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Mark’s Story

My story begins with symptoms that were never recognised by me as psychological. When I was in my late teens and early twenty’s I often felt breathless in situations like pubs, concerts, classrooms. Quite often I would wake up in the early hours breathless and frightened. I always believed I was going to die.

On reflection, these symptoms may well have been linked to physiological triggers at the time. For example: Alcohol, cigarettes, Marijuana, lack of sleep and bad diet.
My heart would race extremely quickly. Once as fast as 200 beats per minute after I had taken rather too much Marijuana. I had to cope with these symptoms for years without any help and used alcohol as a short-term relaxant to enable me to socialise. Always feeling worse the day after though.

Then, one day, when I was 26 years old I had my first REAL panic attack

I was at work. I answered telephones for a huge Japanese Electronics Company. Mainly dealing with customer complaints, a very stressful fast moving environment. It was 9am. I answered the first call of the day. My heart started racing, my hands began to sweat. I felt very frightened and confused. I put the telephone down with some Woman still talking. I felt weird, sort of calm, surreal but very ill. I went to the lavatories and sat on the loo crying, scared. I believed I was going to die right there and then. Not the sort of place I ever envisaged myself dying. I didn’t want to be there. I spent twenty minutes sat in there and felt a little better. So I ventured into the canteen where a cleaner asked me if I was alright. Clearly I wasn’t. My manager arrived and I was sent home. I couldn’t sleep that night, as all I could hear was my heartbeat in my pillow. It drove me bonkers.

I returned to work the following day only to have exactly the same happen again.
I was NEVER the same again and a lifetime of Panic Disorder was to follow me everywhere I went from then on. Needless to say I never returned to that job but did eventually get back to work around six months later at another company. I went from job to job after that. I had panic attacks at most of them after being there a while and getting to hate the jobs. Seems as though my body had learned to Panic to get me away from these situations.

I eventually saw a doctor who referred me to a psychologist. That was no help at all as he gave me a relaxation tape with a telephone ringing in the background! Idiot!
I used Beta Blockers to help me through, Inderal (Propranolol). I still use them today.
My symptoms have changed now to palpitations, extra heartbeats followed by a gap. Very scary!!!! I get these especially after having not enough sleep. I need my sleep desperately. Without 8 to 10 hours sleep I am quite ill with stress. I have to say that sleep deprivation does me quite a bit of harm, as lack of sleep has a marked affect on me personally. I really do become ill and cannot function. Sometimes ending up in hospital.

I have been out of work now for 14 years but I looked after my Aunt who had Alzheimer’s for 4 years and this made me ill quite often too. It was very stressful. Sadly she recently passed away and I miss her.

Now I do not drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs and feel much better for it! Although I don’t think panic disorder will ever leave me, I do get on with my life as much as possible. I have a computer now and love learning how it works and the Internet.

I have no idea what my future holds and just hope I can meet someone one day who loves me for me, panic attacks and all.

The DWP are hassling me at the moment, I think they want me off benefits. How are we supposed to fight them?

Anyway, I wish you all good luck with your own personal struggle against Panic Attacks.