I haven’t always been an anxious person, a bit of a worrier perhaps, but no more than anyone else.
When I had left my family and home town to take a new job as a police constable, I couldn’t be more excited. I’d made it through the tough recruitment process and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the training. The next couple of years were busy and enjoyable, then everything changed.
I had arranged to see a friend of mine, who I knew was upset because of work difficulties so I thought it would be nice to catch up. We went for a night out and had a great time. I had to go at 2am as my partner had work in the morning. My friend gave me the key to her house as we were staying over, gave me a hug and said she would see me in the morning. Only she never did, because that night she took her own life.
After it happened, I tried to pick myself up and carry on. I was a police officer, I could cope with anything, right? I carried on with life as best as possible for a year, but I was gradually finding things more and more difficult.
One day I was in the supermarket and everything suddenly slowed down, my vision went blurry, my legs felt heavy and I couldn’t breathe. I dumped my shopping and ran home, convinced something was seriously wrong with me. It was a panic attack and it frightened me to the point that I began to do less and less and to stay inside more.
The doctor signed me off work at that point and for me it became a five month period of intense fear, panic attacks and night terrors on a regular basis.
Eventually I returned to work, determined not to feel like I’d failed. I wanted to get back to front-line policing and to manage my condition. I found that although it was sometimes very hard, a good night’s sleep made a big difference. I started running again and also tried body boarding for the first time this year. It made me feel free, like the sea washed away the constant feeling of tension, dizziness and panic.
I try not to let my condition stop me doing anything. I have good days and bad days. Although this is who I am for the time being, I try not to let it hold me back.