Hi, I’m Jill Green. I am ’40 -something’ years old and have had panic and anxiety attacks since I was 7. I wasn’t “officially” diagnosed with panic disorder until 1989, when I was 24 years old. For years I tried desperately to find out what was “wrong” with me. I was overmedicated, overwhelmed, and confused for many years (these subjects are addressed in other posts). I suffered greatly.
How My Panic Attacks Started
Apparently I was always highly sensitive, but this turned to anxiety attacks and panic when I was just 7 years old. At that age, my parents transferred me and my siblings from public school to a Catholic school. I was only in second grade, but it affected me greatly. My siblings were affected by the change in schools, but not like me.
I absolutely loved my old school We had 20 kids on our little class. We had fun in school and played outside together after school. My early school memories are among my happiest.
I adored my kindergarten teacher, who lived just up my street. She had red hair, a huge smile, and I thought she was beautiful. She liked me too. She would notice things like if I got my hair trimmed. She was openly affectionate and hugged all her students. She also was my first grade teacher. I thought she had us for 2 years because she liked us so much. I don’t know if that was the case, but that was my memory. Having the same teacher for 2 years in a row was great, at least for me.
My best friend in the world was in my class in both kindergarten and first grade. We played together every weekend. I never saw her after we transferred to the new school and I remember missing her.
For the new school, we had to wear these uniforms which I thought looked funny. We still had to ride on the public school bus, and that’s where I first was shamed and embarrassed by the other kids, due to the awkward looking necktie, jumpsuit and navy knee socks.
My new teacher, Sister J, was a very tall, ancient nun dressed head to toe in her black nun uniform. Her wrinkled face and hanging jowls seemed squeezed out of that white head thing she wore on her flowing nun headdress. No one knew if she had hair. She scared the living daylights out of me at first sight. And she was mean, which I would come to find that out soon.
One of my first days in school I wore blue nail polish. She made me stand in front of the class with my arms out for I don’t remember how long, as punishment. But it was long enough for my shoulders to ache, and get laughed at. Then I was made to scrape the nail polish off with an open safety pin, supplied by Sister J.
I knew no one in my new school. And there were cliques among the girls, which I noticed immediately. In time I was singled out and made to feel “poor” because my mother sewed my blouses, the only part of the uniform we were allowed to change. There were a lot of rules in the new school. and I felt pretty helpless at the time. We were only allowed to go to the “lavatory” 2 times a day. Never having heard the word, I thought it was called the laboratory. One of the popular girls made fun of me for that.
We had to line up in order of height morning and afternoon to go the lavatory. Being tall, I was always near the end of the line. I don’t know if we were allowed to go to the lavatory any other time. I never asked.
I remember one time in the beginning of second grade a girl peed her pants in the middle of class. The urine ran down her chair and formed a growing puddle. That horrified me. She was crying and that’s the only memory I have of it, except that I became terrified that I would pee my pants in class too.
And that, essentially is the trauma that caused me to start having panic attacks at 7 years old: Going from completely accepted and loved (at the old school) to the punitive, scary new school, where I felt alone, different and less than with the constant thought in my mind that I would shame myself by peeing my pants.
It took me many, many years, and thousands of dollars in therapy to figure this simple story out.
From a frightened second grader to a married mom in my mid thirties, my life with panic disorder, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorder was very difficult and painful. There were many times over the years I thought about ending it all, but I was too chicken. I was afraid to die and afraid to live. It truly was a sad way to live.
Why am I telling you this?
Because you don’t have to suffer like I did. I am able to control both my panic disorder and social anxiety disorder today. Today thankfully, there are excellent resources and for people who suffer (and I do mean suffer) from panic and anxiety attacks.
You are not alone, although it may feel like you are. I know what it’s like to think no one understands your troubles, not your family, not your doctor, and certainly not your friends. How could they? Their lives seem so…normal.
This mission of this blog is to provide tips and resources for panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. Over the past 10 years, I have been privileged to find some of the best anxiety self help solutions for me. That is why I offer them to you.
I hope you find this site to be useful, and above all, I wish you peace.
“Hi Jill you’ve been the best help I’ve had, better than any therapist or psychiatrist I’ve seen, wish we lived close you deserve a lovely huge bunch of flowers… – Rosetta”