As we get older, living with our family becomes increasingly tricky. From the minor disagreements to the curfew to the privacy invasion, most people tend to move out as quickly as they can but very few speak about how it affects their mental health. I spoke to a lady who started having panic attacks after spending a long holiday with her family and how that has influenced her decision not to go back home.
When did your panic attacks start?
Last year, I went home for an extended period because my university was on a break. My parents were always complaining that I don’t spend my holidays with them so I decided to come home for that holiday. After spending a few weeks with my family, I went back to school and that’s when the attacks started.
What was the first panic attack like?
It was stressful because I had no idea what was going on. I tried to hit myself on a wall over and over. My friend who was with me when it happened became super confused and afraid. It happened in the night so he had to call my other friends for help. That was the worst panic attack for me because I genuinely thought I was dying.
I am so sorry. What triggers your attacks?
Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure. I could be with people and then suddenly a random thought would hit me and I would suffer an attack. For instance, the first time I had sex, I had a panic attack. The guy thought it was an orgasm, I had to explain to him that it was in fact a panic attack.
It can be random like that although, most times, I strongly suspect it has something to do with the last time I was home.
Just a lot of family stress. My mom and dad having issues here and there. I know every marriage suffers from something but I was protected from the ugly bits of their marriage. Being in the same space with them after almost a year of not seeing them made me realise how bad things have gotten.
They were always arguing and I realise that the picture-perfect front they put up is all an act. My mental health suffered a lot after that.
Have you tried talking to them about this?
I tried to explain my panic attack to my mother but she wanted me to pray about it. Prayer won’t solve anything, I’ve tried. I don’t fault her though, this is all she has known and maybe my description of what a panic attack feels like made her think it was spiritual.
Hmm, How would you describe your panic attacks?
Haha. well, for one, it starts off with me feeling shitty then for a while, everything goes blank and I temporarily lose my memory. There is an uncertainty that fills you when you cannot remember what events led up to a certain point or what is happening.
I start to hear voices as I try to remember and then it becomes louder and I want them out so I bang my head against the wall.
For some reason, I feel hitting my head will make the voices stop, it doesn’t. But at that moment, I feel like my brain is trying to explode and my body is trying to kill me cause I literally forget how to breathe. So, I am stuck in limbo, a state of blacking out but still being conscious somehow.
Wow. How do you stop these attacks when they start?
Since they can last for as long as 2 hours, I usually need friends to hold me down and stop me from hurting myself. I don’t really have a way of stopping them, I have to wait it out. Sometimes, I do breathing exercises to calm me down or I just start drawing.
Have you tried to get professional help?
Yes. I go for therapy and take anti-depressants but I sometimes worry that I might need to be on meds for the rest of my life to be okay and it scares me.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Yes. Family drama can affect one’s state of mind and it is perfectly okay to distance yourself from all that madness for your mental health sake.
For more stories like this, read My Husband Doesn’t Trust Me With His Finances.