Mental Health Awareness: Panic Attacks and Anxiety

This is quite a personal post this week. I had a really severe panic attack in the middle of the night where I genuinely thought I was dying or about to have a seizure.

  • It started with a headache that wasn't being controlled with any painkiller; including codeine and Amitriptyline. My brain tumour is something that frightens the life out of me anyway so when I can't control a headache I often jump to conclusions. 
  • I realised I was on blood thinning injections that have been known to cause aneurysms in Brain Tumour patients so I basically concluded I was having one of these and was about to start seizing.
  • Commence the rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and shortness of breath. It literally felt like my lungs had disconnected from their affinity for C02 and only my gasps would keep me ticking. 
  • I was genuinely so frightened and it's bizarre to think that this all comes from the thoughts and fears in your head. My headache had already gone by this point and I couldn't break free from the panic attack at all. I felt like I had so much to lose from dying and was essentially begging for my life.
  • Luckily, I live with my partner who woke up and stayed up with me to calm me down and talk me down and then I fell asleep finally around 4 am. I just really hope this doesn't become a thing.

I'm generally a very happy and positive person but I've had a lot of therapy for generalised anxiety over the years but never a panic attack to this degree. 

Things I used to get anxious over (pre-brain tumour) were vomiting or seeing someone vomit. This phobia was so bad it nearly stopped me becoming a practitioner (but luckily this was the best therapy.) I would sit up all night wondering if my dinner was going to give me food poisoning. I didn't trust anyone's cooking apart from my Mum's and burned my chicken for 3 years at uni to be sure. I could never drink alcohol and be sick but as soon as I did this around aged 20 I realised being sick isn't too bad and can help you feel much better!

I also spend a lot of time worrying about my bladder capacity before I even need the toilet. I find myself planning wee stops if I'm going somewhere or obsess about locating a loo if I'm at an event. I can go from 0 to about to wet myself if there's motorway traffic. It's really annoying and I still don't know if this has anything to do with my brain tumour but luckily I now have one of those Macmillan "please let me use your toilet cards" which you can get here. 

A classic anxiety situation is not needing it when I'm carrying the card, but really needing it when I've left it at home!!!

Anxiety comes in many ways, shapes and forms and doesn't have a concept of time or reason. A panic attack is an externalised physical reaction to an internalised trigger or thought process.

Some symptoms are: irrational thoughts, isolating yourself, feeling disconnected and scared, rapid and heavy heartbeat, altered breathing, feeling like you're going to pass out, nausea and vomiting, loss of balance or clear vision, loss of memory and impending doom. 

Any advice I could give?

First of all I definitely don't feel equipped to give out too much advice but I will link some good articles about coping with a panic attack. I guess my only direction would be to talk about your anxiety freely with people you trust as they might be able to offer help when you need it the most. If it wasn't for my partner comforting me I'd have called 111. 

It's also worth seeing your GP to get 6 free sessions of talking therapy. This has really helped me in the past and I'm overdue going again. 

I work in medicine and anxiety is totally normal; everyone should get counselling even if they don't think they need it, you never know what you might find out about yourself. Talking is such a good therapy and in 2019 I still don't think we discuss mental health issues as freely as we should.

Useful links:

25 stories of Panic Attacks

By 2020 I am aiming to have raised £5000 for The Brain Tumour Charity to help #FindACureSooner and ensure continued support and readily available resources for patients and families of those who have Brain Tumours. Please click on the link and donate, if all of my readers donated £1 I would have met my target already!


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