Panic Attacks My Personal Experience
The panic began...
Hello! In 1966, at the age of 21, after a combination of getting married, moving house twice, becoming pregnant, realising my new husband was having an affair and having my first baby, all within thirteen months, I had my first experience with panic attacks. I was shopping at the time in my local market when suddenly, and for seemingly no reason, I felt dizzy, my heart started to race, a tremendous wave of fear swept through me, the building itself seemed to close in on me and a need to escape from all the people, noise, hustle and bustle overwhelmed me to the degree where I quickly made my way out of the building.
Once I was outside, the 'funny turn' began to ease but as the experience had happened unexpectedly and seemingly without cause, it left me feeling so unnerved that I immediately caught the bus back home. When home, although relieved to be there, I still felt very unnerved at not knowing what on earth had happened. Nevertheless, as the hours and days passed without a further recurrence, I began to suspect the whole thing had been a lot of fuss about nothing.
About 10 days after the 'funny turn,' whilst sitting in church, and again for seemingly no reason, my heart began to race, my body trembled, I felt faint, claustrophobic, frightened and in need of escape. The very thought of fainting in front of the congregation added to my concerns, so I quickly made my escape outside. Yet, that time, because a 'funny turn' had then happened twice, I began to suspect that I was not imagining things but something 'very real' must be wrong with me.
Over the following few weeks, the 'turns' gradually intensified in both frequency and severity, to where they were no longer merely waves of fear but waves of actual terror. I only had to be in a crowd of people, on a bus, in a lift or queuing in a shop when suddenly, and seemingly for no reason, my heart would race and pound so much I honestly feared it would burst, my body would shake, my legs would buckle, my head would swirl, my mind was frenzied and as the certainty of imminent death screamed inside my head to where it overpowered me, every fibre and sinew throughout my whole body and mind literally forced me to run. And even though I developed the habit of always sitting or standing near a doorway or exit for a quick escape, the waves of terror increased daily to where, eventually, they were hitting me anywhere and everywhere.
By this time, my disastrous marriage had broken down and my parents had lovingly taken both my son and myself back home to live with them. But whilst I obviously felt very relieved at having help with my son and for being free from my marital situation, my fear over what was happening to me was taking over. As every time an 'attack' struck, all I felt able to do was frenziedly scream to my Mum, "Oh God, it's here again. I'm going mad, I know I'm going mad, I can't stand this anymore. Please help me." Which, understandably, convinced me even further that either something dire was physically happening to me or insanity was imminent.
As the weeks passed, driven by their concern, my parents would try to encourage me to go with them in the family car. But time and time again, as I prepared to go out and indeed whilst out, the same fears flooded my mind, "What if I have an attack whilst outside? Where can I run? Who can I run to? Who will come to my aid? What if I have a heart attack, where will the nearest hospital be?" Consequently by the time we had travelled 200 yards away from home, the fear would have risen-up inside me to such an overwhelming level that, in absolute desperation, I would literally beg to be taken back home.
Exhaustion set in
Up to that point, rightly or wrongly, every single day I had gritted my teeth, gathered my courage and literally forced myself out the door to walk the 30