by That Hannah, survivor.


Panic.

Do you know it? Do you think it is just fear, a fast heart beat, some adrenaline?

Panic.

For me it starts with the feeling of something being not quite right. The next symptom could be many things – aura, trembles, weak limbs, nausea, even coughing.

One day I received an email and ended up on the floor in a fetal position, vomiting.

For 8 months or so I lived from second to second. Yesterday did not exist. Tomorrow did not exist. Just now. Just the next breath. If I could make it through a breath then I was doing well.

The total panic wasn’t constant for that long. Perhaps two months. Two months I don’t know how I got through. Food became an enemy, worse than ever before, even chocolate tasted like ash and felt like a lump of coal going down. Nausea was constant, as were other digestive complaints. I could not sleep and did not want to do anything else. I made myself eat. I made myself work. I made myself shower. And shave (when my hands weren’t shaking so bad I cut myself). I could not make myself sleep. I did my best to keep my brain busy – TV and computer games – so I could stop thinking long enough to nod off. On the sofa.

Slowly the panic decreased. I could make it through a working day without an impending sense of doom. I was able to control the shakes, and weak limbs, and tears just enough. At first, the panic would set it at the end of each and every day. After several months, it became just at the end of Thursdays and Fridays. Time still did not exist. It was still minute to minute, day to day. If I went out on a weekend I would be exhausted and have panic attacks the entire following week. Work. TV. Doze. Work. Panic. TV. Doze. Never sleeping properly. Never relaxing. Never smiling. I was dead inside.

I made sure I kept working on myself. Working for my health. I saw my doctor every two weeks. He was fabulous. One of the many people I am thankful to for saving my life. Once he started talking about adding an anxiety med to my antidepressant I (with advice from my wonderful mother) sort out a psychiatrist. Fortunately she did not want to put me on a drug cocktail. She just upped the dose of the med that had worked before – and saw me each fortnight while I sort out a regular counselor. I also got suspended. Flying was something I had wanted to do before my life had turned to darkness and was a reminder to myself about the future. About my dreams. About the reality that this feeling was not going to last forever. If you were there, or you have seen the photos, you can see the joy, the laughter and the peace I felt that day. It means the world to me. And one day, when I am ready, I will go back up again. I will feel the brilliance of pain, the fucking of the hooks and the pulling of the skin.

Then of course I did not get my work contract renewed, after all a zombie does not make much of an employee. So as Christmas approached I was on the job hunt as well as keeping the day job, looking after myself and doing my best not to panic. I remember getting a phone call from my boss one day. I sounded perfectly reasonable on the phone. But after I hang up I physically fell over. My legs just gave out.

On and off during these months I spent time with my biological family. I discovered that while they are there for me – physically – through anything, they still drive me crazy if I spend more than 2-3 days with them at a time and there are some things they just cannot emotionally support me with (different values, ideology, etc).

These things happened in my life. At some point between May and January. I don’t have a time sense of that period. I more or less lost it completely. My achievements are this 1) I am alive 2) I don’t have any cutting scars 3) I didn’t get fired.

I started work in my new job in February, and also began to get out on weekends. I didn’t have panic attacks at predictable times, although still showed themselves for brief periods each fortnight or so. I started to pursue engagements (BDSM) more seriously, even met some people from online dating sites.

Time kicked back in suddenly without much warning in March sometime. I stopped living from second to second and suddenly I had yesterday and tomorrow again. Beginning to describe this sensation – to friends, family and my counselor – is almost impossible.

I met someone, someone beautiful and amazing who taught me to smile again. I even started having sex again. Without flashbacks.

I started to sleep in my bed again – after 10 months sleeping on the sofa.

I can sleep and dream. I enjoy a range of foods. I am getting back out to munches, and have attended some awesome workshops this year. Soon I hope to be ready to go to a play party again, and perhaps even a swingers event although sex remains a challenging area for me.

Finally my psychiatrist is reducing my dose of the meds. I am here. I am healing. Even when I was in an accident with my new car. Even getting tonsillitis, shingles, bronchitis, I still smile and laugh. I am ALIVE.

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