I checked myself into hospital for a panic attack. It was the right thing to do.

panic attack hospital
| Mind & Body > Disability Blog

It takes courage to admit something is wrong and go to hospital. Even if you tell yourself otherwise.

I had half-written another disability blog, but something happened. I got taken into hospital early this morning with a severe panic attack.

For the past two days I’d been feeling breathless, with a squeezing sensation in my chest and bad acid reflux. I wouldn’t say I’d been feeling particularly anxious. But last night my hands, jaw and tongue started to go numb.

I did that thing (I don’t know if anyone else does this) where I said to myself: If I don’t feel better in an hour I will do something about it. This went on until about 2 am when I called NHS 24. My partner wanted to take me to hospital because my breathing was laboured. I have a lot of friends who work for the NHS and I know how much it costs to mobilise an ambulance. I am very conscious (rightly or wrongly) not to be a ‘timewaster’.

So I compromised and called NHS 24 where I spoke to a lovely woman; ‘Jenna’. My poor cat kept meowing into the phone while I was talking. Because I was distressed, he was distressed because he didn’t know what was happening, so he was all over me squeaking. Jenna found this hilarious. She’d never spoken to a cat on the phone before! She advised me to go to ‘Out of Hours’ at my local hospital. On the bright side, that meant I didn’t have to go to A&E on a Saturday morning.

In my PJs (I’d struggled into underwear) and cardigan I was driven by my partner to hospital. I was quite bad by this point, breathless and hands going numb. I had a feeling the underlying cause was anxiety, but I appreciated they had to check it. Sitting in the waiting room, I had one of those surreal ‘is this really happening?’ moments. It’s 2.30 am on a Saturday morning and I’m sitting in my Christmas fleecy PJs in a dull hospital waiting room that’s trying its best to look cheery. Is this really happening?

The doctor was lovely. I don’t know whether that made it better or worse. I’d heard such horror stories about people who go to hospital with panic attacks and are not treated well. The doctor explained that anxiety was affecting the tachycardia I have from a previous condition. This was causing my heart to race, and my laboured breathing causing me to panic more, resulting in a vicious cycle.

I know how stretched the NHS is and how busy doctors are. I just felt like a fake. Even so, the doctor was excellent and took it so seriously, even though part of me was like “it’s just anxiety, it’s not like it’s real”. Intellectually, I know anxiety is hella real – but sometimes we get stuck in a loop of negativity that can come from anywhere, don’t we?

The doctor wanted me to see my GP first thing Monday and maybe try to get some CBT (even though I explained I’d tried to book myself on CBT before, and paid out my own pocket, but they’d told me it wouldn’t be useful to me). He gave me beta blockers there and then to take for the next couple of days, and if I got worse – or failed to get better – I was to come straight back to hospital for a tranquiliser, which sounded scary.

I asked whether I should go into work later, which I was really concerned about as I love my job. He advised against it, and suggested I take the weekend off until I see GP. He or the GP could then provide me with a Sick Line.

I was humiliated. And, because I’m me, I started crying. He told me to stop apologising and promised I wasn’t wasting his time. He even gave me a hug.

I ended up very upset when we left. I just want to be normal. I don’t know how to stop this. I try to rationalise things and say a lot of experty type people say anxiety is to do with brain chemistry which you have no control over. For anyone else, I always say – and believe – that there is nothing shameful about mental illness, it’s not a weakness.

But for myself? It’s the same for my M.E./CFS. I think: it’s not like it’s a real illness, stop treating me like it’s a real illness. I’m embarrassed. It’s all internal. No-one has ever made me feel like I’m the problem. My partner, mum and friends are incredibly supportive. I’ve never been told to ‘get a grip’ or ‘pull myself together’. In that way I’m very lucky.

It’s all me, I just can’t seem to change my thinking.

What now? Just keep going I guess. But I’m so glad I took the positive step of going to hospital when I did. It takes courage to seek help, and to know that your symptoms are real and you deserve any beneficial treatment offered.

If anyone has similar thoughts, experiences or concerns I’m always here to listen. My Instagram is @fluffyacidtrip.

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