This is going to be a very personal post and I have been wanting to share this with you all for a while. I have been seriously neglecting my Blog and Youtube for a while now (more than a year!) and I feel you all deserve to know why.
Panic attacks, anxiety and depression until recently has never been spoken about that much but however has always been very common amongst us humans! I myself have suffered and still suffer from this and feel that if I tell you about my experiences it may help help some of you and even if it only helps one of you that will make me feel happy!
I was going to write about all three in one but I decided to break it up into three parts to not bore you and that way if you are only looking to read one but not all three it will be easier.
For the past three years I have been suffering with these three subjects and that is the main reason I haven't been around much as I have been trying to combat this on my own to better myself.
So... let's start at the very beginning and work our way forward to the present.
Trying to pin point the very moment when each of these things started is quite a tricky thing to do but it is also very important in order to be able to overcome these problems.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack can happen anywhere and is a feeling of dread. During a panic attack you will feel the urge to want to run away from the situation to get out and calm down and will often look for the nearest exit. You may feel like everybody is staring at you or smothering you. Often, you cannot anticipate a panic attack but your body releases adrenaline which triggers the 'flight or fight' response. This is something that our body is programmed to do in a life or death situation. In this situation your body needs the adrenaline if it is going to fight as it needs to be strong but also if it is going to flight, to run fast and get away.
What happens during a panic attack?
During a panic attack as mentioned above Adrenaline is released. This causes a variety of symptoms but mainly your heart to beat very fast and your muscles will become tense. Your blood is diverted to the muscles which causes feelings of dizziness you will be pale. This also causes your body to shake. During an attack the senses are heightened and you become more aware of sounds and smells around you.
Other symptoms may include:
very rapid breathing or feeling unable to breathe
very rapid heartbeat
pains in your chest
feeling faint or dizzy
ringing in your ears
tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
hot or cold flushes
wanting to go to the toilet
feelings of absolute terror
being extremely emotional/uncrontrollable crying
feelings of unreality, called depersonalisation and derealisation.
My very first panic attack (though very silly) was when I was quite young (around maybe 8,9 or 10) my Nana and Granddad had picked me up from primary school and we were driving back to their house and I was in the back of the car. We were just driving up the road to their house and for some reason that I do not know of I decided to put my hand on my heart to feel my heartbeat and when I couldn't feel it (my hand was probably in the wrong place) I started to have my first panic attack. I couldn't breath properly, my hands were sweating and my heart was beating like crazy and I started to scream for my Nana and Granddad to help me (this obviously was quite scary for them). They rushed me inside and gave me a drink of water then after about 10 minutes which felt like and hour to me, they finally managed to calm me down. And that my fellow friends was my first ever panic attack over such a silly thing.
After that I had a couple of panic attacks in the following months over again silly things, I remember my finger clicked once or something and I had a panic attack thinking I had arthritis at the age of 9/10. I started becoming a hypochondriac (paranoid) over stupid things having panic attacks thinking I was ill with silly things. This didn't go on for very long as I can only remember a few panic attacks when I was younger.
I went years and years without panic attacks, I had kind of forgotten about them to be honest until I was around maybe 18. When I turned 18 I started getting frequent urine infections, around about 1 each week which was awful. Having a urine infection feels like you constantly need to go to the toilet but when you go you can't. It's an awful thing but can be treated with antibiotics as you all probably know. I try to pinpoint the exact moment I think my brain started my panic over this and I think this was when I had been drinking one night and I had a urine infection. When you drink alcohol you all probably know you go to the toilet more frequently and this paired with a weak bladder due to my urine infection resulted in my accidentally wetting myself (embarrassing but who cares it happened).
My first panic attack over having a urine infection was on the plane back from holiday. I had to keep going to the toilet and I thought that I was getting a urine infection and was freaking out because I thought that everyone was laughing at me behind my back because I kept going to the toilet (they probably didn't even notice). I started panicking in my plane seat and felt trapped as I couldn't really get out of the situation. My heart was beating hard, I was sweating and it was the most awful feeling in the world. My mum had never seen me having a panic attack before so she was freaking out as much as me but was trying to calm me down but it wasn't working. The flight attendant gave me a litre bottle of water and told me to drink it as it will help with my urine infection. I could have punched the woman in the face at the time as drinking water would make me go to toilet even more and that was the whole reason I was panicking. Bless her! She was just trying to help hey. The only way I managed to calm down was by my mum giving me Syndol tablets. Syndol are a very strong painkiller for migranes as they contain codeine. I took two and this made me very drowsy and I ended up falling asleep. I am not telling you to take painkillers DO NOT this was a last attempt to calm me down.
My panic attacks started becoming more frequent after this. They kept happening when I set off to go anywhere for example buses, trains or the car. If I had a urine infection or even if I didn't I would panic thinking if I need to go to the toilet where am I going to go, Oh my god I'm going to wet myself etc etc. I couldn't sit down on the bus because I would panic (have no idea why), in the car I would panic about getting stuck at traffic lights or in traffic and trains were bad too. The panic attacks took over my life! I didn't go out anywhere, just travelling to school on the bus which is a bus journey down the road would be hard enough. I tried everything, self-help, Calm's tablets, trying to think of other things and nothing worked!
Another panic attack I want to talk about is when I went up to London to watch a show with my Best friend at the time and some more of my friends. The queue was about an hour just to get in and then we had to check in and queue to sit down. My panic broke through.. here we go again! What if I need the toilet there isn't one near, what am I going to do oh my god. I had a full blown panic attack and my friends had never seen me have one before and didn't know the full story. My best friend was horrible to me telling me to shut up etc which when you're having a panic attack is an awful thing to do. Luckily enough I had a very good friend Ben with me who took me out of the situation as when you have a panic attack all you want to do is get out of the situation to calm down and we set off home on the train.
There is nothing worse than bad friends when you're having a panic attack and me and this girl are no longer friends.
How I stopped my Panic Attacks
I looked around for so long trying to find ways to help me with my panic attacks if you suffer from them and google you'll find a variety of blog posts and websites that will tell you ways to try to think differently, take deep breaths etc. None of these helped me at all they were useless! If they've worked for you then that's great but my attacks were so strong they couldn't help me. I started to think outside of the box and thought about hypnotherapy. A lot of people think hypnotherapy is like it is in the movies, they wave a clock in front of your face, click their fingers and you fall asleep but it's nothing like that. In a town about 10 minutes away from me there is a hypnotherapy centre that I knew about so I decided to check their website out. I read testimonials people had written about how hypnotherapy solved their phobias etc and decided that this would be my last attempt at trying to get my life back. At my hypnotherapy centre each session was £60 and lasts around an hour. My mum phoned them as I was only 18 and I didn't really know what to say and my lovely Nana paid for the sessions for me as she was the one who had seen me have panic attacks the most.
When I went in I didn't really know what to expect I was somewhat afraid as I wanted this to work and literally felt like if I didn't what was I going to do, this was no way of life and is life really worth living if I can't go out anywhere without having a panic attack.
A lovely man called Paul took me into the room and asked me to explain what the problem was. I told him everything, how I think it started, what happens and how my life has deteriorated completely due to the attacks.
My hypnotherapy session (this will probably sound weird to explain) involved him telling me to relax my body bit by bit, for example, 'let your toes go numb and then let the numbness work up through your legs' etc! I had to bite my tongue as I thought it was quite funny but once I got into the flow of things I was completely relaxed. He told me to pick one panic attack I had which I chose as the plane panic attack and then told me to be my own little 'guardian angel' (I always think of this as the redbull gives you wings advert) and to tell myself on the plane whilst I'm having a panic attack that everything will be okay because I don't actually have a urine infection it's all in my head. As easy as this sounds it worked! He got me to do the same but as the situation being on the bus.
When my session ended he said to me 'Lauren tomorrow I want you to sit down on the bus rather than standing and trust me you won't have a panic attack'. The next day on the bus I was a bit uneasy about sitting down on the bus because it's not very nice triggering another attack but I trusted him and did it and I didn't feel any panic whatsoever and I was so proud I texted my mum saying 'I'm sitting down on the bus it worked'. Although for other people this may seem silly, for me this was a big step. I only had one session after this.
Setting off on holiday on a plane was a big scary thing to do as this was where I had my first full blown panic attack and although I hadn't had a panic attack in maybe a year and a half I still wanted a back up. I went to my local GP and told them the situation and asked if there was anything she can give me to relax if worst come to worst and she prescribed me some Diazepam. Diazepam is a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs as they allow your muscles to relax and calm the common symptoms of anxiety. I took 2 before I got on our flight to Italy just incase and I was fine. I slept most of the way but only because I forced myself to sleep not because of the tablets. On our way to our hotel there was really bad traffic (3 hours worth) and although panicking a little I managed to think about the Guardian angel thing and I was fine. On the flight back I took no tablets and stayed awake on most of the journey home talking to family, reading magazines etc.
I have not had any panic attacks since the little one in the car thank god!
My advice would be to try self-help methods and google to see if other methods can help you before trying hypnotherapy. Although you may think hypnotherapy is expensive it is totally worth it! At the end of the day It cost £120 to get me my life back and for that amount of money I think its worth it as I don't think I would have lasted without hypnotherapy.
I would also definitely not recommend that you just go straight to the doctors and ask for tablets to help the situation as you do not want to be reliant on these for the rest of your life as it's not good for your body! If you do want tablets like I did as a back up to put your mind at rest than do it but I have not taken tablets since the holiday which was 2 years ago!
I really do hope that this post has helped some of you even if it has just given you some information on the condition or a better understanding. Please leave your comments below and tell me your story and if this has helped you in any way.
Lauren Lorraine <3