Editor’s Note: Angeline shares what it was like going through panic attacks and anxiety disorder. It made going to work and travelling impossible at one point, but today, she is gainfully employed and has made leaps and bounds in her recovery. We are extremely proud of her for actively seeking out help, and for being so courageous in sharing her personal story. We hope this inspires you to do likewise!
**Trigger warning: Some content might be emotionally disturbing. Reader discretion is advised**
Well, to start life was very good and everything was like a bed of roses to me until I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder last year.
It all happened when I decided to resign from my company after working with them for 15 years. The people there were like my family and the company was my second home. But with various changes of management, structure and retrenchment in the company, I found that it very difficult to cope with different work scopes. There were never-ending piles and piles of filing even if only I am on leave for just one day.
I was fine, just slightly sad, on my last day of work. However, the nightmare began on my first day without a job.
I decided to join my neighbour for an early morning exercise nearby. But when my neighbour had to leave early for work after the exercise, I felt really horrible. My heart was racing, cold sweat, intense fear, my whole body was trembling. I started to cry. I thought I was having a heart attack. I looked around and told people around me that I have depression, but they just stared at me blankly. I can understand because not many people would know how to react to such news.
I recognized this lady who taught us qigong at my house void deck. So I approached her for help, and began telling her what had happened. She asked me to quickly go home and not to tell anybody because is not nice to tell people I have depression or anxiety.
I was very scared then because I just didn’t know how to get home. Everything seemed to slow down on me. Even the bus and my home seemed very far. Once I reached home I cried very hard and told my husband what happened. He too was lost and didn’t know what to do, except to take a bath and have a good rest before he went to work.
I was alone at home and when I lay down, the same symptoms came back. I had suicidal thoughts and I was scared.
I quickly called my sister who was overseas. She asked me to calm down and she contacted our cousin, who’s was able to spare some time away from his business. My cousin kept me company for awhile, prayed for me, brought me out for lunch but I did not have any appetite.
I decided to stay with my parents for awhile because was afraid to be home alone, worried that my anxiety might happen again.
Having anxiety is very tedious.
Every night before going to bed I would asked my husband what time he was leaving house. Each morning, at the same time, I would quickly wake up in panic, with the whole body sweating, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, feeling faint and short of breath. I would endure the anxiety attack, quickly shower and leave house at the same time as my husband, although I had no where specific to go.
I can’t imagine how I suddenly became so afraid of the same road that I’ve walked from my house to the train station for many years, I felt people were staring at me and if I took the MRT, my attack would happen. I suddenly became like a child that always felt scared and timid. I would think: What can I do, how should I react and who can I approach for help.
I remember once, while I was on my way to a job agency, I vomited and felt dizzy while on the train. Somehow, I struggled my way to the control station for help. The staff were very helpful and brought me to their office to rest and gave me hot drink. I was really very grateful to them.
Whenever I was alone, I’d have racing thoughts such as this is the end of the world for me with no income, no job. I felt that I was a loser. I lost appetite and lost weight from 50kg to 43kg.
My parents were concerned but they didn’t know how to calm me down. Instead they pressured me to snap out of it within one month. So I decided to stay with my brother instead. He and his wife comforted me, and so did my niece and nephew as they kept me company. It was good.
I knew something was very wrong with me. I started to Google to get help and searched for support groups. I eventually made an appointment with IMH to consult the doctor in the A&E. I was given medication which had some side effects–such as drowsiness yet was unable to lie down. My appetite also did not improve.
Finally, I joined a support group called Sunshine Path and also registered myself with Club 3R where I learn the different coping skills, and found out more about my illness.
Then I realised I am not alone.
There are lot of people who are also suffering from mental illness. They would understand what I was going through.
I sought for counseling at the SAMH and at the Buddhist centre. I saw the psychologist at IMH for six sessions and I even joined my friend who is a patchwork teacher. She taught me to do some patchwork and also offered me to stay with her for a few days to help me. I also went for reiki healing through a Dharma friend.
While on medication and receiving counseling, I started searching for work. It was a challenge because my first interview was 15 years ago. I lacked confidence but I pushed myself. I chickened out from the first interview and the position was soon filled.
Yet it so happened that the HR Manager has a relative who was also looking for a sales co-ordinator, the position I applied for. I decided to give it a go. I told my friend whom I knew for many years, and she was very helpful. She went with me for that interview.
I got the job and started work in this new company.
Everything is fine and I managed to recover slowly. I am still taking my medication today and going for appointments at IMH. My dosage has been decreased by half, and I now have many good nights of sleep.
I am very grateful to my family, friends and people who were at first strangers then now friends. They held my hand throughout this difficult journey and walked with me.
I am very proud of myself too because I am very determined to help other people who are suffering from mental illness similar to mine, or otherwise.
Actually, this was also a wake up call for me as I have learnt so much from my own illness. Little did I know that “normal looking” people like myself too can also be suffering from mental illness. That’s how stressful this society has become.
By sharing and exchanging information on coping methods and medicine, we can learn so much from one another.
I hope I can help do my part by passing this message to people who are suffering from mental illness–that they are not alone and they too can recover. There is hope. Never give up.
Angeline T. has been working as a sales coordinator for over a year now. She lives with her husband of 16 years, with no children. She hopes to return to her hobbies, and the usual outdoor activities she enjoys.