My carefree spin through life was abruptly tripped up last week when a sharp, chest-constricting panic attack forced me off the coach to work and back onto the pavement, pleading nausea to the driver so he’d stop halfway down a busy road in rush-hour. Since then I’ve not been able to get back on a bus. Taxis are hardly bearable either. I can just about manage car lifts from my family (who will pull over and let me out for air if I need it). Elevators I can and will cope with, as I live on the 5th floor and I’m damned if I’m walking up and down that four times a day (it’s seven deep breaths from the 5th to the ground floor, or a count of 10. Seven deep breaths, or a count of 10).
I wrangled gently with the on-duty GP (via phone) about how to deal with this. Back on the amitriptyline (oh joy of joooyyys), having spent the best part of three years getting off the sodding stuff. Follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks. But so far I can still make it to work (albeit by walking there), make it round the supermarket, go to the gym, sit down and eat a meal with my loved ones, and generally keep some sort of handle on life. So currently we’re at Anxiety Attack Status: Fucking Annoying, rather than Anxiety Attack Status: Utterly Debilitating, which is something I guess.
Consoled myself with the remains of Sunday night’s family curry extravaganza (quorn chicken korma, moong dhal, vegetable curry) and some home-made parathas (Indian flatbreads)…….
Original version from http://indiaphile.info/how-to-make-parathas/
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I had an acquaintance, someone I used to work with. Nice girl. I tripped over her on Facebook a while ago, so we friended each other. Hadn’t heard a lot from her recently, but assumed as she’d recently got married and had a kid, that she was too busy living in domestic bliss/mopping up babysick to post. Then she posted, and it turns out she’d been in a mental hospital for the best part of a year with chronic panic attacks, among other things.
When I started this blog I called it theanxiouscook, not because I’m worried about my ability to produce meals of immense fabulousness, but because I used to suffer badly from anxiety attacks.
For those that have never had one, imagine feeling like you’re frantically trying to climb out of your own skin, whilst a horde of angry bees descend upon you. If you aren’t actually a moulting snake that keeps bees for a living, this can be a little disruptive to normal life.
I messaged her, we chatted, and I sent her details of a few of the coping mechanisms that I found helped me to manage the attacks. I include them here as well, in case they may be helpful for anyone else.
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Work continues stressful. I toyed with booking a massage to try and unkink the muscle knots in my back and neck, although the poor masseuse might have more luck with a hammer and chisel than with, say, lavender oil.
But in the meantime here’s a classic bit of veggie cooking, and a great clearer of odds-and-ends; the vegetable and bean stew. Perfect summer-fare (when a fine June day in the UK has consisted of heavy rain and lashing winds, and guess who forgot her nice warm fleece this morning?).
Spicy Vegetable & Bean Stew
This afternoon was spent at the GP clinic, as I had one of those wonderful women’s health examinations which make you wonder about the motivations of Mother Nature, what with the creation of a system of internal tubing that in any other situation would make a professional plumber whistle quietly and comment “Who the ‘ell put that stopcock there?! Bloody cowboys! That’ll cost yer £300 plus VAT ‘cos you can’t get the parts these days, KEV! get the largest sink plunger from the van would yer?”.
But I’ve found that in situations like this (or opticians/dentists/chiropodists etc), it’s actually a good idea to inform the healthcare provider upfront that you suffer from anxiety attacks, because generally they’re fairly sympathetic and will work with you in managing the situation so that the procedure can go ahead with minimum grief to either side. Establishing that extra bit of control often is enough to prevent the anxiety spiralling upwards into a full-blown attack. Plus, it also acts as a good screening process for arseholes, in that if the reaction is one of why should I care / you’re being stupid / these exams don’t hurt, you know not to proceed with the procedure as you will quite likely find yourself being completely disempowered, and therefore you can politely make your excuses and leave / ask for another healthcare provider / throw yourself out via the nearest window in a spectacular crash of glass fragments, like they do in the movies.
After all this, something comforting for dinner seemed like a good idea. Fortunately I’d found a tin of chestnut puree on offer for a mere 34p at Big Supermarket Chain, due to the tin being badly dented, and this richest of nutmeats was just the luxurious touch that this evening needed (well that, and a quadruple vodka).
Chestnut & Peanut Nut Roast / Chestnut pesto
Do you feel like you’re climbing out of your own skin? Can’t breathe? Feel that if you relax and try to fall asleep you’ll suffocate? Throat closes up when you try and eat or drink? Having another go at climbing out of your own skin? Hands shake so much that carrying a cup of hot coffee risks serious burns? Dizzy? Legs weak? Still climbing out of your own skin in a manner that the average shedding snake would describe as “taking the piss”?
Welcome to the wonderful world of acute panic attacks
Anxiety Attacks – a user’s manual.
Please note that I am not medically qualified, At Own Risk and all that……
- Survival level
- Functional level
- Managing level
- Coping mechanisms
- Pharmaceu…(temporarily interrupted by my father enquiring if it’s possible to buy spare parts for a Ma Cuisine Magimix food processor on-line. It is.)
- Pharmaceutical treatment
- CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
More to come….
….the full joy of Anxiety Attacks, is, not so much not knowing where they may strike, as being utterly bemused as to why the hell the full ‘AARRGHH IT’S A HUNGRY LION -FLIGHT OR FIGHT!!’ reflex is firing itself up for something utterly stupid.
Escalators. You know, those magical moving staircase things, moving us up and down tube stations and department stores and all that? Yes, those.
A gentle jaunt through the local Marks & Spencer’s store in search of knee-length socks this afternoon. It’s 6pm in the evening, the day-time Shopping-Mall-Rush is over. It’s quiet in a kind of staff-outnumbering-the-customers kind of way. I have to hang around for a 7.30pm appointment, so grasp the opportunity to shop for some boring essential things, like the aforementioned socks. And I make the mistake of deciding to visit the first floor of the shop. Via the ESCALATOR. And every tiny bit of stress just flowers out and suddenly I’m trying to concentrate on breathing in and out, keeping upright (because collapsing half-way up 10 metres of escalator would be a) embarassing and b) painful), and keeping a grip of the handrail and my shopping bags. Whilst trying to distract myself by counting slowly up to 10 and simultaneously reading any advertising signs very very seriously hello P-E-R-U-N-A C-O-L-L-E-C-T-I-O-N A-R-E Y-O-U S-T-I-L–L-U-S-I-N-G-T-W-I-G-G-Y-A-S-A-M-O-D-E-L-?-oh look I’ve reached the first floor. I have no fucking idea whatsoever how I’m going to fucking get back down again, but I’ve reached THE FIRST FLOOR without serious injury.
Amusingly enough, the 7.30 appointment is with my GP, who proceeds to tell me how much more confident and together I look…