As Robin Williams said, “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. In other words, suicide is not the solution, and it’s not even a way out. It’s just an sad ending. And it was not the path I chose, either, as tempting as it might sometimes sound.
I felt desperate and hopeless, and yet I held on to every tiny little piece of life that I could still feel inside me. It wasn’t enough – definitely not enough – to make me feel any better. It just kept me alive while I desperately and blindly searched for solutions.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and I didn’t know how to make it better. My first guess was that I was crazy, so with images of guns pointed at my brain floating in my head, I was pushed by desperation to tell my mom that something was terribly wrong with me and I needed a psychologist. I knew that would be expensive, but I was ready to pay for it with my pocket money.
I was a scary vision back then – thin, weak, with black circles around my eyes and deep pain inside them – so my mom agreed. I called my then-boyfriend to communicate the news to him, and at that point he started associating some of my symptoms with his mother’s behaviour. His mother had suffered for many years from panic attacks.
Now, this is point one: The only person who was able to help me was a person whose mother had suffered from panic attacks for so long. Nobody else had any idea of what might have been going on. The conviction that it was just “something in my head” was so strong that after the E.R. episode nobody thought of taking me to a doctor – after all, the E.R. doctors had already said it was “nothing”. Actually, even after I was diagnosed, nobody knew what the expression “panic attacks” referred to.
Most people thought they had suffered from a panic attack when they were anxious before a test. They didn’t know there existed a normal anxiety, and a pathological one. Even after being explained, somebody still thought it was just something in my head (ergo, “chill out, girl”).
Isn’t there something wrong with the fact that nobody know anything about a disorder that affects a very big part of the population? Or with the fact that less than half of the people suffering from this disorder are actually diagnosed with it?
Let’s resume the story: I talked to his mother, who told me that no psychologist was needed for this – supporting her theory with a book that I prey nobody with my same disorder will ever find. The book had been given her by her neurologist, who stated that panic attacks are a physical disfunction, that like any other illness needs a cure and this cure is medicines – to be more specific, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, SSRIs (which I want to talk about better in another post, with the premise that I’m not a doctor, obviously).
Now, this is of course point two: there are still doctors affirming that medicines are the cure and disclaiming psychology. I’ll say it here once more and I will say it again (because apparently it’s never enough): Medicines don’t cure panic disorder (or anxiety disorder or depression). Medicines cure the symptoms. This means that after taking medicines you’ll stop experiencing your disorder (in a more physical way), but it will be back as soon as you give up the medicines!
Sure, medicines can be very useful combined with psychoanalysis, when the symptoms are so strong that you can’t actually benefit from an appointment with your therapist. This said, the way out of this kind of disorder is psychotherapy! It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but that’s what will work. Panic attacks are not “just a physical thing”, like a sneeze. They are the manifestation of some feeling hidden deep inside of you that your body just couldn’t hold in any longer!
Back to my story, not knowing any better I accepted to be prescribed these medicines by a neurologist (who clearly shared the previous one’s view). The panic attacks calmed down after some weeks, but I was never at peace. I kept feeling that something was wrong, even when I had no attack. I was never really fine.
I plan on ending the Importance-of-Awareness series with a focus on what panic attacks are, what they are thought to be, and the possible solutions. If you have any curiosity or doubt, ask your questions in the comment section and I will answer as clearly as I can in the next post! Please note that the information I give is based on my personal experience and research material; I’m not a doctor nor a psychologist!