So, below is my short story of the panic attack I just had back in June at UPS with the shuttle. This experience so deeply effected me, i just had to share it. If anyone can relate, just leave a comment.
FEAR of FEAR
“The Fear of Fear”. This may seem a little strange at first, but it’s more common than most people think. We’ve all heard of the fear of spiders, or the fear of heights, but…the fear of fear?? This story takes place back in July of 2010 in Louisville, Ky. I was only 19 years old and worked at UPS as a package handler to help pay for college. I have always had issues with anxiety but what I didn’t know was how UPS was going to change that. Here is my story.
It was just a regular night driving to work. I left my house at the same time, drove down the same road, drove at the same speed, listened to the same radio station, and parked in the same spot. I made my way through the guard shack where I sent all my items through an x-ray machine and showed the security my I.D. Nothing unusual. I finally got outside where I would wait for the shuttle to come pick me up. When the shuttle arrived, we all rushed to the doors, wrestling to get a seat so we wouldn’t have to stand. Unfortunately for me, I had to stand, but it was no big deal. Nothing unusual. The shuttle started to take off .I held on to the hand rails on the side as I wobbled back and forth (sometimes it’s hard to be tiny). Then it happened…
As the shuttle was making its rounds, I began to feel a little uncomfortable. There had to of been at least 50 people crammed on this bus on top of it being at least 90 degrees outside. Now you can imagine being stuck on a bus where everyone is hot and sweaty and you’re all within fingers length from each other. Talk about no elbow room! I started to feel my heart pound a little harder…a little faster. I stepped down onto the steps by the door so I could hopefully catch my breath. My hands began to feel clammy and cold. My mind was going insane as bad thoughts and images began to pop in and out. Am I having a panic attack? That’s impossible! I’m just standing here but yet I feel like something bad is about to happen. I can’t panic, I just can’t! What if everyone on here sees me freak out? Oh gosh, I think I’m gonna throw up..
This is unusual. As my heart beats faster and my hands become colder, I start to tremble. I have no idea what’s going on. Then I thought, Wait…maybe if I sit down on the steps I will feel a little better…yeah, I’ll just sit. I sat on the steps hoping for some kind of relief. Did I get it? Not quite. My whole body began to feel numb. I could hardly breathe. I just sat in a ball on the steps hoping no one realized what was going on. Now, just to let you know, I’m the 2nd stop and this all happened before then..although it felt like it had been over an hour. I was just praying to God that this would end and I can just make it to my stop.
I couldn’t feel my legs. They felt like jello. How can I get off the bus if I can’t feel my body to move?
I just sat there in a ball on the steps. Everything started to spin and I became so dizzy, I thought I was going to faint. I then blacked out. When I came to, I realized I was still sitting on the same steps, next to the same people, looking out the same door. I looked around to see who all had noticed, but no one seemed to. The shuttle had turned around a curve and I saw my stop. Oh thank God! I have to get off this bus! The bus came to a stop, and I slowly but surely, stood up. The doors opened. I took one step at a time until I reached the crosswalk to my building.
I staggered across the crosswalk and walked into my area. I felt so sick. Whatever had just happened on that bus is making me sick, really sick. From that time on, I refused to ride the shuttle. Why? I thought that whatever had happened would happen again. I had a fear of that bus. But that doesn’t make sense. Me? Scared of a bus? That can’t be. This is where the fear of fear comes in. It wasn’t just that I was scared of the bus, I was scared of the feelings of panic I would have while being on that bus. The fear of fear is called Panic Disorder.
Panic Disorder flipped my world upside down. It is known as the fear of fear. Sounds silly, but it’s very real. Being too scared to ride the shuttle really made life difficult. Some people would say, “Well, why don’t you just walk to your area and not worry about it?”. That’s a good question. Easier said than done! It takes at least a good 20 minutes to walk from the guard shack to my area. (and that’s if you walk fast!) So, walking was out of the question…at that moment.
When I walked into my area, I felt horrible. That panic attack really got the best of me. My head hurt, my stomach hurt, I was shaking like a leaf, and my face looked like I had just seen a ghost. (Thanks to my friend/co-worker Kelsey Adkins who was nice enough to point that out!) I just wasn’t myself. I felt so nauseated and wanted to throw up. I couldn’t understand how I’ve been riding the shuttle for over a year, and I’m just now having issues with it? It didn’t make much sense. That same night, I spoke with a friend I work with about what happened. Afraid that she would think I’m some kind of freak, I didn’t say anything at first. I finally got enough courage to talk about it. She didn’t think I’m a freak! Yay! Now I’m gonna ask her if she will walk with me instead of riding the shuttle. This is gonna be a long shot. No one likes to walk because it is a pretty good distance to any area at UPS. I asked her what she thought and she said yes. For the first week after the incident, Kelsey walked with me down the yellow walk path, through a long, narrow tunnel, down more walk paths, until we reached our building. I still can’t thank her enough for being there for me when I needed her most! THANK YOU KELSEY!
After a week, I decided that my friend can’t walk with me forever. I’m going to have to start riding this shuttle again. It was almost winter, and I wasn’t about to walk in the freezing cold and being covered with icesicles. The following week, I had to gather up enough courage to get on that bus. It’s not as easy as just “getting on the bus”. Panic disorder will make easy steps like these much harder than they need to be. Just sayin. I drove to work like usual. I drove down the same road, listened to the same radio station, parked in the same spot. Nothing unusual. I walked through the guard shack to wait for the bus. I saw the bus come from a distance around a turn. Stomach starts hurting. I watch as it gets closer and closer. Heart beats faster. I take a deep breath. I can’t do it. I can’t. My body is numb again I can’t even move. The bus pulls around to pick us up. People begin to walk up to the doors pushing and shoving to get in as I try to push and shove to get out. I walk back up towards the bus slowly and as soon as I reach the door, I stop. I turn around. I walk back to the guard shack to wait for the next one. Dang it! Why can’t I just get on the bus like everyone else? I looked like an idiot. Soon, another bus came around the corner. Ok, this is it. I’m gonna do it. Once again, everyone walks up to the open doors and I follow. I reach the door, stop, turn around, and walk right back to where I started. No, I have to get on. I change my mind. Walk back towards the doors again, reach the door, stop, and walk back to where I started. To make this simpler to understand, just imagine me walking up towards the bus, then walking back, then walking to it again, and back once more. It looked like I couldn’t make up my mind whether or not I wanted to get on or not. I had turned to see if anyone had noticed, and sure enough some lady was staring like I had a tree growing out of my head.
The bus leaves. I failed. If I let one more bus go by, I’m going to be late. Here comes one more. It comes around the corner and now I have to get on. No time to walk. Once more everyone walks towards the open doors and so do I. I decide to sit on the steps again so I’m close to the door. I walk on. I grab ahold of the hand rails. This is it. I’m on. I did it. The bus horn blows, which usually happens right before they close the doors. Oh my gosh, the horn. That means they are closing the doors and now I’m stuck. Oh geez. The doors close and there is no turning back. I grip the rails like there is no tomorrow praying I will survive the ride. More thoughts begin to come in and out of my mind. What if I start to freak? What if I panic again? No, don’t think like that. You can do it. You got on here didn’t you? You got this. Please God, help me! The bus reaches my stop and I get off. I actually did it. It was a bit of a struggle but I did it. I told my friend Kelsey again about my experience. She mentioned seeing a therapist about my issue. I told her I really would like to find one because I can’t take this struggle any longer. It has taken over my life. I felt sick everyday for the next 2 months and missed a lot of work and left early a couple times. It has gotten to the point where I hated coming to work. I hated my life.
Kelsey decided to help me find a therapist close to my home who specialized in anxiety and panic. I really wanted someone who understood what I was going through and could help me get over this fear. And they need to be affordable! I was desperate for some kind of help, because I can’t do this on my own.
PART 3–The Solution
Now we have reached the best part. The solution. I found a therapist close to my home who accepted my insurance. I set up an appointment and was so excited to go and meet this lady who could possibly change my life. The day came and I filled out a bunch of paper work while waiting in the office. An older lady opened up a door and called my name to come back. I walked into a small office room that was decorated like it was a part of her home. Comfy couch, plants, even a fish tank in the corner. It made you feel like home.
”Hello, my name is Betty. I see here you are having problems with anxiety?”
From that moment on, she began to talk to me about her experiences with anxiety and how she can help me with it. I described to her exactly what I was having problems with. I told her about the bus incident and how I can’t seem to ride it. Just after a few minutes of talking she finally said, “You know, that sounds like panic disorder.” She explained to me what it was and it started to make sense. One thing she said on that first day that has stuck with me ever since is this. “Panic disorder is easy to overcome. It just doesn’t seem that way to you right now because you have it, and you don’t know the solutions yet. But that’s what I’m here for. I’m not a magician and can’t wave my wand and you’re better. Some of this you will have to do on your own if you want to beat this. It’s up to you.” I was stunned for a few seconds at the fact that she said this is easy to overcome. Easy? If this was easy, why can’t I do this on my own? If it was easy, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now. To make a long story short, after a few visits with Mrs. Betty, I was able to learn techniques to help cope with my anxiety. She told me that if I want to be able to ride that bus again, I have to actually get on that bus! Obvious right? I can’t overcome this fear unless I get back on the bus and face it. I decided to do my homework she assigned and decided to ride the bus that night at work.
This time when the bus came around the corner, I felt a bit more confident. I had some tips such as deep breathing and positive thoughts to help cope. I told myself I can do this. If Betty said it’s easy to overcome, I’m sure I can do it. Instead of walking back and forth like an idiot, I walked on and sat in one of the empty seats. Riding the bus this time felt a little different. The deep breathing helped calm me down a bit and slow down my negative thoughts. It only seemed like a few minutes later that I reached my stop. I was relieved. I didn’t panic! I did it. Now I had even more confidence. I rode the bus for the next month until almost all of my symptoms had disappeared. Eventually, I was able to get on the shuttle without a problem. No staggering like a lost puppy or stomach aches or cringing at the sound of the bus horn knowing the doors were going to close. Awesome. Betty is amazing. I never thought I could do this. I am very thankful that I was able to meet Betty and get some help. I went from hating my life to being myself again within 3 months. That could be a record time! Although it seemed like forever. I am so much stronger now and proud of myself for overcoming this fear.
PART 4: Impact
I hope my readers have enjoyed reading this story. I know it is a very emotional and heart moving event but I wanted to share it with people to spread awareness of anxiety and panic. Panic disorder is real. It is treatable. Those who have it are NOT alone.
I have learned so much from this experience. I felt like I had hit rock bottom in my life, but got enough courage to do my homework and now I don’t have a fear of the shuttle. I stayed as strong as I possibly could throughout these hard times and had a friend who was there for me which helped out a lot. I want people to know that whether you have panic disorder, or know someone who does, that it is treatable, no matter how impossible it seems. When you have a fear over something that interferes with your daily life, you need to get professional help for it. A huge weight will be lifted when you overcome your fear and anxiety. You can breathe again! Therapy is not for losers and does not mean you are weak by any means. It takes a bigger person to ask for help than to act like nothing is wrong.
This incident has taught me that I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. I know that if I can overcome this panic disorder, that I can do anything. It takes a strong person to face their fear with a mind set that gives them the determination and courage to beat it. Oh, and just another tip. It’s ok to talk back to your anxiety. As silly as it may sound, don’t be afraid to tell your fear who is boss. That fear tries to tell you that you can’t overcome it, it’s impossible. This is the time to react. Tell that anxiety to hit the road! You’re not going to let it control you anymore. You have a life to live. Now I get to live mine…without panic disorder.
Special Thanks to:
Kelsey Adkins-Thanks for being there for me when I needed you. You’re a great friend. I can’t thank you enough girl!
Betty Senn-You are an awesome therapist. You helped me overcome this panic disorder and get my life back. You had faith in me and encouraged me the whole time. I will always recommend you if I know someone who needs help.