Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Some people can't handle their drink, and some can't handle drugs. Some people can't handle stress, some people can't handle other people, and some people can't handle anything at all. I can't handle my own adrenaline.

I know the science behind the body's production of adrenaline and I know of the 'fight or flight' terminology. I understand that the production of this stuff is necessary, helpful and for some completely exhilirating; something to be sought. For me it is altogether more complex than science makes it out to be. That's because it's not just the body that feels the presence of adrenaline - it's the head too.

Without sounding like a broken record to those who know me, or have heard this tale before, a few years ago I was unwell. I was unwell for months and this culminated in what I deem a deserved pessimistic attitude. I was entitled to it, and it was a period of feeling down. I assert it was that and no more, but there were doctor's who thought otherwise. Suffice to say I was persuaded with a line more akin to bt credit card foisting telephone sales people than people who got 5 A's at 5th year and spent 7 years in university. And I was prescribed. All your troubles will just be lifted! All your fears will dissolve like an Alka Seltzer! You'll feel yourself again..

Well no, actually, I felt more unlike myself than I ever have and more like a screaming banshee whose brain was in a blender and body performing a marathon workout. By the time I was rescued from this state and taken to the pyschological safe house that was my Mum's livingroom my eyes were like glazed needle heads and I felt like a ghost. I know this description sort of makes light of it now and that's an ok way to deal with it but I must outline that it was the most scary thing to happen in my life and the one event which more than anything fills me with rage. I feel like someone who has been attacked, conned really.

Anyway, what I experienced then I now know was a panic attack brought on my god awful prescription drugs that disorient not only your brain but indeed every single fibre of your being until you trust nothing and no-one and not even your own perception. My whole body was confused as my brain teetered on the edge of reality and it was scared. I like to think of my brain and my body as conjoined twins; two seperate entities with their own system, sharing a space and a little clairvoyance. As my brain lost the plot my body couldn't handle it and it reacted in the only way it knew how that didn't involve long term physical repercussions: the phenomenon known as a panic, or anxiety, attack.

A panic attack involves a certain situation resulting in the creation of a large quantity of adrenaline in the body. To me it seems like the body reacts to this adrenaline in an abnormal way. When normally the reaction to the situation would be get the hell out of here or get them right now, a panic attack turns this to where do I go I can't even move and I know I should get you but I don't know who you are, who I am, what I am... When people suggest it feels like a heart attack I suppose that is an accurate description of the physical manifestations, it increased heart rate, the breathlessness, the hotness and shooting pains and cloudy, dizzy head. But for me, I can liken it much more to the view that it is like going insane. You feel like everything you knew about yourself, the people you know, your views, your environment and the world itself is being turned on it's head. It's like you've been led on your whole life and suddenly up is down and the grass is blue. It feels like you can't handle even the smallest thing and a light breeze would blow you over the edge. There is the regular part of you who is fighting this, holding on with raw palms and ragged nails, trying to get back. But there is also this other part of you which just cries to let go, lacking the energy required to stop sinking in the sand.

Of course this feeling alleviates itself after a time, within half an hour, more often than not a lot less time than this, though it feels like you've been in that hell for a lifetime. And once it's over it's still not over. Depending on the severity it will come back to haunt you. For me it was the same time of day. I had my first panic at night and that's when I would get one. The next day the same feeling would rise, but the physical symptoms would be reduced, a miniature wave of panic that would echo the original, though not the full intensity. At the end of a wave you begin to feel positive again, like it's going to be ok. I view it as a poison bottle, the panic attack fills the bottle and the waves of panic every night after for days or weeks empties out some poison. The first night after a lot is emptied, so the next night is easier, and each night more until it is just a vague incling that those feelings exisit. Then you forget it and the bottle is empty. Dealing with the symptoms is important and developing the ability to know that a panic attack is just a panic attack is important. What's more important though, it being able to handle your adrenaline.

Adrenaline is like alcohol for me. You know how for some people drinking enhances their current mood? Like someone is happy and they drink until they are extatic, or they are sad and they drink until they are depressed and crying? Or even angry and drink until violent? Adrenaline is like that for me. If I'm in a normal mood and adrenaline emerges it helps me get stuff done that is urgent. If I'm not in a stable mood though, it can have a very bad effect. But really, that's now a thing of the past. I suppose its a bit of time and a bit of coping techniques but it all works out.

The point is, I hate the way that adrenaline can make it's way in when you don't have any reason to expell it. I have a deep hatred and anger for the doctors who caused the first panic attack which I really doubt would have come at all if not for them. I hate how the idea of doing exciting things like rollercoasters or even climbing walls still gives me the background feeling of panicy dread - not for the acceptable reason of the fear of the activity but for fear of the fear that adrenaline causes itself. I suppose we are all at odds with our bodies in some way and this is mine.

The reason I discuss this is because tonight I dealt with adrenaline in a completely normal way and I didn't even think about it until after it was done. I think that's the first time that the aura of panic that clouds the back of my mind has failed to existed. In the last few years I feel like a lot of my living has had the aim of getting back to where I was when I was 18 and life was totally in sync. I know that's rose tinted viewing now but I don't want the bad things that have happened to stop me from getting back to where I had advanced to before. One of these things was the adrenaline/panic attack issue and I think I may have gotten back on par tonight.

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