I can't remember the first time I ever had an anxiety attack. To be honest I just thought that the overwhelming feeling of drowning and not being able to breathe was just apart of life. When I was younger I did everything I could to stay out of the house. But when I couldn't avoid being home and started to feel overwhelmed, whether it was from my moms drinking, my parents arguing, or just the feeling that I was starting to suffocate for what I thought was "not reason at all", I would take all of my blankets and stuffed animals, hide in the closet and slide the door closed. The darkness and small space made me feel safe and in control. I spent allot of time in my closet.
When I was out in public, at school for example, I would find the nearest bathroom, hide in a stall, sit on the toilet tuck my knees to my chest, cover my ears, and hum and repeat to myself "you are safe you are safe you are safe" until the moment passed and I could breathe again. Surprisingly I also spent a-lot of time in the school bathroom.
I started taking anti-depressants when I was 15 and thought that would be the end of my hiding sessions, but surprise surprise it wasn't. I still had no idea what anxiety was, that it differed from depression, and that by continuously being put into the same situations that triggered my anxiety that there really was no end in sight.
Fast forward 10 years. I was off my anti-depressants for 4 years at this point, but suddenly I was dropped into the middle of the ocean and sinking. My mom committed suicide almost one month before my 25th birthday. I was in the middle of the store trying to find a dress for her life celebration and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe. I was running on empty, I hadn't slept in days and felt like everyone was moving at hyper speed around me. At the time I just thought it was grief, that the feeling of running into a bathroom stall and hiding was childish and it would just pass. It did pass, but I was doggie paddling, and poorly at that.
It wasn't until 5 years later days before my 30th birthday when I found myself hiding in the bathroom at my house, crying hysterically, legs hugged to my chest and googling my "symptoms" that I found out what anxiety was and that I was indeed having an anxiety attack. I had been having them since I was 5 years old and that in fact I really was drowning and I needed to start learning to swim.