My Secret Panic

My everyday life is fairly ordinary. I work as a temporary lecturer and am also a freelance trainer, teaching a variety of subjects to adults in college and at business premises.  I have been doing this for less than a year, and it is quite fun in contrast to the heavy workload I had previously as a college manager.   I travel to and from work on the London Underground and packed buses, and in previous roles I spent most of my week travelling to and fro across London on visits to businesses, taking speeding lifts to offices in buildings I had never visited before.

When I am not working I am a student.  In the last few years I have attended ballet classes, weekly Chinese lessons, basic teacher training (during which I was filmed teaching) and I am currently studying towards a Masters degree.  That keeps my mind active, and I love running and going to the gym to keep physically active too.

You might be surprised to hear that I have a deep, dark secret.  I started experiencing panic attacks in 1999 and have done so on and off (mainly on) ever since.  Only close family, very few friends, my GP and NHS PCT mental health service are aware of this.  Everyone else, everywhere I have ever worked, describes me as ‘calm’ and they have no idea how difficult I sometimes find everyday activities such as going to the cinema, attending meetings and travelling across London.  In particular I have fears about the tube, boats, planes, being trapped, being sick and other people being sick.

When my panic has been at its worst I have had  CBT.  So far I have had two courses that lasted months at a time.  During CBT I used my life and work as the basis of my recovery.  By continuing to work and play as normal and doing all the things that seem so difficult such as taking the tube, going to the cinema, leading difficult redundancy meetings, even being locked in a prison wing (yes, this really happened!) I had lots of opportunities to experiment and experience panic and its subsidence.  These everyday experiences were the key to my recovery, and would not be available if I just sat at home.  The result each time was a huge improvement in my condition.

I don’t suppose I will ever be truly free of panic.   I know that I might need another course of CBT in the future. I still sometimes feel panicky on the tube and in other situations.  I detest flying and am dreading a forthcoming short flight.  I hate the thought of invasive medical treatment.  However I keep putting myself in situations where I might panic, and do things that make me uncomfortable in order to challenge myself and practice things that others take for granted.  This enables me to lead a ‘normal’ life (whatever that is), enjoy free time and keep working.  I pat myself on the back for being brave every day that I make it to work on the tube!

I advise fellow panic sufferers to approach life as a bit of an experiment.  You will start to improve your condition when you keep trying slightly more difficult things (especially if you can get some help through CBT).  You must keep trying and some days will be harder than others.  But who said that anything we want is easy?!  I have done it and am continuing to do it, and I hope some of you will be inspired to try.

My top tips for recovery are:

  • Try new things a few times until they become routine – tell yourself you are ‘practicing’ getting the bus!
  • Eat regularly and sensibly;
  • Exercise hard enough to burn off excess adrenaline every couple of days at least;
  • Remember that panic is tricking you into thinking you are worse than you really are, and that it will eventually subside if you stay with it long enough.

Good luck!  If this inspires even one person to take positive steps to recover I would be so pleased. By Jo

How can No Panic help?
No Panic specialises in self-help recovery and our services include:
Providing people with the skills they need to manage their condition and work towards recovery.
Our aim is to give you all of the necessary advice, tools and support that you will need to recover and carry out this journey. No Panic Recovery Programs