I have wanted to write this post since before I started blogging. It takes some doing though. But part of me
wants needs to write it so I’ll continue…
…and I’ll cut to the chase!
In my life I feel blessed to have had about 3 full-blown Panic Attacks, say 10 or so medium ones and I’m guessing upwards of 70 or 80 “scares”. I say blessed, because so many I know have it much much worse.
What does a Panic Attack look like?
Well I give you an example of a “medium” one. Picture the scene. Driving on the M5 Northbound. You are just passed Taunton. Two kids in the back chatting away. Sun Shining. All quite relaxed – well as much as Motorway Driving can be. Certainly no big dramas.
Next thing – and out of nowhere – you feel that your last breath may not have been a good one.
Does that sound odd?…well just wait! The next 10 minutes go something like this:
- Try another (deeper breath)
- Not sure about that one either…still not right!
- Maybe open the window
- Girls stop chatting and ask what you are doing opening the window on a Motorway!?
- “Getting fresh air” you say, while still trying to take a proper breath.
- Still driving you know by now something is not right.
- Unable to breathe properly you turn the radio on and open the passenger window as well to really get some fresh air. Now turn the Radio off.
- The thought crosses your mind of pulling over to the hard shoulder to get out of the car and breathe. Maybe you will be able to breathe once outside??
- Tell yourself – “it’s dangerous”, “I clearly am still breathing” “I don’t want the girls to see me like this – slumped over the car on a hard shoulder struggling for breath”
- You tell yourself (in this can go on for many minutes) “you have been here before. You ARE breathing. Everything is OK. Don’t be such an arse”
- Then tell yourself this one is different. No it is! You notice a dry tongue. You look in the rear view mirror. Your faced is flushed. Short shallow breaths now. You try and gulp a big one in…it just isn’t happening…
- …what IS happening is that you NEED to escape.
- Ask yourself how – with two Daughters in the back while on a Motorway.
- Return to the “let’s park up on the hard shoulder idea” – tell yourself it will just for a minute or two.
- Refresh all the reasons outlined in (9 above)
- You carry on…with the most urgent thoughts of dying flooding your head. Real thoughts of real death. Things start to appear black. Everything feels black. You have to stop driving! You have your daughters in the back. You have to stop driving now!!
- Salvation rarely comes in the way of MotorWay Service Stations….!
- You find a way to lie to the girls and tell them you just have to get to the loo. Not a lie really – you do have to get to the loo. You walk away from the car is haste. Still not breathing properly, panting really, and find a cubicle and slam the door shut.
- You lean against the back wall and breathe. Hands on the wall you breathe as deeply as you possibly can. You start to sob. But you are breathing!
- You will go back to the car. You will say to your children that they can have a treat and you will park up properly, and have some tea. You will be shaken and stirred. But alive.
Where and when do you get Panic Attacks?
Well the medical answer to this is anywhere and at anytime. Like most sufferers, Supermarkets need to be treated with caution; but I’ve had them on the beach, at home, at work, in the pub, and on a plane (ask my pal Chris about that one!!)
And My Point is?
Well I’m not a big one for making points – but I have three reasons for writing on the subject:
- The quicker more of us feel able to write and talk about these things the better. It’s still all a bit too hush-hush for many people. See the thing is episodes like that one I’ve explained above do leave feel you feeling ashamed and it’s not something easy to talk about. If just one person reading this gets comfort from knowing they’re not the “only nutter in town” then that’s a good thing.
- To offer some helpful advice that works for me. Now I’m not a Doctor or a Counsellor or anything like that, but I do know having a couple of mates ready on the end of a ‘phone can be magical help especially during an attack. Get them to talk to you about anything other than panic attacks though! It can just take your mind away from your feelings and get you thinking about something else – it can and does work for many of us.
- My third reason is to tell you that if I had the money I would set up a bank of 24 hour round the clock ‘phone lines for people to call if they ever needed immediate advice or support during an attack. For those feeling isolated or too ashamed to talk about it, panic can be bloody awful. Maybe one day we’ll have such a thing. It wouldn’t cost a lot to set up and run, I’m sure. Just a thought anyway!
Thanks for reading – it’s not been an easy write. Bob x
By the way, we’ve added some more advice on Panic Attacks on our website here and will always be interested in adding links to national support groups.