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By Samantha Booth
THE 27-year-old, who was left contemplating suicide in a bid to escape the attacks, says her life has been transformed thanks to hypnotherapy.
UNTIL recently, Heather McCartney suffered such severe panic attacks she thought she was having a heart attack.
For 10 years she has been plagued by such terrible anxiety that there have been times she hasn’t felt able to leave the house and, at one stage, listening to music made “her skin crawl”.
Self-harming became a release for the 27-year-old and, at her lowest points, she even contemplated suicide.
But Heather’s life has now been transformed thanks to hypnotherapy.
After just a handful of sessions, she is once more learning to lead a normal life – from going out to the cinema with friends to getting back behind the wheel of her car.
She is now even training to become a make-up artist.
These are everyday events for most people but were impossible for Heather just months ago.
She said: “My life has completely changed since I started hypnosis.
“I am still on anti-depressants and seeing a psychologist, both of which I am sure have played a part, but even after just one session of hypnosis I felt so much more relaxed and was even able to go to a restaurant with my parents afterwards.
“It wasn’t easy but I was able to do it and I wouldn’t have been able to do so before.
“It really has been amazing.”
Heather first started experiencing anxiety when sitting her Highers.
Despite being a good student, used to getting top marks, she began to worry uncontrollably about the exams.
She said: “I had never experienced anything like it before. I just found myself getting really stressed, far more so than people usually would about exams. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to be the best.”
Nonetheless, with good grades secured, Heather went to Glasgow University to study Classical Civilization, French and Italian.
Sadly, though, her anxiety got worse.
Going to lectures was a daily endurance test for Heather and, at just 17, she found university life too much to cope with.
She said: “I felt like I was going into an exam every time I had a lecture. I felt really sick and nervous every day.
“Because of the course I had chosen, I also had a much more intense timetable than most first year students and I simply felt unprepared to cope with it.
“Looking back, I think I was quite young to be away from my family too, and, just before I started, I split up with a guy I had been seeing for a few years so I don’t think that helped either.”
It was at this point that Heather started to self-harm.
She said: “I know people think it is about attention-seeking but it really wasn’t for me.
“I did it out of frustration at myself.”
Living in a flat with other students, Heather wasn’t able to hide her problems for long.
She said: “I was hardly leaving the flat and wearing scarves tied round my wrists, so they looked quite fashionable but it wasn’t enough to hide what was going on.
“My flatmates eventually said to me that what was happening wasn’t right and I needed to get help.
“I have them to thank for making me tell someone how I was feeling.
“My family were really shocked and upset when they found out how bad I was, even though there had been times when they had come through to Glasgow to take me home because they knew from talking to me that I was having a bad time.”
Halfway through her second year, Heather, from Lanark, left university to return home.
She tried to go back to uni several times but struggled so badly that she finally gave up completely just months before graduation.
After a while, she started work for her dad’s insurance broker business, while DJ-ing at weekends, but this also became too much for her.
Heather said: “I think I was doing too much. It was as if I was trying to lead two lives.
“There was the sensible, responsible me who was working for my dad and then there was the other me who still wanted to go out and enjoy myself.”
Eventually, regular panic attacks – sometimes as many as two a day – forced Heather to stop all work. The attacks could be so severe that she felt as if she was dying.
She said: “I really can’t describe how awful they were, they really were the worst thing ever.
“I began to fear going anywhere or doing anything in case I got one.
“My mum became my comfort blanket because I would only go anywhere when I was with her.
“They came on at any time, even doing something as simple as going to the supermarket.
“I had some on trains, which is terrible because all you want to do is get off and you can’t.
“I also had one while I was driving, which was terrifying and put me off driving again.”
Unable to live a normal life, Heather became so low that she rarely left the house and, at points, she even contemplated suicide.
She said: “It was like there was no relief from feeling that bad and there was no enjoyment to be found in anything in life.
“I had become a shell of the person I had been. I found it hard to understand why I felt the way I did, as well.
“I don’t come from a broken home and we never had money worries – I had a really happy childhood and have good relationships with my parents and my brother.
“I lost both my grans in a space of 13 months when I was in my early 20s, which did set me back at the time, but otherwise I had a really happy, stable life.
“I think it just goes to show that mental health problems really can affect anyone.”
After hitting a really low point this spring, Heather decided to give hypnosis a try.
She had her first session at the end of May. Heather said: “In the first session, all you really do is go into a really deep relaxation but I could feel the difference right away.
“Each session since has helped me a little more and I really do feel now that I am beginning to come out of the other side.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still get bad days when I can feel anxious but I can cope with them so much better.”
While living at home, Heather had begun a blog to review beauty products, but earlier this year she decided to blog about her mental health problems instead, in the hope of helping others.
She said: “The response I had from people was just incredible and it really has been a huge support to me.
“That has given me strength but I also realised how important it is to talk about the problems I have been through so other people talk about them too.
“I feel it is really important to be open and honest about my problems so other people might realise they are not alone.
“And that there is hope.”