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The Story Behind the Store

I have a brief description of myself and what the store means to me on the homepage. Since I didn't want to bore everybody, I thought I'd tuck away the longer version in this blog --- 

I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't 'anxious'. As a child I remember being super shy, throwing a fit when having to go to the doctors, being super nervous to go to school, and generally having butterflies in my stomach 24/7. I had this huge fear most of my childhood that someone was going to break-in during the night (probably spent too much time with my grandpa watching the Identity channel) and it kept me up all the time.

As I got older, the anxiety worsened and finally lead to a full blown panic attack (which I didn't know was a panic attack at the time) when I was around 15. I was on a trip away from home and got this bad stomach pain while my friends and I were out at a Starbucks. I snuck away to the bathroom as my vision started to get spotty. I clearly remember staring at myself in the mirror while I saw black dots and felt like I was going to pass out. I spent a few minutes freaking out in the bathroom when it seemed to fade away. I went back to my friends on edge and scared that the next one was going to hit, it was like an earthquake. And sure enough, it hit.

Little me around 15 years old before the storm hit. (Blurring out friends in case they don't want their faces shown)

When we got back to my friends house, I once again snuck off into the bathroom. I felt like every few minutes I went through a cycle of feeling like I couldn't breathe, getting spotty/tunnel vision, then feeling like I was going to pass out. I called my mom freaking out thinking that something was wrong seriously wrong with me. She offered to move my flight so I could come home early but the thought of even sitting on a plane going through the cycles was enough for me to refuse a flight home. Eventually, my mom ended up getting on an airplane, flying to me, then flying with  me back home (thank goodness for mothers right?). Over the course of the next months I had a bunch of stomach problems, getting severe cramps and I'll save you the rest of the TMI stuff. I got every blood test in the books done and the only thing left was to do an endoscopy which they did not want to do since I was young and my blood tests were fine (I eventually ended up doing an endoscopy later but I'll get to that...). After we ruled out everything physical, my doctor suggested that I was having anxiety and panic attacks. My mom sent me to therapy and I hated it. Nice lady, but I was treated more like a 5 year old then a 15 year old and I didn't believe getting anything out of it. 

Meanwhile, I had been on a wait-list for a supposedly great psychiatrist in my area. I was on his wait-list for months and finally got an appointment. Thank the universe, he really was great! He heard me, understood, and was NOT a drug pusher. He took a very holistic approach first and really encouraged me to try non-pharmaceutical things. After trying alternative things and still falling on my face, depression decided to creep into the mix. I went through a very dark period of feeling trapped in my own body. I was afraid to do anything and therefore isolated myself in my room. I was 15/16 years old and was supposed to be enjoying my high school years but instead spent a majority of my time in bed on my computer avoiding any interaction. I had lost hope and gave up. 

My psychiatrist decided it was time to an anti-depressant to help me out of this state and also attempt to control my anxiety. At this point, I really did not want to do this and I was even more anxious of getting any side effects from a drug. My mom, having gone through depression herself, really pushed for me to take it which made me want to not take it even more. 

I eventually succumbed and began my taper plan where I took only a quarter of the pill for a week, then half for a week, then eventually 1 full pill. Starting was ROUGH. I did get side effects (whether  I was just paranoid or I was actually receiving side effects I don't know) but I had dizzyness, night terrors, and I remember my head buzzing at night. I HATED it but was assured they would eventually go away, and eventually they did. I leveled out for most of my high school years and was able to go about my normal life. I was happier, my stomach issues went away, and I no longer felt like I had to spend my life in my room. I had a few blips here and there but nothing major and nothing I couldn't handle. My doctor had also given me a prescription for Xanax to take in emergencies to take the panic away. I had to take it one or two times in high school and it immediately diminished any panic. I now felt 100% more at ease knowing if anything were to happen I had a magic pill to diffuse. That alone made me comfortable enough to do anything I wanted and I never really had to utilize it; knowing I had it to fall back on was good enough. 

(Made it to high school grad! Me with my mom and grandma).  

 

 To my family's surprise, I did venture off to college away from home despite everything I had once gone through. I went to school about an hour and a half away from home and lived on campus, but I had the comfort of knowing I could access home if I ever really needed it. My mom insisted that  I register with my schools office of disabilities just in case I ever needed help, but I never ended up actually having to use their resources. 

I maintained a level amount of anxiety but it wasn't anything too serious. I had some "weird" quirks such as a never wanted to be in a crowded car, I always wanted to drive myself places in case I freaked out and needed to leave, and I refused to go anywhere where I didn't have an easy exit route. Of course, this put a small damper on my social life and I didn't do the typical college kid things, but I also didn't want to explain to everyone why I declined their offers to go somewhere because I was too scared to sit in their car. I remember visiting a school therapist and she suggest I induce a panic attack in her office by breathing quickly through a straw so I can desensitize myself to panic. Needless to say, I was not down.

This lead to some depression again and I began considering dropping out and moving back home to go to the local state university. My boyfriend and comfort person who I'd been with since senior year of high school was back home and I'd often get homesick. I began going home almost every weekend and that definitely did not help me build any friendships. At this point, I basically made up my mind that I was going to leave school and move back home. 

I can't remember exactly what made me stay, but I believe my parents and boyfriend encouraged me to hang on one more semester. I agreed and sought to join a sorority to make friends and have a home away from home. In the beginning, it did help me a lot and I loved being able to feel accepted. However, once again, my anxiety kept me from doing a lot of things with everybody and I kind of slipped into the background again. I didn't want to go to any parties off-campus because I was genuinely afraid of having a panic attack in someones car and I often gave excuses like "I have to study" or "I'm not feeling well". Of course, this put me on the outside of the social circle. I definitely dug myself in that hole by not just explaining what was going on, but I was also kind of resentful that nobody took the time to actually get to know me,  they were more concerned with the fact that I never went out. I did find a couple of great friends that I loved and I'm so grateful that I met them.

(Proof of my sorority days haha) 

I went through college being very reserved because I was scared of my panic, and it's something that I still regret today but hey, ya can't turn back time. Anyways, once again to my family's surprise, I graduated with honors. 

 

After I graduated, I moved back home and got a job in my field. My old friend anxiety started to come back with a vengeance. One event in particular triggered me so bad that I suffered for several months after. It sounds lame now that I think back about it...but it was St. Patrick's day, and being Irish and now 21+, I wanted to celebrate! My sister, her boyfriend, and my boyfriend went out downtown and I drank several Irish car bombs. I never had any problem in the past with alcohol so  I thought I would be fine. Wrong!

On the way back home, I was a little dizzy from the drinking and began to feel the eminent dread of a panic attack creeping up. Feeling out of my wits or out of control of my body is one of my biggest panic triggers. Nausea, seeing black, hyperventilated, and BAM, vomit city. I spent the  rest of the night stuck in a panic cycle - I would be fine, then I would start to feel a little dizzy, I freaked out, them BAM vomit city. Not proud to say I emptied my guts all over my boyfriends blankets. Talk about a scarring experience. 

I was now stuck in a panic loop and could not get out of it. I hadn't needed my psychiatrist or rescue Xanax in years, but thankfully he was able to chat with me on the phone and send a late night script to the pharmacy for some Xanax so I could break the cycle and calm down. 

I had a few more embarrassing panic and vomit situations including all over the floor of my boyfriends room while being watched in horror by his roommates. This event in particular was during my boyfriend's graduation weekend. He was graduating from UCLA and this event prompted me to buy a last minute 300$ plane ticket home because I was scared to drive back with his family. Yikes. 

This year was particularly rough for me. Early January 2019, I woke up with stomach pain one night and ended up throwing up several times. I assumed it was a stomach bug and missed work the next day. Well, this stomach pain decided to never go away. I was missing a lot of work and finally got in to see a gastroenterology doctor. It was a couple of months of trial and error and when my stomach pain didn't clear, we did an endoscopy. This was the first time I had ever been put to sleep and I was TERRIFIED. I went in to the "surgery prep" area with a blood pressure through the roof. I HATE getting IVs. But I did it!

(me waking up after the endoscopy pale as a ghost lol)

 As expected, the endoscopy was clear except for a tiny hernia. It was good news and bad news,  I had nothing wrong with me but yet I was still in daily pain. The pain was so bad at times I would begin to  have a Vasovagal response and start passing out which I mistook for panic. I was so out of hope knowing this was probably just caused by stress and I was soooo tired of being in pain.

I ended up seeing another doctor who performed yet another procedure  (a sigmoidoscopy, which btw sucked) and everything was clear again. This doctor gave me some pills to take when I cramped that helped relax my stomach and also had me try an elimination diet and I eventually started to feel better. 

But of course, my body was not ready to just let me live! I began getting chronic migraines in July 2019 and was then off on another familiar route of tests and finding nothing wrong. This put me in a dark place again. 

Long story short, I finally found a combination of something that took the edge off. Unfortunately, that included adding even more medications but at this point I'm just so glad I'm not living in constant pain. 

I sought a ton of different sorts of therapies throughout 2019 - self help books and audios, a private coach, hypnosis, acupuncture, CBT therapy, new drug regimes,  and I can say that I am finally finding my ground again. 

I've always had a creative bone in my body - love to draw, paint, make videos, play instruments, sing, etc. and I wanted to create something that meant something to me without quitting on the project. That's how "brbpanicattack" came into my head. I've always been a sarcastic/somewhat cynical person and I tend to make fun of my misfortunes; it's better to laugh at myself then sit in a corner crying! You can see the explanation of the designs on the home page, but essentially, I wanted to give panic attacks a face that wasn't scary. I think the biggest thing I learned throughout my 2019 journey is that if you are not scared of panic attacks, they can't hurt you. This was my representation of sticking my middle finger out to anxiety. 

If you've made it to the end of this - wow! There are a lot of holes in this story because I realized it would need to be a full length novel to go over everything, but just know, I have been to hell and back and definitely understand what you're going through if you're struggling with panic. I hope you enjoy the fun merch :) 

Your friendly neighborhood anxious girl, 

Jillian 

1 comment

  • Thank you for sharing your story! It sounds alot like what I’m going through (have been for years… Nope not gonna age myself)! I can’t wait to follow your journey!

    Katie Gosley

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