Life, laughs, love and tears.
Living with it
Published on October 10, 2007 By Trudygolightly In Health & Medicine

When I was just a little girl,  I didn't notice how our mom didn't attend social events,   family gatherings,  or have friends over,  other than her best childhood friend.

As I became a teen-ager I did pay attention to the fact that people didn't visit us,   except for an occasional visit from an aunt or uncle from either side of the family.  When I'd have my friends over,   she would become part of the visit,   she'd come to life it seemed by the mere fact of there being a visitor.   I wasn't the type to feel jealous of the attention they paid to her,   it was fun to have her so animated and being part of it.

  Around the time I was 14,  I was embarrassed by my mom as she didn't use an anti-persirant,   she'd just pat herself with some baby powder after taking a sponge bath and almost always had perspiration stains on her dresses.   I noticed how she'd seem to be nervous around others when she'd go to Parent's Teachers meetings,  and when we did go places as a family,  she'd usually sit in the car after coming in and saying hello to everyone.  Not knowing any better,   I thought she was being unfriendly,  or that she was angry with dad or one of us three girls.

As I went through my own teenage angst,   developed self-confidence,  had a boyfriend,  I started to also notice that there were times when I'd feel very stressed by going places,  especially in new situations,  a new store,  anywhere I hadn't been before.   I had no word for it,  just knew that my heart would pound,  my head get light,  and I'd start sweating hard.

With marriage,   having kids,  and life in general,  it all seemed to settle down,  until one Christmas.   Christmas of 76 when my son was born,  I got hives really bad right after he was born.  I'd only had them once before,   the day of my marriage to his father.  Well anyhow we were on an unpaved road,   raging blizzard,  going to "the farm" to be with my husband's grandparents for Christmas.  

As we bounced along in the old rickety Ford van,  I found myself getting shaky,  sweaty,  short of breath,  and just thought I was nervous about the road and the weather.  That would make perfect sense.  Except I was having a panic attack and didn't know it.

It didn't dawn on me that what I was experiencing was the same thing my mom had had.  I doubt if she knew what she had,   although she  did know that she didn't like gatherings,  crowds,  and social occasions!  It was to be another 14 years before I had another full blown panic attack,  and that time I was driving bus for Morley Bus Company.  It just so happened it was Christmas time,  December of 1990 and just months after my father's passing.

I made it through the snowstorm ok,  my 16 passenger van loaded with DD clientel headed home after a day at Day Treatment.  I was sooooo sick to my stomach as I drove up the ramp off of 35 E,  glad to be pulling into Forest Lake, Mn.  and knew I had the weekend off.

Somewhere along  the line,  between now and back then,  other members of my family were diagnosed with Social Phobias and Panic Disorders,  along with me.  It sounded so awful at the time.  I was surprised when one of my sisters disclosed to me that she too got absolutely panicky and sick while shopping in a store,  couldn't wait to get out of  ther  and get to her car.  Her breathing would be harsh,  her hands sweaty,  and her face flushed.

I've pretty much learned to work my way through it,  sometimes I give in to it,  although on my terms.   I make myself slowly walk out of the store,  or wherever I am.  I don't take medicine for it,  however have realized just this last couple of days,  since I got my son's old Chevy,  that I"m not out and about as much as I could be.....

Guess that's why.

I just read an article by Marina Pisano of the San Antonio Express News about this stuff,  and it's called "social anxiety disorder".   She says there's therapy and medicine for it,   well my sister had both and is doing better.  Marina said that "someone with social anxiety disorder may start out a bit shy,  but the fear of social interaction and performing,  of humilation and embarrassment,  becomes so extreme and disabling it affects a teen's ability to function in daily life".

Well that was my mom to a capitol T and me to some extent. 

Quoting Mariana again ,  "  the disorder,  which experts say is genetic and biological but also linked to stressfu life experiences,  causes great pain,  yet it's trivialized.  So,  the child is shy.  No big deal.  The kid will outgrow it.  But often they don't.  In some cases,  social phobia lasts a lifetime,  affecting jobs and relationships".

I know that from my own experiences in jobs,  this is very true.  Sometimes my feelings were so strong and overpowering that I could barely get through the first day.  The first day on the job at the CHisago County Jail,   the one where I smashed my fingers in the security door,  that was mostly feeling extremely nervous.  The first day on the job at a mom and pop grocery store saw me fainting behind the counter.  That time I was taken to the hospital.  the doctor there asked me if I'd eaten that day.  When I told him "yes of course",  the next thing he said was "  were you feeling nervous?'  and I nodded and we talked about panic disorders.

I could go on here about other experiences,  usually that happened on the first day of any job,   however when I look back and think it only happened   when I was in the van in 76 and then again in 1990,  I realize my whole life has been punctuated with incidents of mild to severe bouts of panic attacks.

I met a lady,  while I was in cardiac rehab,  back in 1991,  and her son was a doctor.  She  made me promise to never reveal their names,  and I won't.  She whispered to me that her son had panic disorder,  and being as he was a physican it was a shameful thing to have.

I never thought of it like that,   as long as it was someone else....  As long as it wasn't me that was having a problem.

Well I still get it,  sometimes I'll choke while trying to chew a piece of sandwich like I did yesterday at Wal-Mart,  because I thought for sure someone must be noticing that I wasn't doing so good at chewing the sandwich.  My false teeth bother me so I don't wear them too often,  and chewing is hard.  My solution yesterday?  after the tears stopped flowing,  and I wiped my face,  I got up and switched booths  so  my back was to the store and people.

So if anyone out there has this,  you're not alone.  Many of us have it,  and there is help and support. 

on Oct 11, 2007
Are these disorders inherited?  I know almost nothing about them, but it would appear that it is a problem in your family.  Has anyone done a study on that aspect of it?
on Oct 11, 2007

it would appear that it is a problem in your family.

,  well gee whilikers,  I've known that since I was about 8 years old....

ya,  there's also depression in my family,  mom had it although was never diagnosed,  one sister and me. 

Reply By: Dr GuyPosted: Thursday, October 11, 2007
Are these disorders inherited?
Yes,  they are genetic in nature.

I haven't done any reading,  except for the article by that lady I mentioned,  although am surprised by how many people are affected by it.  So to answer your question,  I don't know who might have done studies on it.

on Oct 11, 2007
It's all in your head.

on Oct 11, 2007

Reply By: MasonMPosted: Thursday, October 11, 2007
It's all in your head.

That's what I kept trying to tell my doctor,  and after a brain scan he told me there's nothing wrong with me,  so I said "so it's all in my head"....and he replied "that's what I'm trying to tell you,  there's nothing there!"....funny doctor...