I’ve had a lot of stress going on recently. I haven’t really been myself. I can’t pinpoint one thing that’s been stressing me out, really it’s been loads of combination of things from a family member needing to have a serious operation to remove a cancerous lump to feeling judged and isolated at work. Obviously the family member’s operation was a bigger concern than isolation at work but I’m not going to pretend that the isolation hasn’t been on my mind as well and causing me great stress too. So I had all this stress but no one to turn to about it. I’ve been trying to stay strong for my family because I don’t want the family member to be worried about me as well as about themselves. Also I couldn’t find the right time to talk to work about what’s going on because working in a school means you’re always on the go. So the stress began to manifest itself into a weird sensation in my chest. A gap like feeling where it felt like there was always space trying to be filled with air. If that makes any sense. I’d been feeling this weird sensation on and off for about a couple of days. Until Friday when it all came out.
I was in the staffroom and it was one of our whole school briefing mornings where all teaching and LSA/TA staff were in there. I don’t particular like these briefing mornings anyway because there’s so many people, so much noise, it does feel overwhelming but I can cope with it usually. Though on Friday with all the stress I’d been feeling all week and the catalyst was the fact at the school we were having a Macmillan coffee morning. Seeing as the operation my family member was supposed to have on Saturday to remove the cancerous lump (though the family member hasn’t had the surgery because the surgeon was sick with the flu have to wait now) timing wasn’t great for me. So it began:
The gap feeling in my chest began to loose the air more frequently. So I was trying to take in more air, obviously. I was scratching my leg/knee and staring at the floor. Unable to escape because the whole staff were in the staffroom and people were making announcements I was a sitting duck. I couldn’t leave because people would notice and think what was going on. I also felt too weak to stand because of the erratic breathing I was now doing was making me feel dizzy. After the announcements finish we usually have a mini one within our department. By this time my breathing was really heavy and irregular and I couldn’t do anything else but try and regulate my breathing. One of the LSAs asked me was I okay. I just about had the energy to shake my head and I can’t remember if I was able to mouth ‘no’. So the LSA tapped one of my managers on the knee and then that manager turned to another manager sitting next to me and gestured at me. So my manager took me down to her office space. I followed her as I felt my hands have a tingling sensation and still breathing heavily and erratically and felt like every step I was taking was me running a mile.
I got down to the office space and sat in a small room feeling absolutely embarrassed and stupid. The manager got me a brown envelope for me to use as a brown paper bag for breathing into. I sat there breathing into this envelope until my breathing calmed down. I bowed my head down and repeatedly kept calling myself an idiot and telling myself how stupid I was.
That was the end of it. The panic attack had finished leaving me a tired, embarrassed mess. I told my manager who brought me down why I was so stressed. This manager also has experience of anxiety and panic attacks so knows exactly how they feel etc. I eventually in the day told my other manager too. I’d felt so much better once I’d spoken to someone about it. All my stress felt taboo before. That’s probably what made me even more stressed. I used to think when people said you need to talk about things. I thought, in my autistic blunt way, how is that going to make it better the problems are still there and it’s true that the family member still needs to have the operation and I am still isolated from the other LSAs at work but somehow somebody else knowing that did make me feel better. It wasn’t just inside my head going around and around anymore.
I hope I feel more able to talk about when I’m worried because I still have the thought in my head it’s my problem to deal with. Other people have their own problems. It could be worse. The only problem I have is that my autistic black and white thinking is going to find it hard to censor when a problem needs to be shared and when it doesn’t. But I’m glad in a way that I had the panic attack because it helped me realise this.
Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it. Peace out!