Growing up, I often missed out on things other kids got to do
Movie dates, after-school trips: these were things I didn't, and still don't, have much knowledge of. My mother tried for me, but as I found out when I got older, she has anxiety. She was diagnosed when I was 8 years old, but it was a big issue for her before then. She had trouble going out into social situations and dealing with "adult" things when they started to pile up. My mother was my first real experience with anxiety.
When I was 12 years old, we had a winter dance at my school
A group of my friends and I were going together, and we were all so excited! But as it drew closer, I started to panic. What if my dress were too different from everyone else's? What if it wasn't different enough? Will I look overdressed, or underdressed? The night of the dance, I felt like I couldn't breathe. Of course, once we got there, I didn't look funny. I looked just as dressed up like everyone else. That didn't help me, though. All night, I feared that something was wrong, and it made it harder and harder to talk to people and have a good time. I danced for one song because just the thought of dancing for any others made the room spin. That was the first time I realized something was wrong.
As I got older, things got both better and worse
I learned what my triggers were and different ways to get around them. For example, if I had to go to my fiancé's family Christmas party, I would drill him on what everyone else normally wore. I wanted to know who wore dresses, who wore pants, if it was super casual or semi-casual, etc. At first, he found it silly, but now he tells me before I ask. However, there are times when I am thrown into situations I didn't expect, like last-minute dinner plans, or being scheduled at work even though my boss knew I had an important doctor's appointment. When these things happen, I have a huge reaction. Sometimes I just cry and hyperventilate for 5 minutes, put on a smile, fix my makeup, and move on as if nothing happened.
The worst was when I collapsed to the floor in tears, screaming to the point my throat became hoarse, crying, shaking, and hyperventilating. I was trying to stop trying to calm down the whole time, but my body wouldn't let me. The hyperventilating lasted for about 10 minutes – every breath I took burned. My fiancé had to lay down on the floor with me, talking to me and helping me breathe. But the shaking and trembling lasted for about 15 minutes after I stopped hyperventilating. My body would randomly twitch, the aftereffects of having such a bad panic attack.
My fiancé's family thinks I'm just dramatic (even though they have never seen a bad attack)
He's told them before to let us know about plans in advance. They know not to drop by the house unannounced, and they don't understand that it's because when surprised, my anxiety takes the driver's seat. Since they have no problem with social events and random visits, they think I shouldn't either, that I should just "get over it." What they, and many people, don't understand is that I've tried. I've tried to get over it and ignore it, but that makes it worse. I ask for notice before events and visits to prepare myself, and I CAN "get over it" in a way. I'm not a drama queen. I just have anxiety.