Todays post is all about my panic disorder diagnosis and the treatment I was offered. It wasn’t until about 6 months into daily panic attacks that I finally sought help. At this point my mind was making associations with practically anything that made me the slightest bit un-nerved.
I remember being at work, just a usual day. I was sat at my desk having just been out for a cigarette (I was a full time smoker back then). It came on all at once and immediately I had to take myself away. I went straight for the bathrooms (my usual hiding place) and tried everything I could think of. Walking back and forth, talking to myself and running my hands under the tap. Nothing worked. In the end I had to grab my boss and say I had to go home. Once He’s said I could go, I practically ran out of the building.
Once I was out and in the safe zone of my car, I rang my sister Ruth. I was an absolute mess. Crying and between breaths explaining to her that I was losing the plot. I didn’t trust myself to go home, so I went straight to my moms shop and called to make an emergency doctors appointment. The woman on the other end of the line was actually very rude and intrusive, asking what was wrong and if it justified an emergency. In my mental state, I actually said “is somebody telling you they want to end there life an emergency to you”. I know now that was unfair of me, but I was desperate. Thankfully she booked me in and Ruth came over and took me to the appointment.
As soon as I walked through the door of the surgery, it all came back again. As far as I was concerned, I was about to be told I had three months to live. There had to be something terribly wrong with me. Ruth requested that we sit in a private side room, where again I paced and panted whilst waiting for my name to be called.
When we finally got called in I took a seat in front of the young doctor, and broke down explaining how I felt. The first thing she did was take my blood pressure. When she said ‘It’s a little high’ that was it, off I went again. Full blown sweating, panting, heart racing fight or flight. I was practically hanging out of the barred window of the room gasping for air, it was awful. I couldn’t be in there, I had to escape. Both Ruth and the doctor looked at each other not really knowing what to do. I remember my sister saying “you have to do something”.
I managed to stay in the room long enough for her to tell me that she thought it was panic disorder that I was suffering from, but that she would organise blood work to put my mind at ease. She was also going to put me on antidepressants and fast track me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. After that, I had to leave my sister in the room to get the prescription and all of the other information. I needed some air.
I sat outside and tried to calm myself down and waited for Ruth to come out. When she did she explained to me everything the doctor had said. Thankfully by this time I was in a much more rational frame of mind and was able to take in the information.
The doctor diagnosed me with Panic Disorder. She had signed me off from work for 4 weeks with stress and I was put me on the anti-depressant Citalopram (also used to treat panic disorder). I was also put on the waiting list for CBT as well as having an emergency session with therapists that evening. The purpose of this was for them to assess my mental health to ensure I wasn’t a danger to myself or anyone around me.
Now when I look back to that time in my life, I find I hard to believe how consumed I was by the negative thoughts that invaded my brain on a daily basis. It was horrific. I would sit rocking myself, standing up then down. I was so incredibly irritated all day, every day, and I never thought it would go away.
Where I am now
The process of getting better was tough. The toughest thing I think I will ever do. My Panic Disorder turned into Generalised Anxiety Disorder and thats still something I live with now. But to be where I am, living in London & running events. I really do find it hard to believe I’m living a life I only dreamed of. I can tell you that every single uncomfortable situation I had to put myself in as part of my treatment was absolutely worth it.
In a future post I will go into more detail of the process of getting better. For now, I just wanted to share my story of being diagnosed. Back then, anxiety, panic attacks and depression weren’t something that was talked about. There wasn’t much information online, aside from forums that I personally found very negative. I bought book, after book reading about my condition. As well as that, I used quotes and affirmations a lot, you can read more about that here. I worked really really hard, and thats one of the biggest things I want to express through out these posts on anxiety. Nobody can take it away for you, a difficult thought I know. But its true. It is a long and hard process, but here I am, I did it, you can too.
I cannot stress enough how important I think it is for you to have a friend or family member attend appointments with you. When your consumed by the little devil in your mind, It can be hard to ask the right questions. There were many faults in the way my diagnosis was dealt with. I don’t think the receptionist should have been so intrusive to a person clearly distraught. My doctor shouldn’t have made passive comments about my blood pressure. It was bound to set me off. In sharing my story and raising awareness, I hope that in the future, we can all come to together to remove the stigma attached to mental health. If we can do that, the process of getting people well again, would be much smoother.
Have you been diagnosed with a form of mental illness, how did you find the diagnosis process?