On arrival at the doctors' surgery for an appointment a little while ago I felt really ill.
The receptionist pointed out the toilets for me. As I walked in to the toilets I knew I was not going to be ill, it was a panic attack: my heart racing, trembling, sweating, feeling very nauseous.I just collapsed in a heap, sobbing uncontrollably, dismayed at what I saw as a failure to cope yet again with such a simple task.
A few minutes later the receptionist came in to check on me. She crouched by me, asking if I had been ill.
“No, I’m just having a panic attack”
“No, I’m just having a panic attack”, was my reply. She hooked her arm around mine, helped me to my feet and said she would accompany me up to the waiting room. She kept talking to me, successfully distracting me and calming me down until we got to the waiting room and the doctor came to call for me.
I was overwhelmed by her compassion. Some people may say it is part of her job but, to me, on that day, she was an angel. Without her I don’t know how long I would have stayed cowering in the toilets or if I’d just run away as I have so often done in the past (fight or flight, unfortunately flight often wins in mid-panic). Thanks to her kindness and understanding I made it to my appointment and she even cheered my day up, reminding me how great other people can be.
I have witnessed a number of different responses to my anxiety
As someone who experiences general anxiety and panic attacks I have witnessed a number of different responses. Whilst having a panic attack in public, people have deliberately avoided me while others have shown me help and kindness. When I have spoken openly to others, I have had even more diverse reactions, from disbelief to wonder at how I’ve managed to hide it from them, from ignorance to molly-coddling!
Friends have listened sympathetically as I explain my anxiety, then failed to stay in touch. That hurts but I understand that others may feel awkward, not always knowing what to say, or if I even want company. But it would be nice for people to just say “hi”.
It really helps to know someone is there for you
‘The price of a text – 10p. Price of a phone call, £1. Knowing someone’s there for you? Priceless.’
I had one colleague from work keep in regular contact with me, via text and email. She said to me on my return that she didn’t want to seem like she was being nosey or interfering. I told her I was thankful for her contact, just hearing what was going on within work, how her life was going, and other regular but simple things.
It may not seem much to some but it really helps when you’re feeling low, isolated or unsure, to know that’s there are people there. It doesn’t even have to be a verbal conversation (especially as someone who experiences anxiety, as I can find phone conversations daunting).
The kindess of strangers has helped me
Overall, I have found strangers have restored my faith in society, their kindness in my moments of need has helped me grow stronger, knowing that I will not be shunned by everybody just because I cannot always cope with situations.
Family have stuck by me through thick and thin, often talking about how I am feeling but also the regular chit-chat and anecdotes only family seem to be able to supply! Friends will always come and go. Those that stick by me in my bad times are the ones I know deserve to know me during my good times.