I could not wait to go to school with all the other kids in the neighborhood. I enjoyed school and was anxious to learn. I made friends in the neighborhood and new ones in my classes in grade school. That is how it pretty much went all through the 1st to the 5th grade.
The summer was ending, and as with tradition, the lady down the block usually curled and did everyone’s hair the day before. It was a small neighborhood where most everyone knew everyone especially all the kids. Excitement was in the air and also anticipation of starting a new
school year the next day.
Back then you didn’t find out early which class you were going to be assigned or what teacher you would be given as they do today. No posting on the school door ahead of time.
I entered my 6th grade classroom for the first time that September day to find out whose class I would be in. I was in the classroom with most of the friends I’d been with since grade school. I actually didn’t know many of the kids that were assigned to the other sixth grade teacher.
At first, it kind of went okay. I couldn’t explain it, but after the first couple of days passed, and maybe even the first week, I endured. I kept telling myself it would be okay. But as time went on, I would get up and really dread even having to go to school because I feared that same feeling would envelope me. Some days even if it did, I tried my best to just stick it out and get through the day. All I knew was that each time I went to class I couldn’t concentrate because all I felt was a sense of wanting to just run. Each day, I tried not to, but eventually, that is exactly what I did. As soon as that first recess came and the other kids went out to play, I ran. I ran home without looking back. I didn’t care about the repercussions, I just ran. I could not stand being in that classroom or listening to that teacher talk. Maybe it was her high pitched voice, I still am not sure because she was a very kind teacher and very friendly.
I’m not sure of the time frame for how long this continued. If it was a day that I couldn’t stick it out, and if I couldn’t shake that panicky, boxed in feeling, I would run.
Finally, the principal came to my house. He wanted to know if it was because I wanted to be in the other sixth grade classroom. I told him no. He said that I’d done fine in my other classes and did I want to go back to 5th grade. I told him no, but in no way could I explain what was going on with me. I thought, how can I explain that when I get in that classroom, I just feel the need to escape? I just thought no one would understand.
My mom cried because she was beside herself with what was going on with what once was a normal, easy to get along with child. She just kept hoping I would stay in school all day. She eventually took me to a doctor who mostly just said I was acting spoiled and I needed to get over it. I couldn’t even tell him how I felt when I was in that room. Actually, I don’t think I told him anything or even talked much to him so that is probably why he was no help.
Eventually though, the principal decided they would try switching me to the other class. Once in there, after a while, I felt calm and the feeling of needing to escape disappeared. Even though I had no friends in that class, which I’m sure my mom and the principal felt was the problem, I felt better. Even as a child, I felt bad that I probably had hurt that teacher’s feelings, but I just could not explain how it felt to be in that classroom.
Later in life, I have experienced that same feeling once in a while, but I am never sure what is going to trigger it. I look back now and wonder if that actually was the first time that I experienced panic attacks or that is even what they are. Did they even know what such a thing was back in the 50’s? I just know that it is a horrible feeling and would not wish it on anyone, let alone a child who doesn’t know what is happening.
Maybe what I experienced when young and sometimes since aren’t really panic attacks. I can’t find anything that definitely describes why the trapped and wanting to run feeling occurs. Even though I’m nowhere near a recluse, there are times even now that I may not want to go to social situations because this feeling occurs even at the thought. Other times, it is fine so as I say, I never know what will trigger it.
In retrospect, I don’t think I ever even told my mom the feeling I was experiencing during that time in 6th grade nor did I even wonder about it until lately since I seem to have that feeling more often about social interaction.
Recently, when I was out shopping, a couple walked into the store I was in, and as soon as they entered the doorway, their small child (a toddler sitting in the cart) started screaming and crying loudly for what seemed no reason. At that time, I wondered, do babies have panic attacks? It was apparent that the child seemed fine and happy until they walked through the door to that store.
Has anyone else experienced this feeling? Any thoughts on what it might be if not panic attacks or anxiety disorder because when you look up the description for these, it doesn’t entirely fit the feeling because they list so many other symptoms that I never experience. If so, I’d really like to know what you think.
scribbled by Peabea on 1-29-11
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Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net