Anxiety and Panic Attacks, How I Beat Them!

In the court of the crimson king
In the court of the crimson king | Source


The quiet bedroom is lit by the soft, green glow of the digital alarm clock. Occasionally the light flickers as the digits change slowly counting the night away. It's two fifty am and already the sweating has started. With each flicker of light the heart rate and breathing increases in tempo, already they are as if I'm running up hill. By the time the clock reaches three, my heart's pounding like an out of sync three cylinder engine. Now the pain begins and the fear grips like a steel claw around my heart.


I sit upright and try to control the panic and fear; mopping the sweat from my face, I force myself to the edge of the bed. Convinced once again that this is my last moment and that my heart is about to beat for the last time. I head for the bathroom and slurp water from the tap like a child. I feel a little better now I'm upright, but the pressure inside and the fear are still there. Staring into the mirror I feel for my pulse as if I want to know the very instant it's going to stop. This is the fifth night in a row it's happened and I'm convinced that the end is nigh.


I was self-employed over worked, overweight, and far too busy to sit and eat a proper meal it was always chips on the run. I was too busy to go for a walk or take exercise, and anyway surely the amount of work I got through in the day was exercise enough.

On a night my wife and I discussed work whilst pushing down another meal and trying to grab a few minutes in front of the TV. The following weekend things came to the boil. I had shooting pains down my left arm I knew from other people’s encounters with heart attacks that that was a major symptom, I'd been feeling faint and dizzy all day. I walked the dog around the block trying to ward of the fear. The pain decreased slightly. Now as I sat back in the chair it began again. My heart was beating as if it was about to burst I could hear the blood pumping in my ears. My wife occasionally glanced over at me, she could see my discomfort.

"Let's send for the Doctor," She got no argument from me. Within a short while, the locum Doctor arrived. He took my blood pressure and all the usual things. I was waiting for him to pronounce me dead.

" I don't think it's your heart. But you must go see your GP tomorrow, I think it's indigestion."

I decided that the man knew nothing about it and convinced myself that I was still going to die that night from a heart attack. When three o'clock arrived and I'd gone through my nightly panic, I dressed and went down to wait for the final attack and the ambulance to cart me off. Now twenty years on, it sounds stupid, but at the time it was very real and I was frightened. I sat the whole night taking my pulse, not until around seven did I fall asleep on the couch. The next day I was shattered when I went to the GP's. I tried to explain the fear the pain, it was difficult my emotions swelled up and I was sobbing like a child. It took some while to calm down, but I felt better.

An ECG was arranged and I went off to hospital some days later. In between the nightly attacks still hit me and slowly I was feeling worse as the lack of sleep took its toll. When I finally went to hospital, I was totally wiped out. I sat in the waiting room feeling very ill. The panic attacks were happening any time of day now. I would start to breathe awkwardly and then start feeling dizzy.


You want to catch the nurse's eye and you want her to smile reassuringly at you, but she just bustles past far too busy with her sheets of paper and talking to the other nurses. Eventually it is your name they are calling and you follow the nurse down the corridor. After being wired up and giving a sample of blood my blood pressure was again measured, then it was back out into the waiting room and wait in line to see the doctor. It really didn't matter at this point what they said the problem was I knew I was still having a heart attack. I remember as I sat down feeling slightly light headed and thinking 'well if it happens here I'm in with a chance'. The young doctor wound me up straight away, with his sloppy manner and obvious dislike for everyone. He glanced at me read the folder before him, then without looking up stated ' Simple obesity that's your problem' I felt like explaining that there was nothing simple about being fat, I'd fought it since I was ten years old. 'Your heart's in relatively good shape for someone so overweight’ he said it almost grudgingly. " there's a slight murmur but nothing to worry about"

I was angry as hell when I came out of there. He'd referred me to another department for them to check out the indigestion, but that was all. Apart from telling me to lose weight or I really would have a heart attack. They'd been telling me that for all my life; one way or another, and I began to wonder if that's where my fear came from.

Things were not improving.


Things were not improving, the night attacks were every bit as bad and I was beginning to fear going to bed. My GP gave me sleeping tablets and tablets to calm me down, tablets to take through the day, and tablets to take at night. I began to rattle with the tablets.

A holiday seemed like a good idea, but as soon as we got to Tenerife I was just as bad as I'd been at home. I had checked up where the nearest hospital was as soon as I arrived, and made sure my wife new just how to contact all the necessary people when I had my heart attack. I managed to totally spoil the holiday with my constant worries and fears, the nights were even worse than at home, and if I had any sort of alcoholic drink I really felt dreadful.

I was on a different sleeping tablet and it took me until lunchtime to feel as if I was even slightly human. They were not stopping the night attacks and seemed only to take effect at five in the morning. It was now over six months since they had begun, and at thirty-five I was feeling seventy. My emotions were sky high and I'd burst into tears at the slightest thing. Back from the holiday, and there was the usual heap of mail waiting. We waded through it. Eventually I saw the specialist regarding the constant indigestion that was adding to the misery. His only conclusion was I should lose weight, and he expected it to get worse before better, but for the time being there was nothing he could do other than suggest that I keep taking the tablets. Twelve months on and I was still in the same position. I'd cut out fatty foods and tried my best again to lose weight, but I was just so tired the whole time I really didn't have the will power to try anything much. I sold off part of the business at a ridiculously low price simply to get rid of some of the work and cut down a bit.


Once the trauma of that was over things eased slightly, although the sale had been difficult to say the least. My next big mistake was trying another holiday. We went to Tunisia in March and the weather was very changeable. Some days it was absolutely freezing, Europe was buried in snow at the time. My depression had reached its lowest point and life was beginning to feel a real burden. I'd lost control of everything it seemed. I decided that perhaps rather than wait for this heart attack to hit me unexpected I'd end it myself and regain control of the situation. At the time it seemed very logical and quite the right thing to do.

That night my three o'clock call was very bad, the pain was right the way through me, it ran down both arms and I was writhing in agony for perhaps twenty minutes. I walked about feeling desperately afraid, I made peace with God and decided that I should leap over the balcony and out into the night and end it there. I'm not sure what really stopped me but I somehow found the strength not to do it, because by far the easiest option was to jump.

Back home again and things were still as bad, if not worse. I tried to start a regime of nightly walks, but at first, I was so tired that the effort of putting on my coat seemed enough. They helped and I knew they did, it gave me encouragement to keep at them. I began to try and think of a way to fight back, but what was I fighting. Was it just myself that I needed to defeat.

One day I called at the local library and looked up all the books on stress and panic, on blood pressure and heart attacks. It's not always the best thing to do, you imagine every symptom in the book, but at least I was finding out was going on. It was the first time I'd come across the term 'fight or flight' which meant that your body goes through a whole load of internal changes ready for battle stations. All the books on stress mentioned meditation as a good way of fighting stress. I borrowed books on Yoga and meditation and began looking into these ancient sciences for help.


The books were a help but not enough. The lady at the library suggested that I try yoga, I had many reservations about doing it. I finally enrolled for a Yoga class at the local night school. The lady at the enrolment was very negative and I think she tried to put me off, saying that there were only ladies enrolled on the yoga class. I asked if it was just a ladies class, she said no was open to anybody but men don't usually do that sort of thing do they.

I must say I did feel rather stupid and out of place, but the yoga teacher was very kind and understanding and she put me out to the side of the class. At first it was painfully hard, not just the exercises most of which I couldn't do, but I had a room full of leotard clad women all staring suspiciously at me.

At the end of that first session, my teacher asked if she could have a word with me.

"Don't be discouraged," she said, "is there any help I can give you."

I told her my problem, and she gave me a very simple breathing exercise but she said I should practice anytime, and in particular when I felt panic attack was about to come on.

With her encouragement, I kept attending classes, and very soon, the leotards had accepted me as part of the class, some would even come and ask how I was getting on.

I had practised my breathing exercise at every opportunity, but I was not sure that it was making any difference. Then one night when the three o'clock attack happened I got up as usual and went down and sat in front of the fire which was still smouldered. My heart raced I had severe headache, and I gripped my own wrist to check my pulse. My heart rate was hundred and 30 bpm when I began the exercise, and for the first time suddenly my heart rate dropped. It fell to 79 bpm, and then down to 69 bpm. I was overwhelmed, elated by the fact that I suddenly felt in control. I probably sat about an hour in front of the fire still not daring to go back to bed, but I felt now that I probably would survive until the morning.

It was slow, dreadfully slow, and the attacks still kept on coming, but I had peaked and now I knew I could descend back into normal life. Each day I meditated, my yoga teacher gave me a number of different scenarios that I could run through in my mind to help divert the fear and panic. Whenever I had a moment I would go through the breathing exercise and meditation. I started walking again and every night before I went to bed whatever the weather I went for a 1 mile walk. I would sing silly little songs as I walked. We lived in a semirural area at that time and know lots of pleasant walks along country lanes. I'm sure it was the combination of exercise and meditation that worked like magic on my troubled mind.

I asked the doctor if it was all right for me to drop some of the tablets, and that in itself felt to be a major victory. Each time I controlled the panic also felt like a small victory. I felt a little like King Canute who tried to stop the tide, except I was able to stop the tide of panic waves that had swept over me and made my life miserable for over seven years.

I cruised the Rhine one summer as an entertainer.
I cruised the Rhine one summer as an entertainer. | Source


There were many factors that brought on this episode, and it is Époque of my life that I hope that I never have to go revisit. Two or three years prior to this, I had been made redundant from a job that I really enjoyed. I had worked for the company for fifteen years, since I was 17 years old. This event I found very traumatic, we had just moved house and had a large mortgage, there were no engineering work to be found anywhere in Yorkshire at that time, and I had no idea what I would do.


The new little businesses went well, but they were 24/7 commitment, days that we were not working in our retail outlet we were trailing round wholesalers buying goods for the week.

I played guitar for many years and played in groups in pubs and clubs around the country, but once I became self-employed there didn't seem time for that. And I think giving up my music was another factor that brought on my illness.

I taught myself to play keyboard and decided that I would go playing again this time as a solo entertainer. I went for singing lessons to boost my confidence as much as anything. I contacted one of the agents I had used previously with the groups and he gave me a few bookings in some small pubs. I was certainly nervous when I did my first gig, and I even had a panic attack during one of the songs, I managed to hold on and although I was completely shattered at the end of the night I felt at last that I could beat this thing. So much so that in 1990 I went full-time as a professional solo entertainer, eventually spending seven years working hotels, holiday camps, and cruise ships.


You have to search for your own Answer

Something that helped me, was to remind myself whenever I had an attack and however bad I felt it was that I had survived these feelings many times before.


It's quite easy to feel yourself foolish people say "pull yourself together" "don't be silly there's nothing wrong with you". You are not foolish and it is not a matter of simply pull yourself together, but I truly believe that taking tablets and visiting your GP is not the answer. You have to look for your own answer, I found mine, it did not find me; I had to make a serious effort to look for it, and now I am so glad that I was able to find it.


I found this quite hard to write simply because it reminded me of such a painful time, it is now probably 20 years since I last real panic attack.

solitude-beach fishing
solitude-beach fishing | Source

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Comments 31 comments

Diane Woodson profile image

Diane Woodson 4 years ago from Evansville, Indiana

This is awesome Tony, I think you could win something for this! You go into so much detail and its just something people with panic attacks should read!


efeyas profile image

efeyas 4 years ago from Some Sunny Beach, USA

Tony, I can completley understand the fear that you must of had during those panic attacks as I am a anxiety/panic attack sufferer myself! Drinking a 8oz glass of water all at once and breathing deeply, I have found, helps me immensly! This was an informative hub. Not just panic sufferes but the friends and family should read this hub as well. Often times it is hard to explain what a panic attack feels like and unless you experience one you never can really understand the fear and horror it instills in another person. Voted Up!


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Diane, my thanks for your compliments. I hope it will bring some comfort to people suffing as I did.

regards

Tony


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

efeyas, many thanks for you vote and visit. I'm glad that you have found something, but I do recomend you try meditation. I found my friends and family did not understand and that increased the feeling of isolation. I've always been quite a jovial person and I think I was probably the last one they expected to be depressed and suffering this way.

good luck and I hope that you make it as I have.

Who's the little poppet in your photo?

regards

Tony


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Diane, my thanks for your compliments. I hope it will bring some comfort to people suffing as I did.

regards

Tony


sadie423 profile image

sadie423 4 years ago from North Carolina

I think this topic deserves as much exposure as possible. It can help those who suffer, as well as those who don't understand. I suffered from anxiety and depression most of my life, and I don't always have it under control now. My 10 yr old son is also starting to suffer from them. Thanks for sharing!


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

You have written a hub. I'm going to post this on F/B if's okay with you.

I glad you are doing so much better and I'm sure your wife feels the same.

Voted up and awesome.


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

A positive attitude saying you survived those before. Thank you for sharing your story. I have anxiety and other things.. You attitude is awesome!


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Tony my friend, This is such a well written informative hub. So glad you were able to get your panic attacks under control on your own,sometimes doctors just want to throw a bunch of pill at you and think that will fix what ever you have. I am so happy your are doing better now.

Vote up and more !!!

Have a great weekend my friend ! SHARING !


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 4 years ago

hi tonymead60:) this is an important message because I see people after they have become dependent on the tablets and potions. most people who have panic attacks find it hard to believe that they can get better without a pill. thanks for sharing from your personal experience. i think that makes the message very powerful.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

sadie, Thank you for your comment. I agree with you, that exposure will help everyone concerned. I'm sorry to hear that your son at such a young age also is suffering. I truly wish you both well and hope that you can find a way out of your problem.

Regards Tony


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

writer20

thank you for your comment, I'm okay with you posting it. I'm out of the woods now, but it was a tricky journey.

regards

Tony.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

iamaudraleigh, thank you for your kind comments. I wish you well.

regards Tony


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Hi Kash, thank you for your kind comments and votes. I'm certain that pills are not the answer, but practice doctors don't have the time to work things through these days.

nice to hear from you again my friend.

Tony


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

kim039,

thank you for your comments. Everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for all. I found a way out and it made me stronger. If people would give meditation a serious try I think that they would be surprised just how strong they are.

regards

Tony


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Well done, Tony ... I must say I admire you immensely for tackling a yoga class full of female leotards. You are obviously one tough cookie.

I often worked with people with panic attacks when I was a clinical hypnotherapist and the deep relaxation induced for hypnosis always sorted the problem out and very quickly too.

This was because once the body has experienced such relaxation of mind and body simultaneously a few times it finds it easier to induce it itself. It can almost become a habit in a way.

Meditation is a truly self-empowering way of dealing with panic attacks and you know at first hand that over-production of adrenaline can produce some very scary symptoms. I believe we only need to produce around a teaspoonful of the stuff in an entire lifetime!

So, keep meditating.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Angie, nice to see you again.

I enjoyed your opening sentence, yes I'm not sure which was more difficult to cope with, the leotards or the stress.

Once I had managed to get the hang of relaxation it became very addictive and useful. I don't need a jab at the dentist's, I can usually shut out the pain, same with most pains I can cope with without pain drugs. Not all but much of it.

It saved my life I am sure, because I was suicidal and I really just wanted life to stop.

Now I just want life to go on and on.

regards

Tony


meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

Wonderful hub. Very well written and it will give so many a lot of hope.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

meloncauli, many thanks for your visit and comments. I hope there is hope in my words.


stessily 4 years ago

Tony, You've shared a brave journey through your fears. As one of America's greatest poets, Robert Frost, observed way back in 1915: "the best way out is always through" (A Servant to Servants). "Through" means finding the answers which are unique to the person. You persevered, despite offputting comments from caregivers (who've forgotten about caring and giving), and found your answers.

I admire that you carried on with yoga, and I admire your teacher, who clearly is the kind of teacher I reference in my hubs on yoga and who is exemplified for me on Hubpages by YogaKat.

All the votes, laddie.

ta ta, Stessily

P.S. Any hope that Scottie might read this? How about printing it and folding it into a paper airplane to fly his way?


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Stessily

MAny thanks for the votes and comments. It was not an easy time, but it taught me many lessons. Something good that came from it, is that I learnt to meditate which brought many benefits over the years.

I've ping Scottie, but he's still stuck in the transporter doors.

see tha later bonnie lass.

toodle pip

Tony


Derdriu 4 years ago

Tony, What a brave, informative, useful discussion of ways of trying to alleviate if not eliminate panic attacks! In particular, I like how you run through the options and show how many measures didn't work until along came yoga meditation. I know from Stessily's teachings and writings that it really works, in regard to the anxiety and to many other emotional and physical upsets as well. One of my favorites is the legs-against-the wall yoga pose which Stessily taught and has written about on HubPages.

Respectfully, and with many thanks for sharing oh Proper Champion Yorkshireman, Derdriu


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Derdriu,

Thank you for your kind comments. It convinced me that we can have much more power over our own bodies than we think. It was a life changing experience which changed the way I look at myself and others. I think it taught me to be far more patient with others than before. I was very lucky with the teacher I had and she and Yoga saved my life.

thank you for your kind words and of course your visit Oh Celtic Queen

regards

Tony


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. Thanks for sharing. Been through panic attacks and never want to go through that again. Mine started because I had to have a simple one day laser operation but anything that goes wrong panics me. Lasted one whole miserable year. Passing this on.


Diane Woodson 4 years ago

Seroquel has stopped the panic disorder for me. These are debilitating, frightening and so many people suffer from them. This is a fantastic article. I will always believe panic disorder is a fight or flight reflex, and that once we control it we are home free. Some medications work and others do not, I am thankful that the one I am taking is working so that I can meet all tasks without the fear of a panic attack. thanks for a great article.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Diane

Only people who have had panic attacks can appreciate how unpleasant they are. I don't know what seroquel is, I'm pleased it works for you. I wanted to be rid of all the medication, and master it on my own, and then I knew I had really beaten it. Unfortunatly there are always side effects from these drugs, which can be as unpleasent as the problem.

I hope your recovery continues and lets you get back to a normal life without fear.

regards

Tony


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Gypsey Rose Lee

I think that anything, even something trivial can kick attacks off, they are very complicated reactions and so many things going on around us can just add to the strain. How did your laser treatment end up? I hope all was well in the end.

thank you for your visit and interesting comment.

regards

Tony


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

The laser treatment was for my knee which had a torn cartilage. Worked out just great but the panic attacks as I said continued on. However I needed to lose weight and I managed to do that. Got back on my feet and never looked back. Have had only one or two feelings of set back but learned to be strong and was able to control myself with no side effects. Am happy to report I'm panic free. Odd thing about my panic attacks they'd be worse in the middle of the night and the only place I found real peace and I calmed down was in the bathroom. lol


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Gypsey Rose Lee,

I'm very pleased that the attacks are over and the treatment worked on your knee.

You are right about the ones in the night being the worst of all, mine always were. Perhaps your bathroom is very bright and it felt less like the night; who can say with these things.

I'm fascinated about you living in Riga, I've never been but it is on my list of would like to see; because it featured in one of my all time favourite PC games called Patrician, which was based on the old Hanseatic league which ruled the waves and trade in Europe in the 14th-15th century. So in the game I have visited it often, even built houses there!

cheers Tony


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 4 years ago from USA

My husband had this problem for awhile. He switched jobs and quit drinking caffeine. That took care of it.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 4 years ago from Yorkshire Author

Barbara,

I think almost anything can be the switch that sets off an attack. I'm glad he was able to fix his problem, alot of people can't do it.

Thanks for comment and answering my question.

regards Tony

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