecturer and tried to ask if I could have a quick word. I couldn't speak still. My body was becoming racked with huge sobs. I saw a glimmer of recognition in her eyes.
When we exited the classroom I explained that I had to leave in incredibly halting speech. She said that she knew what was wrong as her husband also had panic attacks. She advised me to sit outside for a while and take slow deep breaths. She also said it wasn't imperative that I attend the second half of the class. By this point my mind was racing so fast and I was crying so hard that I couldn't see properly.
I could feel people staring at me as I fled from the building. I headed to the bus stop with a view to going to my friend's who lived nearby and in the meantime, I called my Aunty Julie as she has often been a pillar of strength for me. She could tell immediately something wasn't right and tried to talk me down off the proverbial ledge.
Despite all of her fantastic efforts, I think I was actually too far gone to bring back in this manner. By the time I got to my friend's stop I was practically hysterical. I felt like my head and chest were going to explode. She saw me coming and opened her door and waited.
She said nothing. She guided me into the kitchen. I was crying and stuttering. My breathing was incredibly erratic and I couldn't stand still.
My friend then continued what appeared to be her morning routine. She was making a cup of tea and some cereal. She was talking me through her plan for the day. I couldn't hear too well as the sound of my own heart beating was deafening in my ears. I continued pacing round and round the kitchen and my friend continued to talk to me, making eye contact wherever possible. I could feel the anxiety subsiding.
The panic was receding like waves from the shore. My tears were drying and my sobs were becoming less violent. My thoughts were still in disarray but I could now hear what she was saying. She was telling me very matter-of-factly that we were going to have breakfast out in the garden then we would head on over to the high street to pick up some essentials and then she would head off to uni.
Slowly but surely, my anxiety passed. I was able to eat and enjoy my breakfast in the sunny garden.
In all, this attack lasted around an hour. It was the most excruciating attack I've ever experienced. When people generally speak of anxiety they seem to dismiss it as something that everyone gets from time to time and it's no big deal. Imagine going through what I went through even once and someone saying it's "no big deal"...!
Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 takes place from 12-18 May. This year's theme is Anxiety.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives, whether it's preparing for a job interview or bringing up a child. It is normal to experience anxiety in everyday situations, however persistent and excessive anxiety can cause more serious mental health problems.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in nearly every country in the world and, while a low level of anxiety can be a useful motivating force, in some cases it can take over your life. That's why we're raising awareness of anxiety and how to live with the condition this Mental Health Awareness Week.