So often today the word anxiety or panic attack is banded about as a general worry or nervousness. I remember when we first started discussing that saying someone was “a little OCD” wasn’t ok, and its the same with this. Anxiety isn’t a one-off event, like when you’re nervous about a job interview or a first date. Anxiety can be crippling and impact your whole life for years and we need to understand that before we casually say things like “I had a panic attack”.
My last panic attack came when I tried to leave my front door a few weeks ago. I’d been looking forward to a meal out with family when, as I started to get ready, I began to worry. Not about what I looked like, but about the last conversations I had with each and everyone of them. I began to panic about the joke someone had made about me talking too much, or not drinking, or drinking too much.
I remembered that I was slimmer last time and not on as much medication when they had seen me last. I could see the eye rolls, hear the political debate and could see my children bickering and misbehaving. Within a couple of minutes I’m on my bed, I’m sweating, struggling to breathe and in need of my inhaler. If I text anyone they’ll say things like ‘you’ll be ok’, ‘it’s not all about you’, ‘why do you have to cause a drama’, ‘why can’t you just enjoy nice things’. So I don’t text anyone. I wait.
My make-up is no longer on my face but has dribbled off down my new top, which probably looks too tight, or like a curtain, or too puffy. My hair is sticky, so I’ll have to tie it back, and someone will comment that I ‘could have made an effort’.
I take my extra medication.
I don’t want to go. I want to get in bed. I ask if I look nice (we all know you shouldn’t have to ask). My brain is so full of worries and concerns. My stomach and head genuinely hurts. I have cramps and a migraine building. I feel sick. No one will miss me if I’m not there, but I’ll be made to feel bad. I tell myself to give myself a minute, but it’s no good. I’m now crying and sweating and worrying and in pain.
I didn’t go out.
Whenever I try to relay times like this, I’m often told ‘you’ve just got to do it’. I know that, and nine times out of ten I can make it. But telling everyone you suffer too isn’t opening up the communications for talking about mental health, its preventing those who really need help and support from getting it.
I actually sometimes just want to hear someone say, ‘I’ve no idea how it must feel to want to disappear rather than go on a planned evening out when anxiety strike’.
If you suffer please share, reach out and talk to people. But if you don’t, just listen and be there for that person. Caring isn’t always about feeling it too, its about listening.