Just thought I would share a story with you from last year.
It was interesting to read the latest Anxious Times and the focus on travel. My most severe panic attack came one time on a long train journey from Falmouth in Cornwall to Stafford. I had been down in Falmouth to visit the Exeter Uni campus there to discuss with a lecturer about doing a Masters degree; either side of this I'd had a look round the campus and Falmouth itself. The train journey down was long but ok, I was feeling on edge but somehow I managed to control the 'what if' thoughts that were trying to dictate the experience.
However, on the journey back I had just got on the train at Falmouth to go to Truro and I suddenly got all of the physical symptoms of a panic attack; hot, numb hands/feet, heart racing etc etc. I’d felt all this before, but the thought of being alone, no safety nets, stuck on a train with another 9 hours of my journey to go. The problem is, my health anxiety had kicked in at the same time, which meant I was in constant fear of a heart attack, a persistent bug-bear of mine. I got off the train at Truro and nearly collapsed literally whilst stepping off the train. I had to get help from the guards at Truro although I wasn't sure why - deep down I knew I wasn't having a heart attack but somehow I just needed some form of comforting.
I knew the only thing to solve this was to get on the next train (I think Truro to Taunton) because getting home was the only thing that would stop it. The panic state lasted for the whole 9 hours; I think the longevity of it was the most difficult thing to take. I got home and spoke to my best friend who was fairly helpless; I put him in a difficult position calling him up at 11pm to effectively cry over the phone. I was so exhausted I actually managed to go to sleep, but woke up a few hours later still in a panic state. Luckily, when I woke up the next morning it had subsided. I felt exhausted, shaky and run down having gone though probably over 12 hours of panic in one session. I'd had hundreds of panic attacks in the past but nothing quite like this.
But this one night changed two things:
1) My life for the next few months, for the worst. My panic disorder was horrendous and it turned out I couldn't travel anywhere without suffering a panic attack, not great when you're going to meetings for work.
2) My life in the longer term, for the better. It made me take action via CBT and since I completed numerous sessions things have started to look up... things are still a battle but compared to a year ago the horrible moments of March 25th 2011 have been buried, at least, to an extent. Travelling by train has been difficult, health anxiety is still prominent but things are a lot clearer in my head than they were. It made me re-evaluate what I was doing - needless to say, I'm not doing the Masters...
I suppose my message to others who experience anxiety and panic attacks is not to let this sort of huge event happen before getting help. The warning signs had been there for me for many years but I constantly pushed them into the shadows for them all to be released in one go.