I was chatting with Elle the other day and I mentioned that writing this blog, plus doing my show, has reminded me that I am often ‘just one closed door away from the problems this condition can cause.’ Last saturday, late at night and while residing away from home I had a panic attack. It was a really strong one and it went on for a few hours. Panic attacks are rare for me these days. The only regularity I have with them is I can sometimes have a wobble when I’m on holiday. I’ve mainly managed to track this down to bad reactions against the heat. Last Saturday was extremely warm.
There was no delusional psychosis with this attack. But there was a real fear I might slip into that. Weirdly I’d say the last two panic attacks I’ve had, over the space of a year, have been about having a delusional panic attack. Talk about a catch 22 situation. That’s me having a panic attack, about having a panic attack! If I’m honest it has been in the post for around a month. A few weeks ago I came close after doing a morning at university in Newcastle, then traveling to Brighton to entertain a UNISON conference, then getting up at 4.30 a.m. to travel back to Newcastle and do a performance under exam conditions. Hmmmn…and I wonder why I have panic attacks lol.
Panic attacks are brutal and I genuinely wouldn’t wish them on the worst of us. For three hours my heart was pounding at such a rate it felt as if it could explode from my chest. Trying to do breathing exercises to calm this is a joke. Your breath exhales and inhales in a stuttering and gasping manner as your lungs try to compete with how your body is acting. Pounding, pounding, pounding, pounding. Those that have read my other posts will know I have a way of defeating both panic attacks and delusions. I drink a certain amount of alcohol quickly. 3-4 bottles of lager will do it. My problem last week was I was staying in an Air B and B and therefore in a strangers house. The man I was sharing with was a delightful person whom I’d hit it off with due to a mutual interest in politics. But that doesn’t mean I could go raiding his home for alcohol at 2 a.m.. The real fear I had was that I may become delusional and escape into the night, causing all sorts of problems. Thankfully it never came to that.
So all I could do was wait for the meds to kick in. My treatment is a slow release type of pil. The one other thing I can do in this situation is break a pill in two, thus causing a fast flow of medication into my system. This eventually worked and I passed out around 4.30 a.m. That’s not falling asleep, that’s passing out. When my alarm went off at 8 a.m. I felt like I’d been in a boxing ring. The meds also made me extremely stiff and drowsy and a walk to the train station that morning took twice as long as it had the day before. But it was over and I was recovering. Went home, had a nap, was back on stage that night. I suppose I’m lucky that I can have the resilience to do things like that. Where I’m not so lucky is I know there will be another night like this somewhere in the future. What we have is treatable, but there is no known cure. As I say, ‘Just one door away…’