This blog could also be titled ‘you mean that literally anything, can set off my panic attacks?’ It would be an accurate description of my thought process, but sounds a little clumsy. On one of my previous blogs, I wrote about my panic attacks and using a low dosage of anti depressants to help control them. These panic attacks were always triggered by the worry, that my life was somehow in imminent danger. They initially started around 15 years ago. The first time I ever experienced one, was after inadvertently eating a chocolate brownie that contained nuts and having a sudden, illogical worry that I was fatally allergic to nuts.
I had read an article in a newspaper earlier that day, about a woman who had an anaphylactic reaction to eating nuts and had tragically died. I have never liked nuts and they had always made my mouth feel tingly and weird if I ate them, so I just avoided them. I wasn’t, to my knowledge, actually allergic to them. That evening I ate the brownie and had what I thought was an allergic reaction. My lips tingled, my tongue felt bigger than usual and my heart was racing. I was sweating, yet cold at the same time and I could not catch my breath. Alarmed P rang NHS direct and was told to get me to hospital immediately.
He jumped red lights, broke the speed limit and as soon as I arrived I was treated by a doctor, who gave me a dose of anti histamine and a shot of adrenaline. By this point, I actually feared the end was near. This was only exacerbated, when I managed to go to the loo. I sat down for a pee and nearly passed out, I felt even worse, than when I had eaten the nut. ‘So this is how it ends?’ were my thoughts, ‘in a dimly lit toilet in a hospital in Swindon.’ Swiftly followed by ‘sod that I am not being found with my knickers round my ankles.’ With a huge effort, I got up and staggered back to the ward to die on my husband, a much more pleasant way to go. Instead I was greeted by a Doctor who cheerily asked me how I was feeling. ‘Much worse, in fact I think I’m about to die,’ I added dramatically. She patted my head and apologised profusely, apparently it was just the adrenaline making me feel that way and someone should have explained that to me. Phew!
It was later explained, although I would be kept over night for observation, I had had, in all likelihood, a panic attack. I would need to be allergy tested for nuts, just to be on the safe side. Of course I was beyond relieved that my time wasn’t up just yet. What I hadn’t realised was, I had just inadvertently signed up for a lifetime of guaranteed panic attacks. For a good few years, they came only when I thought I had accidentally eaten a nut in any shape or form. It took over a year before I was tested for nut allergies and the mostly negative results did help a great deal (I had a tiny bump from Brazil nuts)
Unfortunately a few years ago they came back with a vengeance and any time I feared my life was somehow in danger, I went into panic over drive. Rationally, I knew that it was unlikely a tall building would suddenly collapse and fall on my head; but I still couldn’t control the symptoms. Even understanding that they were purely psychosomatic didn’t help, I felt powerless to control them. As per my previous post, they became so frequent and impacted on my life so much, that I took Citalopram for a year and that really did help. Right up until two months before my 40th birthday, when they returned but in a slightly different format.
Instead of getting a full blown panic attack and all it’s ensuing physical symptoms, I get a less physical, more mental reaction. They are harder to describe, but in short a terrible feeling of dread washes over me and although my heart rate increases, I don’t feel like I am going to die right there on the spot. Instead I just become hyper aware of my own mortality. Although physically it’s preferable to a full blown panic attack, mentally it feels much worse.
Before, I knew that I could wait out a panic attack and it would pass relatively quickly. Although it doesn’t feel like that in full blown panic mode, I think the body can only sustain such an onslaught of adrenaline and other symptoms for a brief period of time. This time however, the feeling of doom seemed to stick around for a good few hours and I’m at a loss as to how to distract myself from it.
So I turned to good old Dr Google and found that I now seemed to be suffering from a general panic disorder. This means that I can feel panicked or extreme fear over just about anything. ‘Oh ruddy marvelous, how am I meant to make this one go away?’ Were my initial thoughts.After speaking to my doctor, I learnt that it is a not an unusual thing to experience at significant points in your life, ie turning 40. Great, so not only do I have to worry about wrinkles and my boobs hitting the floor, but now this as well? Fortunately a few months after my 40th birthday, these panic attacks vanished.
My mental health history isn’t that brilliant and I guess I’m probably just prone to these things. I am the first to admit to having a slight problem with hypochondria and definitely suffered with the baby blues after each of my boys were born. If I suffer a relapse, I would be happy to take citalopram again and would consider CBT. That said I would love some coping skills of my own. I don’t want these fears to carry on ruling my life and it’s time I tried to stand up to them. So if anyone has any coping methods, please do message me, I would love to hear about them.