I have suffered from Panic Attacks since I was 15, and I was an anxious kid before that. My first Panic Attack was terrifying, I thought I was dying. I got rushed to the hospital, where they dismissed me because I told them that, at the time, I sometimes smoked pot. My Panic Attack had nothing to do with the pot that I sometimes smoked, but in less than 30 seconds I was out of the room and on my arse outside the hospital, still feeling like I was dying, but crying on top of everything else. I only smoked pot for a year or so, before quitting, but the Panic Attacks remained. I discovered that they ran in my family, and that family members were referred to as “suffering with their nerves”. Then one day I had a biggie, that made my first one look like a mere wobble. It was horrible, I didn’t know what to do, or what was happening.
Since that day, I have spent a significant portion of my life investigating, studying and researching Panic Attacks. I was determined to find a way to stop them, cure them or at least manage them. They have come and go throughout my life, currently, I haven’t had one in what must be a couple of years, which feels amazing, and speaking about them now is like trying to remember a nightmare once you’ve been awake for 30 minutes.
There have been times in my life, however, where I haven’t been able to sit on my couch at home and just be, because everyday is just one long prolonged Panic Attack, and after months of this, you are so exhausted that you end up at the out of hours doctors at the hospital at 2am, going out of your mind, pacing, willing time to stop, wishing you could go to sleep, but at the same time not wanting to miss a second of anything because you can barely trust your own senses and you have to be on high alert.
After one such trip to the hospital at 2am I was in the cab on my way home, having been turned away again for having “nothing wrong with me”, and I was suddenly done. I couldn’t take another person telling me there was nothing wrong, when my brain was lit up like a Christmas tree, and every day was an agonising, terrifying 24hours of misery and madness, when I was sobbing on the phone to the Samaritans outside a church somewhere, because I couldn’t be at home and I had nowhere to go. When I realised that I had been sat outside that church for hours, not moving, and wasn’t sure what time it was, or what I was even doing there. You can’t tell me that there’s “nothing wrong”. People who have nothing wrong with them, don’t often act like that.
So that night I went home and, as I always did, threw the sleeping pill they insisted I take with me in the bin, and sat on the internet for the rest of the night. I googled my fingers to the bone, determined to find someone out there who knew what was happening to me, or who could relate. I found a man from The Netherlands, who had had similar experiences to me. He too had had a moment where he realised that no-one was listening to him, and if he wanted to get anywhere, he was going to have to do it himself.
He taught me about the fight or flight response, how what my brain was doing was perfectly natural, just a bit misguided. He taught me how to handle things better, how to prevent one, once it had started happening, and how to regain control of my life.
And now, sitting here, they are like a distant nightmare. I know I will have one again, and I know there is no cure, but I am so glad that I found people on the internet, who knew what I was going through. They saved me and did more for me than any medical professional had even tried to do. I don’t want be negative about the doctors, but not one of them ever listened to me. They would look at my vital signs, conclude that I was fine, and send me on my way, their job being done.
I urge anyone, whoever experiences something that they are getting no help with, to find an online community. In the 21st century, finding solace in online members is as common as having physical people in your corner, but you just might find a bit more understanding.