Please don’t judge me for not wearing a mask
Face covering can spark panic attacks
A Perth domestic abuse survivor who has a condition that causes her to have “massive panic attacks” when wearing a face covering has pleaded for understanding when in shops.
Nicola Murray (42), who is the founder of Brodie’s Trust, which supports women who have suffered pregnancy loss, said her experiences have led to her being diagnosed with complex PTSD.
As a result, wearing a mask triggers traumatic episodes for the mum-of-five, who also revealed it has led to judgement and vilification from other members of the public for not wearing one during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Complex PTSD is a hidden disability that is diagnosed in those who have repeatedly experienced traumatic events, such as violence, neglect or abuse.
It can trigger extreme physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains, panic attacks and stomach aches.
The wearing of face coverings in shops and public transport is now mandatory in Scotland as the nation continues to battle against coronavirus.
Nicola revealed to the PA that those with hidden disabilities unable to wear a mask live in fear of public judgement but explained that an awareness scheme she is supporting can help make a big difference.
She said: “My hidden disability is like PTSD but more complicated by repeated trauma as a domestic abuse survivor.
“As a result I suffer from anxiety, even taking trips to the shop normally can be quite draining and scary for me.
“I have tried wearing a mask but it induces a massive panic attack from having my face covered.
“Having the bottom half of my face covered makes it feel like my breathing is being restricted, which triggers all the past trauma.
“And there are other hidden disabilities that make it hard for people to wear one.
“Quite a lot of people who have breathing difficulties, asthma, and autism among others are apprehensive.
“I have a friend who is a severe asthmatic who can’t wear a mask because it will make her have an attack.
“I know someone else with a hidden disability who is going to avoid the shops altogether because of it.”
Nicola also revealed she has been recently “challenged” while out at a local store and that many with hidden disabilities have experienced the same.
“As well as the disability, it is the additional fear that people have that they will get challenged when they are not wearing a mask,” she added.
“I tried wearing a mask on Friday for a trip to a local shop and it did not go well and I ended up getting quite upset.
“All I had to do was walk in, hand them a parcel and walk out - it takes seconds to do - and I was the only one there.
“They turned it into a fiveminute ordeal and it wasn’t necessary. I was visibly struggling and staff were shouting at me to go all the way round the entire shop not just drop the parcel at the counter. I couldn’t wait to get out.
“But I had to go to the local family store just after and the staff there could not have been more welcoming.”
An initiative to help those with hidden disabilities is The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme, which offers a brightly-coloured lanyard that identifies people with conditions to others.
“Some will say not wearing a mask is putting other people’s lives at risk but I do think if you have a lanyard or badge, are socially distancing and not up in people’s faces, it should be okay if you have a hidden condition,” Nicola added.
“My daughter Nadia (13) has additional support needs and sensory needs and at the moment she is quite happy to wear a mask.
“But I am very aware that at some point she will decide that the mask will become uncomfortable or scratchy and she just doesn’t want it.
“The lanyards are really an outward sign to people. I also have a pin badge.
“The sunflower scheme has been around for quite a few years and St John’s Shopping Centre has signed up to the scheme.
“It gives people a safe space and they are less likely to challenge you for not wearing a mask.
“I hope a few local businesses see my posts about it and get on board, if they haven’t already.
“I think the wearing of masks will be around for a while as a society, so this can really help.”
•For more information about the scheme go to https://hiddendisabilities store.com/
Having the bottom half of my face covered makes is feel like my breathing is restricted