Ramblings: Panic on the streets of London

Today I had a panic attack. I was stood on a freezing train platform on my way to a TV pitching meeting and I got so cold it was as if something in me just snapped. I don’t know if it was adrenalin or pitching nerves, or just the cold, that sent me over the edge. But one minute I was fine, staring up at the departures board and swearing at the notices for cancelled trains, but mostly being annoyed that I couldn’t use my phone with my gloves on! And the next I was just fleeing.┬áThe panic was rising though at first I didn’t realise what it was, I just knew I had to get out.

I left the station and walked up the road and then I really sensed the enormity of it, rushing at me like a tidal wave. I tried to calm my breathing but the coldness and the panic were taking over and I went into survival mode. I rushed into Tescos (based on proximity rather than being the obvious panic attack refuge!) to try and get warm and felt so dizzy I thought I might collapse. I started to get the tunnel vision which comes before unconsciousness and I went to the edge of the store and slid down onto the floor, thinking I would at least have less far to fall if I fainted, which I was fully expecting to.

And I sat there trying not to hyperventilate, knowing I was safe and fine but not able to shake it off. No one came over to me (in fairness it was like the Marie Celeste in there!) but if they had the other thing that was going through my head was what do I say? And I was ready. I was just going to say I was having a panic attack. Because I was, and because I am not ashamed.

Eventually (with the help of some good old hypnobirthing breathing techniques!) I was calm enough to hesitantly stand again. Really my head was still whirling but I also knew I couldn’t just sit there all day. I had managed to call Bingle and he was outside somewhere pulled over in the car, and I knew I just had to get to him. But he had asked me to buy him some lunch on the way out, and I’m a 36 year mother of two with two businesses, and I was IN Tescos, and I should be able to just buy a meal deal, but honestly I wasn’t sure if I could! I was shaking, I was terrified, I was completely in shock.

It’s been years since I’ve had panic attack and I had forgotten the overwhelming terror. In those moments I was completely helpless, literally frozen in the self-preservation of just not collapsing. And buying him a prawn salad.
As we got home I burst into tears – mainly of relief I think. And then we laughed, because it was all so ridiculous and I have no idea where it came from. And then I had a chocolate digestive and rescheduled my meeting and absolutely bossed my working day (except for when I accidentally hung up on a client while I was emptying a potty, the juggle is real!).
Because depression and anxiety and panic attacks are not about being weak. They might make us feel weak, but we are not. We are stronger than we know, sometimes they just hit us from nowhere. And I just wanted to say that it’s ok. It happens to me too.
Christina Pickworth