Such stale air
In……… out…….. in……..out
(Pulling at neck)
“Need these clothes off –
It’s not right
“Take me to hospital”
(Can’t catch a breath)
“It’s a heart attack. Must be.”
Only, it wasn’t.
It transpired that it was my first Panic Attack. Google and a GP friend told me. It happened on the drive home from my mother-in-laws house, with my 6 year old in the back seat and my husband driving. There was no indication this would take place – not to me anyway.
Looking back it’s unsurprising it did. Something had to give. My mind and body were responding to a period of stress. A few people close to me had died suddenly in the months leading up to this and my mother-in-law had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 Lung Cancer. I’d been ill for a couple of weeks with a cough that wouldn’t go away – just after the terrible shock of mother-in-laws diagnosis. Naturally curious and searching for hope, I spent hours on the internet investigating Lung Cancer symptoms, treatment and life expectancy. It occurred to me I had those early symptoms too. For two weeks. To a logical person, a 2-week cough isn’t a cancer diagnosis – it’s a ridiculous overreaction. However, I convinced myself Lung Cancer had to be the reason why I was coughing. I didn’t share my thoughts with my family. I held it together for my husband who was still dealing with the grief of his fathers’ death 2 years before and now dealing with his mum.
My Panic Attack seemed to last forever but in reality it was around 15 minutes. I managed to get through it by my husband playing Classical FM on the radio and giving me some water. He was calm, didn’t talk much and he never told me it was all in my head. He told me later that night that he thought I was having a panic attack. I’m glad he never told me at the time though – I’d have felt he was minimising what was happening and I wouldn’t have believed him.
Do you know what I felt when I finally knew that this traumatic PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE was a Panic Attack? Shame. I was ashamed of myself for my previous belief that people could just ‘think themselves better’ because ‘it was all in their head’. Ashamed that despite my knowledge of anxiety issues (I’d read plenty) I was clueless as to what people go through. I didn’t really think you could have physical feelings through something you were thinking. I didn’t even realise I was thinking anything before my attack.
I’ve had a handful of Panic Attacks since last year and now know what’s happening. This does not put a stop to the worry that my heart is beating too fast, that I can’t breathe and I might not make it. Being in a room alone with soothing music is all that works for me. Luckily I haven’t been in a public space when they’ve occurred (so far).
My attacks are caused by my Health Anxieties and stress. For others though, there may be seemingly no rhyme nor reason as to why a panic attack occurs. They are all different and any number of things can set them off.
The NHS website gives information on what to look for if you expect you are suffering from Panic Attacks.
Anxiety Coach offers some tips in dealing with Panic Attacks.
No Panic helps people who suffer from Panic Attacks, Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and other related anxiety disorders including those people who are trying to give up Tranquillizers.
If you’ve never had a panic attack – I hope you never do.
If you do have panic attacks – I hope they stop or you’re able to manage or reduce them.
I hope that those who have never had a panic attack, realise how frightening they can be and try to show some understanding.
I’ll leave you with this from HuffPost: What Not to Do When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack
In response to the daily word prompt panic.