By Kayleigh R Bradshaw.
Marie hadn’t a clue what was happening, neither did I to be honest. At first, I thought I’d just not eaten enough that day when I suddenly felt faint, the room started spinning, I felt sick, hot, and sweaty with a racing heart.
It slowly got harder to speak, to concentrate, to even be present. My head felt detached from my body and my body felt detached from me! I suddenly felt out of control, it was hard to move my arms and my legs felt like two planks of wood holding me upright.
I tried to continue Marie’s blow dry and conversation like everything was fine, but the more I pretended everything was fine – the more it wasn’t!
Before I knew it my whole body was shaking in fear, I felt possessed, my chest got tight as breathing got heavier, then heart palpitations, I couldn’t even breathe, I felt suffocated… was this it? Was I having a heart attack?
Suddenly I found myself sat on the floor with my client Marie stood behind me, holding me up, telling me to breathe and calm down while she phoned for an ambulance…
I was terrified at the age of 22 thinking I might be die!
On arrival to the hospital I could barely speak, doctors and nurses asking my name and date of birth, but I was struggling to breathe, while hysterically crying with sheer worry as to what was happening with my body!
“Kayleigh to calm you down, we’re going to ask you to breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth in this paper bag” A calming women’s soft voice told me.
A bloody bag! That panicked me more, I was having some kind of heart attack the last thing I needed was some paper bag!! I needed an operation, a heart monitor, a life support machine!! …
Eventually, what I thought was just a silly bag worked! I calmed down, my heart still pounding but not racing. My head still felt heavy without the dizziness, I felt sick, I still had sweat dripping down my body, what the f*ck just happened?!
I looked over the doctor sat with the soft talking nurse with confusion, still terrified, waiting for an answer…
“Kayleigh, have you suffered any kind of traumatic stress lately? Anything significant happen recently that you would like to talk about?” Asked the doctor.
“No? What do you mean?” I snapped. “What’s wrong with me?”
“Could you tell us your symptoms earlier before the attack and now?” Asked the nurse, waiting with her notepad and pen.
“Attack?! What attack? What happened to me?!” I demanded, still sobbing.
“You had a panic attack” The doctor calmly interrupted.
“A panic attack?!” An even more confused me asked. “I don’t understand.”
“Yes, a panic attack, which is why we need to know your symptoms” The nurse told me. “Along with any problems or stressful situations you might have found yourself in lately?”
I started crying even more, “I don’t have anxiety, I don’t have any stress, nothing is wrong, apart from whatever just physically happened to me.”
“Well, I would maybe recommend you do some research, we have a lot of online help, leaflets to give you and we can prescribe you some propranolol tablets, these are beat blockers, you can take up to 3 a day. If you feel a panic attack coming on again then you can also take one and they should slow your heart rate down within 20 minutes.” The doctor instructed.
I left the hospital feeling crazy! I felt stupid, silly, probably worse than I did before I went in! I looked at the leaflets on the bus as I headed home, reading all about anxiety and depression – two words I’d never even used before, never mind felt!
What did I have to be sad about? I had a good job, a good group of friends, my amazing family who I lived in a lovely home with, no boyfriend but that was by choice… How could they say I was anxious?
The more I read, the more I worried, the more I thought, the more I worried. I checked my phone to find lots of missed calls from worried family and friends wondering what happened at the hospital, and I wanted to ignore every single one of them, I was too embarrassed to tell them what the doctor had said. I felt weird, I felt different to everybody, in a time when I knew I had so many people around me, I now felt so alone!
I had to face the music, my parents and friends wanted answers, I broke down to every single one of them, I told them the truth, I told them word for word what the doctor had said, some of them were just as confused as me, ten years ago we lived in world where the only mental health known or spoke about was the type where people were restrained and locked away. So I was shocked at the response from my loved ones…
They asked questions, they held me, hugged me, spoke to me, made me cry even more. If I’m been honest, once I’d started crying from the hospital, I honestly didn’t stop for about 24 hours! I guess I was overwhelmed from all their kind words and support, but it didn’t leave me feeling any better…
I spent the next 3 months in and out of bed after that day, didn’t go to work, didn’t really leave the house, if I did it was maybe to the back garden and even then, I’d have an alcoholic drink to mask the tears.
My friends would send flowers, chocolates, they’d even try come over, but I’d think of an excuse why they couldn’t. My family were amazing, I lived with them back then and they honestly couldn’t do enough…
After a while I felt like I was a burden, like I was annoying everybody with my problem that had no answers or reason. I felt like if I didn’t know why or how I was upset then I had no right to be!
Surely if I felt like that, then others must have thought that of me too, and looking back now, I realise I used to really care what people thought!
So, I rang work, told them to open my column, I was coming back to work. I text the girls to tell them I would be out at the end of my first week back at work and I wanted to see everybody for drinks.
Just like that, I picked myself up, I dosed myself up on these tablets under the impression if I took them, I wouldn’t have a panic attack, I went out on the Saturday, downing shots while popping anxiety pills because if I did that, I thought I’d be safe, but how very wrong I was…
This carried on for less than a couple weeks until one day at work, the same thing happened, I was mid blow dry again as my hands started feeling sweaty, my legs heavy, the dizziness started, heart palpitations, this time instead I told my client I’d be back in two minutes, it was fine I’d just go into the back and have a tablet to calm me down.
I sat myself down in the back and waited, 20 minutes later, my boss came in with angry that I’d left my client on her own with wet hair. I burst into uncontrollable tears, then another panic attack hit me, but this time worse….
Crying, struggling to breathe, my body shaking, feeling cold yet sweaty, sheer fear running through the whole of my body, the feeling of death once again.
It was too much! This time they called my parents to pick me up, even though I was determined I needed a ambulance, one of the girls sat with me whilst they got there and they sneaked me out of the back door – (so I wouldn’t make a scene in the salon) They told my parents they would take me off the booking system till further notice, so in other words I’d lost my job!
Not only did loosing my job make me worry more, but the fact they sneaked me out of a back door to avoid any questions been asked made me feel ashamed like there was something wrong with me,
Suddenly the anxiety upset me so much it turned into depression. I spent nights laid on my bed thinking how I would ‘figure this out’ tomorrow, I would get up and put my make up on, but then I’d lay back on my bed and spend my day scrolling through social media, wishing I were doing all the ‘normal’ fun things everybody else seemed to be doing.
Until I started been bored of it, my sadness slowly turned in to anger. This wasn’t me! I was the loudest person in the room, I was the one that everybody else came to for advice, I had a great life, great friends, and an amazing family.
I started researching anxiety and depression, just like the doctor told me. I agreed to go on a waiting list for a counsellor, I ordered self help books, instead of reading bullshit on social media, I took an interest in psychology and then stumbled upon spiritually – been a better version of yourself, building a better mindset, a successful life – a happy life!
I wanted it but I knew the only way I could get it was through me! So, I got myself a new job, I went off to the next biggest city along to be a barber – I mean it was terrifying, but I’d learnt some self-help tips to get me through. From breathing exercises to gratitude lists and some professional help from a counsellor once a week, who made me realise there was stuff bothering me, stuff I didn’t even know bothered me!
A saying I love is – When you know better, you do better!
So I did! I learnt about myself, about things that made me happy, I got out of routines of pleasing others and always doing the same thing because that was safe!
I got out of my comfort zone and still continue to do so every day – trust me, writing this knowing how many people are about to read it is probably one of the scariest things I’ve done this year!
Having said that, I feel proud I could share my experience with you and even prouder that I have my own website for you guys to read it from!
I’ve learnt a lot about myself these last 6 years, anybody reading this who knows me just probably learnt a lot about me too!
I’m usually the loudest, happiest person in the room so nobody would ever suspect I feel any different on the inside…
There’s the problem, because we don’t see mental health problems, we don’t see the importance of them…
It’s mental health week and this is my campaign!
I asked some brave members of the public to share their personal mental health experiences and the result was amazing!
Everyday this week, starting tomorrow I will be posting a real story written by a real story of their real experience of mental health…
I want to you or anybody you know suffering with any mental health problem that you are not alone, that you should not suffer alone, and you don’t need to suffer with so much help and support around!
I will also be providing advice, tips, and useful contacts for anybody needing help or support, I have comments box for anybody wanting to have a little chat or you can contact me via email, social media and you can find my details on my contact page…
I am a Mo-rated barber meaning I am trained in talking about mental health whilst currently studying my NVQ level 2 in Mental Health first aid, please not I’m not a doctor, I can’t give you a diagnosis, I have a listening ear and can point you in the right direction if you’re struggling so don’t be afraid to ask!
I would love to see comments this week, especially for the brave volunteers sharing their stories!
I have a surprise coming at the end of the week, so keep checked in with me all week, enjoy reading and let’s make this positive week of awareness be known, let’s share the love, spread the positivity, look after ourselves and our loved ones.