One of the less funny excerpts from my book – A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes, Naming and Shaming Mental Health Stigmas.
TW: detailed account of panic attack below:
Awake. It’s 3am. My mouth is dry.
Why is it so dry? I stick my head under the tap. It’s not working. I’m still thirsty. Too much wine? Salty food? Could be…but this is extreme…More water, more thirst. This doesn’t make sense. I feel uneasy. And it’s so dark and still. I wish I was still. More water, more thirst…
Red alert! Wide awake! There’s something wrong. Some kind of rare reaction is taking over my body. I can’t stop it. 3.17am. Has it only been 17 minutes!? Where is the day when you need it. He’s sleeping. My fidgeting will wake him. I’ll go downstairs, watch TV, take my mind off it. It has to be a panic attack. But in the middle of the night? Waking me from sleep? That’s not right. And why now? It’s been years…
Shall I go downstairs? Quietly. But then if I die, no-one will know. There will be no chance of finding me in time. I’ll be gone, and all I would have needed to do was wake him. One tiny thing that could save my life. More water first…
Still not working. ‘Sorry to wake you.I’m scared. I can’t quench my thirst’.
‘You’re having a panic attack. It’s happened before. It’s OK. You’ll be OK..’
3.23am. My god it’s creeping all over me now. Doom, pain, strangulation, death. Like ants crawling over my body as fast as my thoughts. I wrap my arms around my knees. Rocking. Quickly. My breath is fast. ‘This isn’t right. This isn’t normal. Something is happening to me.’
‘I promise you its just a panic attack. Don’t fight it. Let it happen. It will pass.’
‘But it doesn’t make sense. I keep drinking water. I can’t quench my thirst.’
What if I’ve had too much? What if I’ve over-compensated? Nothing I can do now. 3.36am. Christ. How slow does the bloody clock want to tick. The faster my mind, the slower the clock. Where is the daylight!?
My breathing is bad. My heart is bad. My mouth is dry. I can’t swallow. It’s definitely going to be tonight. This is definitely it. It’s happening right now!
He talks to me. He won’t indulge me. It’s not comfort for my impending death. Why is he not panicking about having a dead body in his bed? And what about the life insurance – I never signed up – they’ll have to move out, where will they go? He’s calm and kind, but logical. Rational. I slow to listen. He’s talking me down and I think it’s passing. Slow breaths.
‘I think it’s working.’
A wave prickles through my chest. I’m up again. I’m going up again….! Shit!
Focus. Calm. Slow down….
It’s 4.37am. It’s finally happening. Daylight is coming and the clock starts ticking faster. I’m watching YouTube – ‘funny cat films’ – he always knows best. One cat pushes another cat down the stairs and I watch it through and I giggle quietly. 5.12am. It’s here…like a rush of calm relief. Morning is coming to save me.
7.30am. I wake. No emotions left. Just a flatness and a tiredness and a feeling of disappointment. Today is cancelled.
I have since learnt that an anxiety lapse is not necessarily a relapse. Just a lapse. A blip. It’s not my old illness coming back, I don’t have to start all over again. And I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. Accept it, forgive yourself and it’s less likely to return any time soon. I have very recently learnt this through CBT. So the only thing I regret is cancelling going to see the show that Saturday.
‘What ifs’ are the basis for all my anxiety rumblings – and I proved myself wrong that day.
‘What if it comes back again?’
So what if it does.