Panic- fun and games in the back of an ambulance

Hello, been a while since I updated here. I’m pretty knackered!

News for those wondering- I didn’t win the Mind digital award, which I didn’t expect to.  Thank you for your good wishes, though. It was won by the lovely Charlotte, who thoroughly deserved to win. I still had a fun night, and when the winner was announced, I could finally go for a wee I had nervously held in for hours. It was good.

I had a bit of a shite experience last weekend.

Last week, I sat watching Doctor Who in a rare moment imitating peace. I was fine. Fine as I can be. And suddenly, out of nowhere, I am having a heart attack. My heart starts beating wildly and I am assailed by pain and fright, find my hands clutched to my chest and then my mouth as vomit begins to spew out between my fingers, down my dress, onto the chair, the floor, my bare feet. Sticking my toes to the carpet I meet with my face as I fall, dizziness.  Then my heart started beating again, more in a rhythm, but loud and quick, insistent like an alarm, and I am shaking and sick and shamefully covered in my sickness. I thought I was dying- I felt like I was dying- black scuds over my eyes.

I decide to take this seriously. I rang 111. They say ring 999.  I email my husband, who was at work, as he is 7/14 nights. He agrees I should call 999, and after a while (two ill-advised cigarettes), I do. I have to open the front door, in a daze, pushing the cats into the kitchen with a vomitty foot then shutting the hall door and waiting. They come into my house- my messy house I am too tired to clean- and I realise I am still covered in sick and it’s in my hair. I change into a pair of pyjamas and wash my mouth while they wait in the back of an ambulance, visible to everyone in my street.

I climb into the back, feeling stupid for making a fuss, yet also dizzy enough to stumble. I dread them taking my blood pressure because I know what they’ll say- and they say it. “Lot of scars on your arms- do you still do that? Are you taking medication for depression?”

Four year old scars. As old as an ancient leg break and just as relevant. Yet I still have to answer that no, I don’t “do that” anymore, I haven’t for years, and I’m not taking any medication for depression.

My blood pressure is pre-hypertensive (thanks, nurse training).  They say it’s fine but I know those numbers are high, but maybe I can put it down to being so stressed. ECG stickers stuck all over me (and some still stuck to my pyjama top, a souvenir). Same with sinus tachycardia. I feel embarrassed and silly and small. I haven’t been in the back of an ambulance since 2008 and then I was barely conscious and just heard snippets of their conversations, and I think I preferred it that way.

I am, of course, fine.  They offer to take me to hospital and tell me it might be a good idea to have my heart monitored with a holter, if I am worried.  They say it sounds like a panic attack.  And it probably was but I felt like I was dying and I don’t generally vomit during panic attacks, and it didn’t feel like a panic attack. But it probably was.

I need to go and see the doctor again in case it wasn’t a panic attack. What else would it be?  I have blood tests to get, too, still lying on my kitchen table, which I haven’t had time for.

The whole experience was awful and draining and awful to go through alone. I slept for 19 hours afterwards, but not until 9am, when the sun came up.

Psychotherapy finally got back to me. I’m now on the waiting list for IAPT- they weren’t sure whether to do that or secondary services but think, and I agree, since panic attacks are the most prominent feature right now, then IAPT is fine.  The therapy leads have been very helpful so far, sending reading material which is unread in my inbox at the moment. They framed it in a way I find more helpful, of obsessional thoughts rather than pure panic disorder. I can grasp that more- I don’t want yet another psychiatric diagnosis. Though most have shimmied away and I’m left with just bipolar disorder and panic. I’d rather be unwell with the former than the latter, and that’s the truth.  At least when you have episodes, after the tsunami recedes there is the dull and embarrassing process of rebuilding your life again and apologising to everyone. If you’re lucky, and I have been, then you go back to a normal mood.  Scarred, and more alone than before (alone, alone, and alone again- this is my cycle, this is my life) but you feel like a person living in the world.  There is some purpose to your life, some aim, even if the aim is dodging another episode and thus avoiding the pain it brings.

Panic and anxiety has now been the biggest thing in my life for almost a year, deciding to hit me right after I got out of a severe depression. And there is no normal world other than the clutter you fill your mind with to stop yourself clawing at the window and screaming. There is absolutely no peace, never.  It has been a year since I’ve lain on my bed and stared in sisterly silence at the ceiling while the wind blows crisp packets outside. More than a year, because depression stole months out of last year. To lie still and quiet like that now invariably ends in my launching myself across the room in fire and hell of terror. The heartbeat.

Sorry for the by now characteristically dour tone. I’m tired.

5 Responses

  1. Oh hunni. I had a panic attack at work a few week ago and ‘had’ to go to A&E. I say ‘had’ as at the time I couldn’t get the ‘I’m having a heart attack’ thing going round and round in my head. Of course once I was there and calmed down my brain allowed me to think rationally again and I ‘knew’ all the tests would show nothing wrong. Mental illness has also stolen years of my life away so I can understand what you experienced. Maybe one day someone will find a way that no one has to suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and all the other nasties. That would be nice.

  2. Hello Seaneen, Again that is very well written, open and honest and some of the points very true. bye for now. David.

  3. I am glad that you are okay. What a terrifying experience. You did the right thing calling the paramedics,though.

  4. Im sorry 😦
    I wish things were better

  5. […] Filed underneath: Mental health The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive […]

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