One of my best friends, Caitlin, has always had severe panic attacks, starting at a young age. When I was younger, I never really knew what to think about it and after learning about Panic Disorder, I now understand. Panic disorder is defined as a disorder in which panic attacks occur frequently enough to cause the person difficulty in adjusting to daily life. Caitlin often has to avoid situations that could cause stress to her, like large cities, amusement parks, but it also can occur from a simple stressful situation at school. A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense panic in which multiple physical symptoms of stress occur, often with feelings that one is dying. I know that Caitlin would always tell me it felt as if she was having a heart attack or a stroke and I would laugh and call her a drama queen, but now I realize that it may in fact feel as if she is. I never really took her symptoms seriously enough until one day, when she had the worst of all panic attacks. It was graduation day. Everyone was so happy to be moving on after four years of torture. I saw Caitlin right before the ceremony and she looked totally fine. Finally, I took my turn and walked on stage, received my diploma from my principal, shook some hands, and returned to my seat with no sweat. When it was Caitlin’s turn, I realized that nobody was walking up. I looked over to the side where the students stood in line and prepared to walk on stage and I saw something that broke my heart. Caitlin was moving very slowly, holding onto a nearby teacher. She was shaking throughout her whole body as if she was having a seizure, hardly breathing, and could hardly move. Everyone around me stared at me, knowing I was her best friend, and I eventually ran up to her after she finally made her way to get her diploma. She told me it was her worst panic attack yet and that she thought she was going to die. Everything ended up being okay, it was merely I very scary situation and extremely embarrassing for my friend. After this situation, Caitlin’s panic attacks have seemed to also gotten worse. She has told me of one she had while in the car near Temple University, where she actually ended up having to go to the emergency room, and also of one in her public speaking class in college. I can’t imagine to have to worry about having a panic attack everywhere I went. At this point, I think Caitlin has even developed panic disorder with agoraphobia, which is the fear of leaving one’s familiar surroundings because one might have a panic attack. Caitlin’s fear of having panic attacks has risen, and it has affected her life in many ways. She feels as if she can’t do normal things that she used to do in every day life.
A phobia is defined as an irrational, persistent fear of something- it could be an object or a situation or may even involve social interactions. I have what you would call a specific phobia, which is an irrational fear of some object or specific situation. A couple common phobias would be arachnophobia, which is the fear of spiders, or acrophobia, which is the fear of heights. My phobia is very uncommon and most people would describe as being very odd. Ever since I was little, I was always afraid of paper bags. Yes, you heard me correctly- brown paper bags. I have no idea where this fear stemmed from, which is why it is irrational. It is the texture, the smell, and the sound it makes when being opened or crinkled. Every part of paper bags scare me, and believe it or not- I am shaking while writing this while merely thinking of them. While many people can live their lives normally without much interference from their phobias, I cannot. My fear of paper bags has actually held me back in every day situations. For example, all of my friends worked at our local grocery store in high school, but I wasn’t able to do that because I knew I would have to handle paper bags on a daily basis. When I pick up food from restaurants, I have to ask for them to transport the food from the paper bag to a plastic one. For these reasons, I try to avoid grocery shopping or ordering out from restaurants. My phobia is weird, I will admit that. I do get made fun of by my family and friends but by now, they know to not tease me by bringing them near me. My phobia isn’t as intense as others, especially as social phobias, but it is hard to deal with from time to time. I have tried to overcome my irrational fear of paper bags, but I just cannot do this. I, however, do not believe my phobia is so severe that I need to seek professional help. While it does interfere in my life from time to time, it does not stop me from living a normal life like other sever phobias and disorders.
The question is: can we really be sure if a memory is true or not? The answer is no. It is crazy to think that some of our memories might not actually be real, and that they could have easily just been implanted in our brains by outsides sources. This does happen on a daily basis, especially to my friend, Melinda. Melinda has been a lifelong friend of mine. One time her family held a party at her house and invited all relatives and family friends, some that have not been seen in a while. Some of her older friends and cousins (some sober, and some not) decided to play a prank on Melinda. We were on the subject of gymnastics, who knows why. But, one friend thought that it would be funny to ask Melinda if she still can do a backflip. Many others joined in on saying that she was always so good at performing backflips all throughout her childhood and life. Keep in mind that Melinda cannot do a backflip, nor could she ever. I don’t even remember her ever even being able to do a cartwheel. At first, Melinda laughed and kept denying the rumor that she could do a backflip. It seemed like the craziest thing she has ever heard. But, the stories kept getting more and more realistic. Her friends started using memories of their trips to the beach and how she did backflips there, and her cousins said that she would always do backflips on their trampoline at home. Then Melinda started to question herself and if she truly could perform a backflip. It took time, but she finally believed that she could do a backflip. The friends at the party told her that she should try it and prove herself. She was too scared to do it off of the ledge of the porch like some of the drunk participants of the prank had insisted. Instead she went confidently to her trampoline. She did indeed do the backflip but she ended up on the ground with a broken ankle. Please do not try this at home, or ever be as terrible of friends as we were at the time. This is an example of implanting memories. It goes along with the theory of false-memory-syndrome which is the creation of inaccurate or false memories through the suggestion of others, often while the person is under hypnosis. The difference is that Melinda was not under hypnosis, yet she still believed these inaccurate claims eventually. This also goes along with the work of Loftus and colleagues who concluded through experiments of implanting false memories that the event must be made to seem as plausible as possible, and that individuals are given information that helps them believe that the event could have happened to them personally. Implanting memories is often done through a game of “remember when…?”. We often our known to twist and exaggerate our own memories as time goes by. In fact, most of our earliest memories are not actually our own but stories that we have heard from family and friends. Now, how can we be sure that they, or even ourselves, are telling the truth?
I grew up along the side of my best friend, Sarah. We were inseparable. I met Sarah when I was only a mere three months old, and she was a little bit over a year older than me. Sarah and I spent every day under the care of my “mom-mom”. (I put quotes around mom-mom because she wasn’t our grandmother, but a close family friend to both of us, who took the place of a caring grandmother). I was always a shy and insecure child, always doubting myself and what I could do. For instance, I couldn’t crawl. I would see Sarah crawling, yet all I could do was drag my butt on the ground and cry of jealousy. Sarah was the one who would grab my hand and take me from my corner and show me how to do it. Soon enough, I was crawling like the other kids. The same thing happened when I didn’t know how to dance like the other girls, or how to play and participate in multiple childhood games that I just could not grasp the concept of. Sarah gave me something I never had: confidence. She also allowed me to open my heart and trust people; told me to let people in and to allow them to help me. When I was 6 years old, Sarah got diagnosed with cancer and after I turned 7, she passed away. The world flipped upside down. I want to talk about psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a theory created based upon the work of Sigmund Freud in the 1900’s. Psychoanalysis analyzes the concept that your experiences as a child will effect your personality as an adult, including any psychological issues you may have. This means that if a traumatic incident occurs in your early childhood, that could be the reason that you are the way you are when you grow up. Because of my friend’s death, my relationships with my mom-mom and the other girls who were in her care, changed as well. It was like there was a hole in my heart, and a hole in our “family”. I could no longer allow myself to be close to them. I strongly believe that Sarah’s death impacted my personality traits; traits that have come out especially at this point in my life since I am now on my own in the world. When I was little, I put all of my trust into Sarah. Now, I can’t put my trust into anyone, at least for a very long time. When you trust someone and they get ripped away from you in an instant, how can you trust someone again without the fear of the same thing happening? My mom still tells me about later in my childhood when she would try to teach me something and I wouldn’t listen because I was skeptic of the idea. Another trait that I think came out in me because of Sarah’s death is my skepticism, which is along the same lines as my mistrust. I have a hard time believing anything. I lost my confidence that Sarah gave me. Isn’t that what Freud is trying to tell us? We aren’t always “the way we are” because of our genes or our parents; we are sometimes defined by our experiences, that can completely change us.