How my panic attacks began
WARNING! This is a long post, but I advise you to read it till the end just like everything on this site as because if you are here, probably you need help in your fight against panic attacks.
For the first time this happened to me in the winter at the time of the New Year holidays. If the first minor symptoms of panic attacks I had at the end of August in the summer and I did not pay any serious attention to them, the first “full power” panic attack occurred with me in January almost just right after the New Year.
The New Year’s holiday period is the period of drinking alcohol and alcohol is a psychostimulant, actually – a drug that depletes the nervous system. That period in my life was under the sign of corporate parties and work for almost 12 hours. Just right after the New Year my colleagues and I went to another city to the regional bank headquarters – the bank I worked in – to celebrate corporate New Year party. At the corporate party everything seemed to be good, but again there was alcohol and different contests which little stressed me. The next morning I woke up in a supposedly good mood and there was no hangover. But I drank a solid coffee. Caffeine is also a strong stimulant of the nervous system and those who have panic attacks know that often anxiety increases after coffee and in a short time appears panic attack. And thus, standing at a bus stop and waiting for a bus to my city I felt this terrible animal fear. It was terrible. I thought that I was dying. The heart in my chest was beating at a crazy speed. I began to breathe often and quickly. I began to fear that I would lose consciousness or that something is going to twist my hands. I started walking down there and back, because that way it felt a bit easier. I was so frightened that for some reason I started even biting my left arm. On the bus stop I was with two of my colleagues and other people. My colleagues were afraid and did not understand what was with me. At this time, one of them stopped the passing by car and no matter how scared I was I had to either stay myself on the bus stop until the bus comes or go with them. I got into the car.
My hands began to numb, then my chin and face numb. I started to get scared even more. We drove nearly 60 km to the nearest town and I asked the driver to stop at the pharmacy. I thought there is something wrong with my heart and asked sales woman for some heart pills which do not need doctor’s prescription. This was kind of drops which smelled like strong mint. While waiting for few drops of medicine to be mixed with water in the cup suddenly I felt everything was gone. It was completely gone, if there was nothing and I felt just happy.
30 km more to our town we drove quickly and I came back home as if a new person, as if nothing had happened, even smoked while walking to the house. Of course, I did not pay proper attention to what has happened to me. By the summer I did not feel any panic and then it happened again: the sea resort, alcohol, heat and when going back home in sultry bus panic attack started when someone closed the hatch and it became even hotter and more stuffy in the bus. This closed hatch was the last drop to me. Again, I felt the animal fear that increased just ten times every quarter, the hands and face began to dull, it tightened my tongue and I could not even properly explain my friend sitting next to me, what is happening.
The bus finally stopped, I was taken to the street, and one woman washed my head with water, gave me to drink some water and also gave to smell ammonia. It’s good that this woman was an experienced nurse, who reassured me everything is going to be alright. But I will say it was horrible as my body seemed to be made of a stone for a certain moment, and the muscles have become like wooden. Al the rest way home I was sitting alongside the driver, sipping a little water and felt the slight numbness in my face all the way, I probably had a high blood pressure.
When I arrived home, I told about everything at home, but did not go to the hospital again. I just stopped drinking alcohol for a while and the rest of the vacation I was at home, slept well and searching on the Internet information what happened with me. I linked it even with a certain stage of alcoholism and with other things, but I have not yet known that there is such a thing as panic attacks.
And the next what happened – the other symptoms of a panic disorder started to appear at work. I was working in bank and could not sit still at a table sometimes when the client sat beside me and I was preparing documents for bank loan; I even often went out under some reason and then returned again. And when the customers were in a queue of three or more, I generally began to worry and felt anxiety thinking of how I will work with all of them, how will I sign everything; my hands became like wooden ones too – later I learned that the adrenaline was making these symptoms to happen, but I did not know it that time. Then this fear became apparent without any reason – even on just arrival at work. It was even that I just came to work and then immediately had to go back home without any objective reason and then in the middle of the way home I felt okay again and I did not understand why I actually was coming back home.
Sometimes I felt scary for no reason and panic attacks “covered me” unexpectedly in the middle of a working day. And this is without any alcohol – completely different from how it all started. Alcohol was altogether unbearable, because when I was drinking everything was okay, but the next day, when there could have been a light hangover I had some infernal torture – one hundred percent panic attack, palpitations, a fear of a heart attack, the fear of dying – I did not understand what’s happening with me. Then the anxiety of large crowds of people was added to my fear kaleidoscope. I felt sometimes afraid and sometimes just very uncomfortable to sit at the table, especially in cafes and public places as panic attacks very often came at this very moment. I then wanted to leave the table, to go somewhere, started wetting at the chair, put one leg over the other, was afraid to light up a cigarette because I thought it would be worse. It took a while and it all faded either by itself or after drinking some alcohol. Once panic attack even happened to me in the family circle, at the family table on the birthday of my grandmother. At that time I saw and analyzed that after the use of alcohol my horrible state disappears. I began to seriously think that I had alcoholism. But I could not understand one thing. Sometimes on the next day after alcohol I was okay, sometimes I had panic attack, sometimes it was lung, sometimes it was stronger, but it was only after strong alcohol, and after beer, for example, panic attacks has never appeared. I also liked to drink some alcohol on weekend with my friends, but I never got drunk to an obscure state and always was in a normal mind, remaining adequate. I was not drawn to drink alcohol myself and for no reason. I still did not understand what was with me.
And so I resigned from the bank. After almost three years of work. Here, symptoms of panic disorder began to appear. I slept a lot and I wanted to sleep. I went to bed at 10 P.M., and woke up at 4 P.M. the next day. I did not leave the house anywhere, did not smoke, did not drink alcohol, did not communicate with anyone on the phone, I only ate, slept and communicated with my parents. As for the strange symptoms of panic disorder, I could not watch a TV showing news, large crowds of people, offices, work – I immediately wanted to turn off the TV or go to another room.
I was watching only one show about life in the village, where comic situations and positive emotions were prevailing. This was March. In April, I was offered a job. Temporary one, for half months. At the interview, I could hardly sit, so I was anxious and nervous, but then everything went well. I started walking a lot on foot as the work place was half an hour walk from the place where I live. I did a simple job at the computer, communicated in the team, I felt pleased by this job and I began to enjoy, to really enjoying my work! By that time I did not smoke. And on the weekend I celebrated well with friends and drank much alcohol and on Sunday I was urgently called to work and there I could hardly hang for two hours, typing text on the keyboard. But then I got better. I did not drink more alcohol until the end of this work, but after the completion when all the tasks of our team were done there was a kind of feast with alcohol, but the next day I was fine. I concluded that I developed a reflex – if I have hangover and need to work – there will be panic, and if I can sleep at home – everything will be okay. Of course, the real reason was in my exhausted nervous system which did not have enough time to renovate.
I did not understand that my nervous system was exhausted by constant stress till such extent that alcohol simply casts it on with its depressing effect and what normal people with a healthy nervous system do not even feel the next day after alcohol for me is just an unbearable torment. In the summer I was drinking with friends several times on some Saturday night in the club, but I did not have any panic attacks next day, although I felt quite tired. At the end of July I was on the wedding of my friend and everything went well. As I understand that – at that time my nervous system became stronger, renovated because there were no more work stress factor, I rarely had alcohol, lived in society, although I did little physical work and had not enough physical activity.
In September there was another wedding of my friend. It was quite long period of alcohol consuming according to all local traditions and although it was not much alcohol, it was quite often. Although at that time another important thing has happened. I fell in love, and quite strongly, by the way. It seemed that the subject of my love also had sympathy for me and showed up her attention towards me. That was a great time for me. In an state of love (or chemistry), the body works at a crazy pace, but it allocates many hormones of joy – dopamine, endorphins, serotonins. And I really did not have any panic attacks, nor their manifestations, nor disturbing thoughts. I jumped out of happiness, saw the meaning in my life and even after great parties with alcohol I felt great on the following day. But it did not last long, because in a month we quarreled and I realized that relationships are over. I got sad, started to crate myself, drink alcohol – but there was no panic attacks.
The reason was in me, because at that moment, as a man, I was not financially well-equipped and materially independent, so that I could quickly and initially start a life with a girl of my age, enough intelligent and adult, without childish whims and adolescent love. And in November I had a terrible feeling on the second day after drinking alcohol on my father’s birthday. At that time, I was still trying to establish relationships, but they only bore pain, I felt a sharp change in my state – from brave and speaking drunken nonsense to a very good but weak-willed guy who feels like a small child. Then I did not know that I had disordered my nervous system again and the new panic attacks will not wait for long.
Though, while staying at home I was working on my projects on the Internet and was happy, but again – I had the wrong approach: no physical activity and almost no communication with the outside world. At the same time I began to notice that my body reacts with anxiety when I am going out into the street. My body began to regard this fact or this action as a danger. Also, my horrible day mode: to work at night and get to sleep in the morning or in the afternoon. As the doctor explained to me later, this is just a terrible blow to the nervous system.
It was summer, I got tired of working at the computer and being at home in general, tired of my town and decided to change something cardinally. Knowing English and Polish, I quickly found a job in Poland – through a popular Polish job website, and I found a job in the office – where they needed person with skills in creating websites, knowledge of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian. I had all these skills, but my passport expired and while I was waiting for new one I lost my potential job. I told my friend about everything. My friend had a strong desire to find work in Poland as well, but he knew no Polish and no English and we were looking for some physical job with not much skills needed which could suit for us both. But here happened one very important thing.
I went to the sea to have some rest. It was hot, climate change and alcohol and two years ago situation repeated dramatically – horrible fear, panic attack, extremely high blood pressure, numbness of hands and face, hard hands. I was called an emergency, doctor made me shot and prescribed me some pills. So-called adrenaline beta-blockers. Its essence is that the active substance – propranolol, blocks the action of adrenaline receptors. That is, when it comes to fear, adrenaline enters the bloodstream and starts to act on the organs, but they do not react, because the receptors are blocked by propranolol and the main chain reaction of panic attack is interrupted – we do not scare ourselves further and fear disappears. But still, I used these pills only at the time I was at the sea resort, because they are dangerous. Firstly, people could get addictive to its effect and have a syndrome of cancellation – that is, even the heart might stop if you take them for a long time and then suddenly leave. Secondly, the active substance blocks the receptors and adrenaline does not “work”, the body is “seeing” it and produces even more adrenaline and more receptors on the organs. And then adrenaline does not disappear anywhere from the blood. Therefore, it is necessary to “burn” adrenaline in natural way – by doing physical activity, sports etc.
After the sea I had hard time living. It was hard for me to remain under the open sun and when it was hot. Even to go to the post office sometimes was terribly difficult for me – as if had to drag a bag of stones on my back – and I am telling this about young guy at age 28. In the summer I was almost constantly afraid of new panic attacks to happen and although I almost had none I steel felt this constant discomfort and anxiety present in my everyday life. I was afraid to use public transport. I had rising blood pressure under the open sun. I could not normally sit at the computer or type an article till the end. But I fought, although I did not fully understand with what I am fighting. I diagnosed panic attacks by myself with doctor Google, but I almost did not do anything about it. And now, it happened that I was deprived of panic attacks for almost a year and these panic attacks that were now after that were no longer so terrible. And that’s what happened then – maybe it will help you as well.
December 2015. My friend and I already had working visas and were going to leave for Poland to work at an automobile plant in the middle of December. I did not understand how I would go to the factory for physical work, if I could not normally pass 2 kilometers a day and when it was hot I felt face numb feeling and then the blood pressure caused headache. I could not even calmly smoke a cigarette, because I felt anxiety and I am not even telling about panic attacks after a cup of coffee. And here I had a long way and crossing the border. I did not drink any alcohol at this period. And you are just about to find out what exactly helped me to get rid of panic attacks for a year, but what I did not appreciate and they came back later.
It was Sunday, December 7th and I went to church. I have never before been present during the Christian sacrament of Confession for my whole 28 years of life and have not participated in the sacrament of Communion. Formally, I was a believer, but I went to the church very rare. Most often when I felt a need to pray I was reading a prayer from a laptop screen. And here I am in the church. It was unusual and difficult to withstand, but I came to confession. After the confession I felt incredible lightness. Then there was a communion. I felt joyful when I came back home and it was so easy to live! I felt like I am child somewhere between 1st and 2nd grade – in summer holidays and I have nothing to worry about. That is exactly how I was feeling. At the same time I decided to quit smoking. Circumstances have arisen in a way I did not have any alcohol, but the most important thing I wanted to say is that after that day I stopped thinking that I might feel bad or have any disturbing thoughts or anxiety. I simply didn’t realized that. I felt like I never had panic attack and anxiety before. Miracle? Who knows.
The anxiety has disappeared, I have become physically hardier and most importantly – I drew attention to it not immediately, but in a few days. A week later we left for Poland. Worked up to the New Year in heavy construction, the work was physically very difficult, but I felt fine. True, I started to smoke a little here. At the Catholic Christmas, and then on New Year, we drank a little, but on the second day everything was fine. Then there was work at one factory, then later – on another factory, I was looking myself housing in another country for me and for 4 other people; speaking different language, having stress – but I felt great. Then, at the end of February I received an invitation to work in the office where I had to go in summer, but I didn’t because of my passport expire. I agreed. And here begins all the most interesting.
The work was in small gloomy town. I did not like the town as I did not see the prospect for me here. The work itself at first I actually liked. I worked at the job agency’s website. However, the job is all the time by the computer, albeit well-paid. But I had no physical development. Housing was in the next house to the office and even walking home from work took 1 minute only. I lived with Ukrainians – which meant me and 11 more people in a huge house. Kind of a dormitory. Often there was beer in the evenings, cigarettes, and whole spring time Birthday parties of dorm neighbors on Saturdays. I did not control myself again, I did not buy a bicycle, I did not go to the swimming pool or at least I could go to the stadium to run every evening – but no. I forgot about myself, I forgot about self development again and looking around at that time now I realize how weak my will power was and how limited was I. I did not have any goals, I did not have a plan for self-development, nothing – and problems didn’t wait for long. Sedentary work, unhealthy food and diet, alcohol, cigarettes, lack of physical activity, bad companies – all this led to the fact that I could no longer stand a terrible hangover in the autumn and once I did not go to work. Then I got the first one for a long time panic attack in the morning when I had hangover.
I stopped drinking, but not for long. Constant anxiety did not leave me now. Then the weekends – again beer, alcoholic beverages, and again – lost weekends. Panic attacks began to appear just during work. I stopped drinking alcohol completely for some time but it didn’t get better. Then I began to chase my panic attacks with beer after work. For a while it helped, but it was just an illusion and then it got worse. At one of the weekends we were in town district with bad reputation and I had the negligence to meet two unfriendly individuals and as the result I got beaten. My face was looking not great and so visiting the job was already a kind of a problem. Of course, the boss was not satisfied and the odds were for my resignation. I decided to look for another job, but work can not change the problem that was inside me, the real problem which causes both – my panic attacks and my drunkenness. I found another job at the employment agency, moved to the other side of the country and everything seemed to sound good, but only at first. The atmosphere at new work place was extremely difficult, the chief often changed his mind, shouted, did not consider people for being people and me including; on his behalf I had to tell people every time different information, I had to resign people, and the conditions of work often did not match claimed at the announcements, although I did not know about it at first. The entire negative I pushed through myself. It was necessary to get up at 6 am and receive calls from people by 11 pm. The situation was very stressful, although I had no panic attacks yet, I started to feel anxiety in public transport.
During this period I also started dating a girl, actually – a nice bonus, but also some additional experience and stress. And here the Catholic Christmas of 2016 in Poland and the next day after drinking I felt panic attack. I could not go to work, but I had to. I would already be happy to resign and escape from this stress – it was stress which brought me back again, although I did not drink for almost 2 months, but alcohol accelerated everything else which would happened without it. I was in despair – work and thoughts that are killing me, but how will I quit? What would parents think of me or my relatives – for them I seemed the symbol of success as I found good office job in EU country? What will they say? I did not prove to be successful and that I can do something myself – that were my thoughts. I also had short time working visa. All these obsessive thoughts started to turn around in my head over and over. I lost my appetite. I could not eat anything normally. I drank lots of beer after work. Then for the New Year arrived my friends, we drunk well and next day I could barely stay at work, but then so much waited weekend finally came. Panic attacks started to happen more often and often during the day and I tried to eliminate it with alcohol, after which I understood that it was only worse, but did not know what to do. On January 6, I went to the church, during mess I suddenly started to cry. My nervous system was on the verge, as I learned later.
On Monday morning I decided to return to Ukraine. That was a terrible trip, across the border, long, but thanks God I made it. I was in the hospital, I had liver treatment, gall bladder treatment, pancreas and stomach treatment and after whole course of treatment I was on a diet for a long time at home, but again I ignored the psychotherapist, who was going to open for me real reasons of my problem and so that I began to change my life. Instead, I began to work more and more on a computer and my panic attacks began to appear without any alcohol, but on their own. I mistakenly thought alcohol was the reason of my problems, but it was rather indicator and accelerator with heavily negative impact. I did not drink for 3 months and regardless of it terrible panic attacks started to occur again. Especially often they occurred when I was at the computer; sometimes they happened when during the meal. I was almost always at home. Once I had panic attack in public transport and it was quite strong. My mind subconsciously began to perceive the street, the social world and the bus as a source of danger – to such extent I lost myself. In early June I broke up with my girlfriend and found the “best” way out – to drink alcohol, mostly beer and the next day I felt horrible. For several days I could not get out of a depressed state. Then, in a week I recovered somehow and that was the time when my friend with whom I went to Poland to work at the end of 2015 just returned home for few months. He did not know about my problem, but I decided that I can do everything and I am not sick or something and we “celebrated” his arrival well, of course, traditionally, with alcohol. I felt terribly bad next day.
So now I have dared myself and went to the hospital, clearly reporting narcologist about my problem. He was not only narcologist, but a psychologist as well. He has questioned me for long about a way of life that I have and announced something very different from what I assumed. Problems with alcohol are the result of my extremely exhausted nervous system and it happened so due to hidden conflicts, complexes and in order to “correct” all the wrong impact which I have made to myself for years would take a fairly long period – from half a year to eight months, under the condition of continuous work on myself, life for a day mode, where I should have balanced exercises, active and passive rest, as well as work. And the main thing is my personal sincere desire to work on myself. I started this long way.
At first I could not sleep, I was torn apart in the middle of the night and pulled myself out of my sleep. I could not fall asleep and during the sleep I often suddenly woke up. My strength of will was at zero limits and I started working on it – in the morning I had 2 km walk and then a bike ride – in the town, outside the town, on field roads, in the woods. I started riding simple bike regularly. In three weeks I bought a mountain bike. I began to ride 15 km daily.
At first it was extremely difficult, it was hard to breathe, but pretty quickly I got accustomed to physical activities. I had joy after every trip and cheerfulness during the day and now I could already calmly fell asleep. I corrected my regime – began to go to bed at 11 pm and get up at 8 am or 7 am. However, I did not work for 2 weeks and did not even get close to the computer. In three weeks I added a mandatory morning exercises, but since that I could not cope with getting up at one and the same time every day. The alarm clock was ringing and I did not get up, listening to my lazy body, but not the wise mind.
It’s been three weeks since my correction process began. I began to walk in the woods and ride a bike and I really like it. Several times I made a fire in the woods – how beautiful it is to sit by the fire. And twice I cooked meals in the woods on fire – this is so tasty. I have long dreamed of myself doing this and I just watched the YouTube videos of how other people do it. And why did not I do this before? Now it is a warm season and we have a big river in our town so I plan to start going to swim. I also want to order a fishing line and combine bicycle and fishing. I also plan to order dumbbells and start training using it. In the attic of my garage I plan to clear some space and make room for working place with chair and the laptop – I think there is a good spot for writing my articles and there will be a certain delineation of the place of work and home. I also want to buy new smartphone with good camera and take pictures of places and nature where I go, as well as fulfill my creative ideas. Maybe I will try to sell pictures on stocks. I’m starting to do what I really like, not what I did to please others. Now, most of my thoughts are of my personal interest. I want to fix myself and not think about things that I’ve been 30 years old and I have no family or children, like my classmates, friends. Is everyone who has this happy? What would happen to me if I had this panic disorder and live in the family? I could terrify my wife and kids. I guess, there is right time for everything.
In any case, if I suffer from panic attacks I could not create family, because what kind of wife not prepared for this will endure? And again, if there are children and the father is big child himself while panic attack? At first I need to become a strong man with a strong power of will, able to withstand and protect the family and to do this I need my fears to let go and be myself, be confident. I have quit smoking, I do not know for what period, but I hope that it is for a long time. Meditation is very helpful to me – it’s a real work on yourself, over your mind. I’m just starting to practice meditation, but the result is tangible – it really helps not only to cope with panic, calm down, but also to comprehend life, knowingly and effortlessly leave the bad habits simply from understanding. I consider meditation as the practice for my mind, without any mystique words such as chakras, energy, etc. I remain to be an Orthodox Christian. Today, my day begins with prayer, then physical exercises and then meditation. Meditation has helped many to release from panic attacks. I hope my experience would be useful for you. But you also have to remember that meditation is not a panacea against panic attacks, it’s an instrument, one of many anti-panic attack strategies, albeit very effective instrument.