Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pendants and Panic Attacks - U Magazine Reader Issue

I got a nice surprise in the supermarket yesterday. This is not a sentence I have a chance to say very often.

I spotted the readers' edition of U (an Irish fortnightly magazine). I had submitted a short piece for their 'Favourite Things. . .' section, so I picked it up to see if they had used it.

They had :) I picked up a copy to go with my lunch and spent the rest of the day in a benign good mood. There is something very nice about seeing one's name in print.

Anyway, the item I chose to write about was a silver and garnet pendant I bought while I was interrailing in 2008. Other contributors chose sensible things like sunlight, being female. . . I wrote about jewellery. Of course. They're lucky I didn't write about chocolate.

But going on that trip was a major step in my ongoing journey through panic disorder. I promised myself that if I got through the trip without a panic attack, I'd buy myself something great in our last stop (which was Paris, so evidently finding something fabulous was going to be a dreadful trial. I mean, clearly. Guys, not only did I shop in Paris but I made my friend come with me. Luckily she still talks to me). This pendant was it. It isn't my normal style - or it wasn't, at the time - but I fell in love. It looked like something that a European princess would have owned - a Habsburg or a Wittelsbach or a Braganza. It looks like something that would be smuggled across borders under a corset, and sold to a shadowy gentleman to fund a revolution.

In other words, it had no business being owned by a temp from Dublin. With bitten nails.

I bought it anyway. It reminds me of how far I've come on my journey through panic, and it reminds me that I got here largely by taking risks, pushing myself outside my comfort zone and generally behaving like a normal person in the hope of becoming one.

I stepped outside my comfort zone with this piece too. I just told the readership of a national magazine about my mental health issue. It's firmly in the public domain now.

But I'm cool with that. There is still a stigma attached to mental health issues, especially in Ireland. And while I can't preume to comment much on lots of the more pressing mental health issues out there, but I can talk about my experience with panic. I can't offer any wisdom or any insight. But I can say what worked for me, what didn't, and perhaps most importantly, I can turn to another sufferer and say 'Me too.'

Might not be much help, but every step helps to de-stigmatise a little.


  1. Good for you Ellen, I hope you feel proud of yourself every time you look at your pendant.

  2. Congratulations! That’s great.
    You are right. There is a huge stigma when it comes to metal health issues, here in the US too. It’s really too bad, because I think that it’s just ignorance. Thank you for putting yourself out there and telling your story. Hopefully it will touch someone’s life. My best friend suffers from panic attacks quite frequently, so I can relate. (As much as anyone from the outside looking in can.) Good luck and congratulations again, that’s really awesome.

  3. Thanks Sarah - I do!

    Jessica, thanks for commenting :) Sorry to hear there's a similar stigma in the US - I think it's everywhere really, but I always hope someone will pop up and say it isn't the case where they are! I hope your best friend gets through her panic OK, apparently for most people they get less severe with age so there is light at the end of the tunnel!

  4. Good for you!

    There's certainly a stigma about mental illnesses everywhere, I find. The only difference tends to be the degree of stigma, but it can be really hard to be open about it.

  5. Well done you for your published piece and for your momentous personal triumph! Yay! take care

  6. Congratulations all round - on facing up to those demons and, of course, on getting the piece about it published. I think that's wonderful.

  7. William, Kitty, Simon, thanks so much :) Your support means a lot.

  8. The more people find the strength to open up about mental health issues, the more others will be strengthened by their courage, and the more non-sufferers will learn to accept rather than judge.

  9. I only got to read this post now - WOW! Firstly congrats on your recent achievement in getting your story printed :)
    Also Congrats for your amazing courage in opening up the world to your heart and your trials. You truly are an inspiration.


  10. That's the idea, Paul, glad I'm not the only one hoping it'll work!

    Thank you Juls, your comment was really touching :D

  11. In some cases unlearning the anxious habits that have developed over time can also help you to overcome panic and anxiety attacks


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