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Hi everyone! My name is Noelle and I am a Special Education teacher (self-contained, grades 4, 5, and 6!) After graduating, I started teaching Kindergarten!!! I had only applied to sub when I was called in for an interview! The following school year I moved schools and changed grade levels. I absolutely love where I am now and what I am doing!

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Struggle with Panic Disorder

The general definition (from The Mayo Clinic) states that panic disorder is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

Why am I writing about this? Why should this be a blog post?  Well, Panic Disorder is something that I have struggled with since I was seven years old.  It’s a topic that is very close to me and has changed my life. It’s a topic that people don’t typically talk about.  It’s a topic that gets tucked away because many people do not want to talk about mental health issues.  It typically stays locked in a box.

I feel like I am finally at a place where I am ready to open that box, talk, and share my story.  If anything, I hope this can reach others and hopefully help!  There are many ways to cope with Panic Disorder.  You just need to find what works for you.

Let me take you back to that time of my life, that time where everything was so uncertain.  I began to have many different symptoms, the main one being a sore throat.  I would constantly say that my throat hurt.  I would pull at my throat, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I continued to pull and pull at my throat each time I had these feelings.  I pulled at my throat so often that I had a mark, a scratch.  It would bleed.  What was wrong with me?  I went to several doctors; still I wondered what was wrong.  I couldn’t breathe, I felt sick to my stomach, my throat hurt.  Why couldn’t anyone help me?  After doctor visits and blood work, they found nothing physically wrong with me.  So, what was it?  Why did I constantly feel like this?  The answer: Panic Disorder.  Being a seven year old child, I had no idea what that meant.  I just knew I never felt good.

Each time I had these symptoms, it was a panic attack.  Panic Attacks have many different symptoms and vary with each individual.  Others that I have spoken to have had attacks because of their jobs, stress, or other major life events.  My symptoms always felt real, and still do to this day.  When the attack first comes on, it starts with my throat feeling as though it’s going to close.  It’s followed by hyperventilating and heart palpitations.  Then my stomach feels upset and I feel nauseated.  I asked for help.  Will someone help me?  Who can help me?  The answer: ME.  How was I supposed to get through this?  How was a seven year old supposed to cope?  The attacks were always the same, but the length of time varied.  Sometimes they were quick, other times they lasted for hours upon hours.  Sometimes they were during the day, other times they woke me up out of a dead sleep.  Sometimes I would pace, other times I would be curled up on the bathroom floor.  Each attack wore me out; I was exhausted by the time the attack was over.

Now that we knew what was going on, it was time to figure out how to cope with Anxiety Disorder and these awful attacks.  I began seeing a psychiatrist.  He prescribed me medications and started to work with me on coping techniques.  I didn’t see him for very long, we didn’t mesh well.  My parents quickly helped me move onto a new doctor.  We continued with medication and worked on coping techniques.  We started with deep breathing exercises.  It was and still is difficult to use deep breathing techniques.  How was I supposed to use this technique while hyperventilating?  I always try, and it’s always hard.  We made deep breathing tapes, yes tapes, to try to help.  We made tapes with calming, soothing sounds.  Again, it was difficult to sit and listen to something when my body seemed to be out of my own control.  Let’s try some more techniques.  Try drawing or coloring, try smelling and using lotions, try distracting yourself, learn the triggers, use the Panic Disorder Workbook.  Again, my body was always so out of control that these techniques were so difficult for me to use.  I continued to attempt the techniques each time, but often felt like they didn’t work.  Some techniques that have worked for other people are running, making a list of positive things, and crying.

Growing up with Panic Disorder was not easy.  The attacks would come on and I would need to leave wherever I was.  I could have been anywhere, school, a restaurant, at the movies, or even at a friend’s house.  There were so many times I would have to leave the room or even leave where I was entirely.  At school, it always seemed as though no one understood what was wrong with me.  That went for teachers, administrators, and peers.  There were days when I would get dropped off at school and not be able to even walk in the door.  I would beg to go home.  However, I would have to push through and make it through the day.  Through elementary and middle school, I would go to the guidance counselor or school psychologist.  I never felt as though they were able to help and sometimes I felt like they just didn’t want to.  Sometimes I would go to the nurse, but only if there wasn’t anyone else there.  One trigger we knew of early on was illness.  If someone around me was sick, I would have a Panic Attack.

Things did not seem to improve when I was in high school either.  Not long after beginning high school my Panic Attacks became a huge struggle, nothing was working.  We decided to try a new doctor, as my current doctor was for adolescents.  I continued to see the doctor, continued with medications, continued with coping techniques.  I just wanted the attacks to end, to go away.  Throughout high school, other students would make fun of me.  Why do you always have to leave?  What’s wrong with you?  You do this to get out of class, don’t you?  Why does this happen when it’s time for a test? Why are you always crying?  What’s that on your neck?  I could never understand why people would kick someone when they were already down.  Eventually, I found a teacher and place I could turn to.  My happy place became the art room.  When an attack would happen, I was able to find a safe place within the art room.  I was finally able to get away from the negativity through art.

Throughout college, I finally felt as though people understood what was happening to me.  I met other people who also suffered from Panic Disorder.  I was able to talk to them about what was happening to me.  I still had the attacks, but a college schedule was much different than a high school schedule and my professors were much more understanding.

I graduated and began my career.  There are days when the anxiety becomes overwhelming and it’s hard to make it through the day, but I know that these kids are counting on me.  I push through.  There are also days when it’s too overwhelming and nothing can help.  I still have those nights where I pace or lay on the floor, but it’s much more infrequent.  I continue to use art as a therapy and coping technique.  Painting, drawing, sketching, and just about anything related to art I am able to use as a technique.  Art relaxes me, it soothes me.  It’s my happy place when my body loses control.

As I begin to plan for a family, I know that I need decrease medications to the point I am no longer on one of them.  I have started the process and am proud of how far I have come (down two doses).  Although there are more attacks right now than there were back in September, I am able to cope.  I am able to distract myself and push through.  I am able to continue living instead of running.  I do not feel like the attacks are taking over my body.  I feel like I am in control.  Finally – I am in control!  It’s been a long road traveled from that seven year old girl to a twenty-six year old woman, but I am here.  I made it down the road.

I’m not writing this for you to pity me.  I am not writing this for you to say how sorry you are.  I am not writing this because things have not always been easy.  I am writing this because if even one person finds help in this, I am making a difference.  I am writing this because even though having this diagnosis made things difficult, I am strong.  I made it through.  I rose above.  I survived – I am still surviving.

Life is like a beach, some days can be rough, others perfectly beautiful.


  1. I can relate to so much of this post. I'm super proud to know you and that you are sharing your story! Go you!