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Hannah’s story: I thought I had a rare condition

Hannah's story
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Hayley

Director & Coach at Quiet Connections
Hayley shares her personal stories of feeling shy, socially anxious, ‘not good enough’ and fearfully avoiding the good things in life. Growing her confidence through coaching, gradually stretching her comfort zone and connecting with others, she now uses everything she has learned to help other people grow their confidence in her role as a coach. Hayley is passionate about connecting people with similar stories and creating safe, supportive spaces to make friends and try new things. Hayley dreams of a time when all of the strengths, skills and goodness in ‘quiet’ is recognised and appreciated as readily as being bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight is right now.
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It’s like there’s a yoyo inside my head rocking back and forth. Dizzy. I’m in my first year of sixth form when I notice it. Completely out of the blue. What’s wrong with me?

I’m going to countless GP appointments, having tests for diabetes, blood pressure checks and a referral to an ENT doctor. No one can see even a slight issue with my health.

The feeling gets worse. I feel so hopeless. Everyone seems to think I’m making the whole thing up.

During my A-level psychology lessons, I’m learning about medication that treats symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis. I’m feeling uncomfortably anxious. I realise it’s the same medicine I’ve been taking to ‘help with dizziness’. I feel alarmed and left in the dark. In fact, I’ve been trialled on anti-psychotics and anti-depressants, all without any diagnosis. No answers.

Constantly, I worry about my life. What will I do in my career? Is there even any point?

I vividly remember my heart palpitations getting so heavy during a psychology lesson, I could no longer ignore them. I call my mum, who leaves work and takes me to the hospital. I’m seen immediately – they think it’s my heart. I have an ECG and lots of blood work. The consultant tells me ‘it’s psychological’ and sends me on my way. No support.

In my life, I’ve missed out on so many social events for fear that I’d have a panic attack. I’ve been worried that everyone would think I was a freak. No one knew that I was going through anything. I didn’t let it show. Because I didn’t really understand it myself, I had no confidence that I’d be able to successfully explain my situation to anyone else! I would stay in bed for days at a time. It felt safe there.

I started studying psychology at university because I wanted to learn about why people behave in certain ways, hoping to find out more about my own behaviour. University was challenging. I hated being in groups. Feeling painfully uncomfortable making ‘small talk’, I made no attempt to make any new friends.

I worked out for myself that the symptoms I was experiencing were anxiety and panic attacks. This settled me slightly. For me, knowing this meant I could work on how to improve my quality of life. For so long I’d been scared about my health, believing I had a rare condition – so rare no one had a clue what it was!

I went to my university campus GP and explained my symptoms. He told me it’s GAD (Generalized anxiety disorder) and he referred me for talking therapies. I felt a sense of relief, but couldn’t help feel angry that it had been dismissed for so long. What was different about him? Why could no other GP say what I was experiencing?

Fast forward to now…

I’m 24, I graduated in 2015 with a 2:1 and I started full time work. I don’t know exactly what I want from life, but I know it’s a process and there doesn’t have to be a definite destination. I still experience anxiety. A part of me feels I always will. Thankfully, I now know how to prevent certain symptoms and keep a relatively calm mind. It’s incredibly disheartening when you feel alone and have no understanding of why you feel the way you do. Please trust me when I say, you WILL get better, it’s a process and there’s no quick solution.

I’ve found that self help books are great at reassuring you that life is not an emergency. No matter what, there’s a chance to start a fresh if need be.

I feel passionate about helping those that are in the same situation that I once was. In the future, I hope to become a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist. If I can speak to someone suffering with anxiety and instil even a glimmer of hope, then I’ve found my calling in life. Something that once upon a time, I felt was ruining my life, now gives me all the inspiration I need to carry on.

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