Panic on the streets of London

If you follow my Facebook page (linked to the side) you’d have read me going on and on about the panic attacks I’ve been having lately. (And also been so super supportive that I could kiss you all with tongues).

I’ve been having them for a few months, but the intensity and frequency has gone off the chart lately.  I go through cycles of this.  Twelve years worth of cycles in fact. I don’t have to be depressed, in fact, they happen more often when I’m completely stable.  When, like now, I am fairly happy. It’s as though my mind goes, “Well, here’s a rest period, enjoy yourself- HAHAH AYE RIGHT! I’M YOUR BRAIN, I HATE YOU, REMEMBER?!”

And panic kicks in.  I have a few months where I am having panic attacks a few times a day.  They catch me everywhere, no trigger, no reason.

It’s always about death and dying.  And I have lived with them and the periods I tend to have them in are episodic and they do pass.  But always return.

I have never talked about this in any depth with anyone outside my immediate relationships.  The people who bear the brunt are the people who I’m in a relationship with.  My current relationship (now marriage) has lasted four years and the one before also lasted almost four years.  They’re the ones who have seen me launch myself across the room, screaming.  So, you know, you have to explain. My husband saw it happen last week.  I started screaming, jumped out of bed, ran into the living room, throwing myself at walls, clawing at windows, knowing I was going to die one day and my heart beating, stopping, thumping feeling as though I was doing so. He was shocked, and almost impressed, in a morbid way.  He said it was like watching a force of nature.  And it is, in a way.  The primal fear of death.

The catalyst for seeking help this time is that, for the first time, I’ve been experiencing significant dissociation/depersonalisation before/during panic attacks.  It is fucking terrifying. I feel as though my spirit is leaving my body (and I don’t believe in gods or spirits) and I have a fear I’m going to collapse and die immediately.  I know this is my mind trying to protect me but it’s so scary. Last week, I had something that seemed like a seizure. I was overcome with nausea and my limbs started shaking. My eyesight kept blacking out and I couldn’t stand up.  I felt heavy and unreal. In retrospect, I think it is something to do with the panic.  I was completely freaked out and we were on the verge of getting an ambulance. I was also fairly mortified.  You don’t want to lose control like that in front of someone you love, especially when a few minutes ago, you’d been happily in bed with BBC 4 on the laptop.

I have panic attacks in the street. I have them just out walking. I have them on the bus. I have mini ones at work where I suddenly feel intensely fearful and begin shaking, begin thinking something is going to happen.  They wax and wane.  They come on without warning. My world is getting smaller and smaller as I am constantly afraid of having another one.  I’m not sleeping well because I’m too scared to go to bed. All that works is constant distraction and stimulation, and it is exhausting me.

I’ve been having calf pain while walking for a few months, too.  Quite intense pain which stops when I stop.  I am terrified it is intermittent claudication which means I have peripheral arterial disease and I will die of a heart attack or stroke. Yesterday  while having a brilliant time at a football match with my husband, I sneaked away and locked myself in a bathroom to exam my legs for discolouration  I have managed to convince myself of this and couldn’t sleep last night because I was convinced if I did I would die. I keep imagining arteries in my legs blocked and rotting. Rationally, I try to tell myself that, although I’m a fat smoker, I’m also a 27 year old woman with lowish-normal blood pressure and no diabetes.  But it’s not happening and I am going to have to bring this up to the doctor tomorrow to, as well as panic.  I am hoping she won’t dismiss me. It’s a new surgery since I moved and she seemed lovely last time I saw her. She said they were always there and if they weren’t meeting my needs to give them a poke. It’s reassuring as my last place was a shambles and appointments took so long to get I neglected my health a lot.

For all my talk about speaking up, though, I’m not good at doing it myself.  I have”recovered” to such an extent that I feel ashamed when I do struggle. I don’t really know what I want out of the appointment, either. I can’t take antidepressants and I’m scared of therapy because talking about what I’m afraid of doesn’t help.  It’s death, there is no talking out of it. It makes me panic more intensely.  I’m also a bit wary of having another mental health diagnosis.  When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was a young, rather dogmatic person.  I collected diagnosis, I diagnosed myself with everything as a way of explaining myself.  I feel, seven years later, very differently about all that. Bipolar disorder has been the one that seems to have stuck (BPD traits still in there somewhere too on my rap sheet) but I have a much deeper and richer understanding of how my life has impacted on my mental health (and how I can impact on it with my lifestyle).  I don’t particularly believe in the medical model anymore and have no desire for another diagnosis or more medication. But I also understand that I probably need a diagnosis to get some treatment, really.

I know I’ve had a lot of stressors lately, too.  So much for the, “honeymoon” period.  Since our wedding, we’ve had an appalling run of bad luck and shittiness that has pushed us both to the limit of coping. I’ve also had a depressive episode (my usual autumn-winter one, yay), so did Robert, I left my course, started new jobs (still don’t have a permanent one but am enjoying what I’m doing) and have had some problems that were very stressful.  In some ways, I am stronger than ever. I’ve coped well with everything when I would have been entitled to just lie in bed for a month. In other ways, though, I’m not surprised my panic attacks have gotten worse. I’m fairly happy at the moment (also hard to explain, happiness being a trigger in itself, being happy and then a panic attack comes, shouting, “BUT IT’S ALL MEANINGLESS, EVERYTHING DIES”) and the calm after the storm is a dangerous time.  I think I once mentioned, “the happy suicide” on here.  By that, I meant that after a happy day, my panic tends to be worse because it reminds me of what I will lose when I die and when the people I love do. In that sense I get an urge to take control of my destiny myself, by ending my life and thus end the fear.  But (obviously) I’ve never done it.  I think my mind is having a shitfit at everything.  But I am also aware that this has not always happened because of any stressors- sometimes, it’s just happened, I’ve just started to have panic attacks again for feck all reason. YAY. BRAIN. AWESOME. WANKER!

Anyway, wish me luck.  I am really dreading this.  Robert’s walking there with me after work but I want to face this appointment alone.
Edit: Reading this back, I sound like a fecking nutcase.  I’m not, I promise. I’m not racing around the place going, “ARRRGGGH!” at people.  You wouldn’t be able to tell any of this by talking to me.

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