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    Monday, 11 July 2016

    Panic attack: Ellie’s story

    He tried persuading me to go back inside but l was not inclined to do that. I continued praying to God that He would spare my soul.
    Round about that same time, my husband and my mother arrived.
    They asked for the baby as we could hear the baby crying but the nurses wouldn't give the baby to them and that hurt me.
    The gynaecologist tried calling a psychiatrist but to no avail. I stayed outside for about forty-five minutes before the gynaecologist had my bed moved to the ground floor.
    It is only then that l agreed to go back inside. My gynaecologist prescribed some medication for me to calm down but I refused to take it because l was afraid that if I took the medication l would sleep forever.
    I stayed in hospital for four more days solely because of the operation and not the experience I had had. For that particular period everything seemed to have fallen back into place until a year later in January 2015. A colleague from work came from nowhere and asked me if she can give me Satanism DVDs. To say I was shocked is an understatement, l was terrified. I declined without even soliciting what the contents were. Sometime in March, I had a nightmare where someone at work was beating me. I woke up having heart palpitations. While I tried narrating my dream to my husband l had another panic attack. This time around, however, l had some sort of control and l took my bible and started praying pacing up and down the house. This lasted for about 15 minutes I felt a bit okay and went back to sleep. Going to work itself had become a nightmare because each time l saw my colleague who had offered me the DVDs l would feel very uncomfortable and not safe.
    Around the period of May I would occasionally feel nausea, loss of appetite, general body weakness and extensive fear since the attacks had become an ongoing thing. I would patronise the hospital two or three times a week. On my fourth visit to the hospital, one doctor then said that what l had were panic attacks. I was injected 10mg of diazepam and l went to sleep. I felt a lot better when l woke up. I wasn't going to work at this time. After three days the episodes started again and l went to hospital but l rejected diazepam because I did not want any more drugs that would intoxicate me and continue to weaken me. I overhead a nurse aid asking a senior nurse what a panic attack and she said it was some white men's disease. Imagine the stigma. Furthermore, during my visits to the hospital the treatment l was given had become less hospitable. At one point l spent more than an hour without being attended to. It seemed l had become a more of a burden because l would come complaining about the same thing over and over again. I was given an antiemetic to suppress the vomiting and l went home. The following day l resolved to visit a psychiatrist because for a moment l thought l was going insane. I went without an appointment and as l waited in the queue, another woman was narrating her ordeal and her story resembled mine. I felt relieved that l wasn't alone in this. The psychiatrist said it was a panic attack and prescribed some medication. That night l slept well and l also felt good in the morning.
    Later on that feeling of nausea, body weakness and inexplicable fear overwhelmed me. It felt like l was going to choke and die. Fortunately, my mother and aunt were there to keep me company. After two days l felt even worse. Around 4pm l drove to church to see the priest there and he prayed for me. Afterwards, l went to the psychiatrist's but he wasn't in. For a moment l contemplated going to Parirenyatwa Hospital to have myself admitted to the psychiatric unit there and then perhaps the doctor would be called in. Instead, l ended up going to my physician around 6pm. At this point I could hardly walk on my own and my aunt had to assist me. I was turned away because l had no appointment but l was obstinate enough not to leave. I lay down in the waiting room and I was told to go in and see the doctor before my turn because my situation had become serious. The physician informed me that my condition had degenerated into a panic disorder. We had a lengthy discussion where he advised me to read more on panic attacks and disorders. He then changed my medication. When l walked out of there l felt a lot better and that is when l appreciated the importance of communication and having closure.
    The following day l did not feel so good and after three days l had no appetite completely. This time around l went to see a psychologist with my husband. Instead of him asking me about the experience l was having he saw it fit to be asking if things were ok with my husband back home and that totally put me off. At the end of the session l felt worse. I started having headaches because of the medication that had been prescribed by my physician but he advised me to continue with the medication.
    After having been to a psychiatrist, a physician and a psychologist with the recurrent bouts of the attacks, l felt hopeless. My world was falling apart. My mother took me to Kwekwe to see my uncle who happens to be a priest. I spent four days there and during my stay l was counselled, told to meditate, relax and to face my fear in order not to be afraid. The following week, towards the end of June l was feeling much better. Back in Harare, l went back to my physician where l was advised to go back to work. I asked for one more week.
    At the beginning of July l went back to work after being off duty for two months. I had lost about 10kgs of body weight. Somewhat l still had fear within me. I confided in my manager and she gave me some memory verses from the bible to meditate on. She also gave me a book authored by Joyce Meyer which focuses on facing anxiety and fear. The book helped me a lot. Every morning my manager would call me to her office to pray and meditate on Psalms 91. I felt more at ease and secure when l had my bible and rosary on me. I continued on my medication. I would be anxious here and there but it was not as pronounced as before and all l needed was company to avert the anxiety. For that period l did not want to lay my eyes on funeral parlour vehicles, hospitals or watch the television especially programs that had horror or violent scenes because that would put me on edge.
    Gradually, l felt better and in October l planned my wedding for December. All went well and l was very happy and felt blessed. In December l started tapering off my medication. I would skip some days and in January l was completely off drugs. However, l fell ill. I had abdominal pain, nausea and body weakness but that was probably the effect of letting go of my medication. It was short-lived. From then to date l have felt much better.
    I hope that my story will inspire someone out there having problems as l had to hang in there and seek help because panic attacks can be overcome. On the same note I hope l will educate someone out there on panic attacks so that they can have an appreciation of what it really is and be able to help those in society facing this predicament.
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