How Panic Attacks Ruined My Life

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

It was the spring of 2007 in the Scottish highlands. I’d begun work that morning as usual in a forestry park for children and adults. We had this enormous boat slide split into three sections, all offering a different thrilling experience.

My job was to climb the 100 feet stairs and see people safely down on the yellow boats. It was a fun job because I enjoyed interacting with people, as was in my genetic make-up. Looking back now, I was drinking the night before, but not hungover. I had no breakfast that morning just a black coffee which wouldn’t be unusual for me any other day.

The sun was scorching hot on top of that tower. No canopy seemed to be protecting us from the heat, so it was rather intense. All of a sudden, I felt dizzy, becoming sickly in my stomach. I tried to fight it and get on with the job but soon found myself at the mercy of its grip. My work colleagues noticing the distress I was in, sent me down the slide in a boat. As the ship landed, I ran directly to the boathouse, my legs barely carrying me.

I lay on my back, and suddenly pins and needles gripped my entire face, body, and I lost the power of my speech. I could not even move a single muscle, yet my brain functioned with my eyesight deteriorating. Nobody knew what was taking place, not even me. I’d no idea why this was happening and concluded that perhaps I’m dying.

All I could see was a group around me that looked like blurry shadows. With my hearing fully functioning, I could make out a call to get an ambulance. They lifted me into a wheelchair, and upon arrival at the local clinic, a doctor stuck a needle with some valium in my bum, and within minutes I was sound again. Eyesight, ability to speak and muscle functionality all returned.

I never knew what a panic attack was, but at a follow-up appointment, he explained that that’s what I had experienced. I told him “I don’t feel anxious or anything at all; it just happens”. He told me it is usually due to a life-changing period in ones life where small amounts of stress build up in a person. Our brain suddenly becomes this pressure cooker that has no definite time or place when it may release this adrenaline.

He didn’t prescribe me any drugs, told me it was all psychological and sent me away. Two days later, while working on the ropes, it happened to me again. I began vomiting everywhere and lost my ability to stand on my own two feet. A man from the crowd gave me the fireman’s lift, walking me off the platform to safety.

I was so confused as to why this was happening. I thought about how powerful the brain is whereby it can in some absolute way, paralyze you. Imagine vomiting, losing perfect feeling in your body, and it all has to do with your brain and life experiences?

What the doctor told me made a lot of sense. I’d recently become a father of one to a woman out of wedlock. I’d been living with her and the stress of what the entire village thought of me not to mention her parents was collossal. I’m usually a person who can ignore it and keep moving, but such stress was slowly building in the subconscious, like a tiger waiting for its moment to pounce.

It was not the panic attacks; however, that was the most horrendous thing. Depression, brought on by an inability to go outside the house for fear it may happen again, really destroyed me. I couldn’t hold down a job because of it and became quite literally a hermit. With no prescription of drugs, I became dependent upon alcohol to see me through. Did it help? Taking the alcohol and binge drinking served only to drive me further into depression and despair, but for as long as I remained drunk, anxiety didn’t exist.

Many times I stood by the river at the small hours of the morning. Peering into the water, my eyes red from tiredness and drunkness, I considered jumping from the bridge onto the jagged rocks below. It wasn’t meant to be. I turned away that night and kept soldiering on determined not to allow this entire illness consume me.

I began to pray and meditate. I did all sorts of spiritual and religious stuff to try and calm down this mind. It wasn’t enough, but a start that led me to this point where I have got a blog and some enthusiasm to write. It is how panic and anxiety can ruin your life in more than one way, taking your fearful experience only for it to snowball into depression, not being able to look after oneself financially.

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