Twas the evening of December 30th 2012 (bear with me, this is not a badly told fairy tale.)
It was around 7pm when I began to have the worst and most violent panic attacks of my life. I’d had a series of smaller attacks during the previous week but foolishly chose to ignore them, I suppose I didn’t want to believe what was happening. Naturally my brain eventually caved under the pressure and resulted in a series of attacks that spanned across four hours.
Many people claim to feel as though they’re dying, in contrast I would’ve welcomed death and feared instead that I was losing my mind. It’s difficult to pin point now what happened between the hours of 7pm – 11pm, all I can remember is a feeling of pure terror, hysteria and a falling sensation. To anyone who has never experienced an attack might find my description highly dramatic (and so they should!) But to those who have shared this experience I hope to bring solidarity.
After pacing around the flat crying and screaming for about an hour my boyfriend and I decided to ring NHS Direct for help, or at least some kind of guidance. Note to readers: Do not try this. You might as well talk to the spider on the wall for all it’s use. Now, I don’t normally like to jump on the band wagon of criticising the healthcare system. However, in my opinion the NHS Direct helpline is a completely useless pile of SHIT and should be terminated. I can think of hundred better ways to use the money.
After answering a series of pointless questions for roughly 45 minutes (no joke) such as:
– What’s your DOB? Where do you work? What’s your address? Do you have any symptoms of swine flu? When was the last time you had sexual intercourse? Can you re-confirm your DOB?
I was promptly told that there was nothing they could do for me. Now please bare in mind that previously I’d told the ‘advisor’ two or three times that I couldn’t cope anymore and wanted to throw myself out a window! I also have a decent knowledge of anxiety related medications and I asked him whether I should go to hospital and upon seeing the state I was in, then surely a doctor would prescribed Diaxapam? He replied again and I quote; “No, there’s nothing we can do for you. If you go to hospital they wont see you. Just try and relax.” – I now know this statement to be inaccurate. If I would’ve gone to the hospital then Diaxapam would’ve been administered to ease the symptoms. (Also, please note that I’m not even going to comment on the ‘just try and relax’ statement, as this still makes my blood boil!)
To be clear, I certainly do not condone the use of Diaxapam (Valium) as a long term solution for panic attacks. The drug is highly addictive and in my experience I could hardly hold a conversation after taking one, let alone continue with my daily routine! Nevertheless, when in a state of complete hysteria (as I was) Diaxapam can take the edge off enough for an individual to rest and at least feel calm enough to think about what they should do next.
As I said earlier, I don’t like to openly criticise the NHS because I lack the impartial information needed to comment and I greatly respect how hard those in the medical profession work. Nevertheless, on this ocassion when I needed help more than I’ve ever needed help they failed me. What concerns me the most is what might’ve happened that night if I didn’t have anyone else to turn to; (my boyfriend, my family etc.) It’s a scary thought.
Now, allow me to tell you the final chapter of this fairy tale evening. After being told that I couldn’t be helped I chose another substance that I knew could sedate me…. alcohol. Unfortunately, all we had in flat was a very expensive bottle of champagne that was given as a present. Still, needs must. So I drank the entire bottle until I
passed out fell into a peaceful slumber next to Sleeping Beauty. Again, please note that I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying what I did. It was reckless and stupid, but I was desperate, lost and just didn’t know what to do.
Thankfully, I can now say that I do know what I should do when an attack strikes and hopefully one day those in the NHS can help spread that knowledge.