Panic Attacks

About a third of us may experience a panic attack at some point in our lives. The symptoms vary with each person but will include a racing, pounding heart. Other symptoms may include tingling sensations, numbness, and hyperventilation.

A panic attack is a flaw in the flight or fight mechanism that enables us to respond to accidents, fire, an attacker, etc. Some find that they lose sense of time and place. However they are not dangerous inherently.

Too much caffeine may trigger a panic attack, or a flash back to a painful memory. Bullying may cause it, or a shock like bad news, witnessing a horrific crime, verbal abuse, being in crowd, fast beat music. It is a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Justin Feinstein Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist and director of the Float Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma says of panic attacks “It’s a normal physiological fear response happening at a totally inappropriate time.”

My aim here is to help anyone to end a panic attackWhen you feel your heart racing and your respiration increasing, put your hand with closed fingers over your mouth and nose. You can do this any place. You will then inhale carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide slows the heart down. Do it for about 20 seconds and repeat until your heartrate feels normal. Your breathing will slow down too. If people are near you, try to get their attention. It is best if you can sit.

If you are able keep your closed hand over your mouth until your heart is at a normal rate. You will not suffocate, normal air is drawn in through your fingers. A paper bag is ideal, but we don’t always have them to hand.

When your heart rate and breathing are normal, stay sitting until you feel calm and anxiety has passed. If you are going through a stressful time or if a panic attack comes out of the blue, please see your doctor.

You will now know how to help someone else. Note that plastic bags are not to be used ever. They may cause suffocation. A police officer handed me one once.

Published in PsychoLogically


I want to share this… CPTSD…

Most people are familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that results from a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster or car accident. But, there’s a closely related condition called complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) is becoming more widely recognized by doctors in recent years.

CPTSD results from repeated trauma over months or years, rather than a single event.

What Are the Symptoms of CPTSD?

The symptoms of CPTSD usually include those of PTSD, plus an additional set of symptoms. Oh how fun. We get additional symptoms!

Here are just a few symptoms of CPTSD, that I’ve experienced myself at times:

1. Reliving the traumatic experience

This can include having nightmares or emotional flashbacks. I have these.

2. Avoiding certain situations

You might avoid situations or activities, such as large crowds or driving, that remind you of the traumatic event. This also includes keeping yourself preoccupied to avoid thinking about the event. I definitely avoid crowds a lot and also even driving has been a trigger for me.

3. Hyperarousal

Hyperarousal refers to constantly being on-alert or jittery. For example, you might have a hard time sleeping or concentrating. You might also be unusually startled by loud or unexpected noises. I also call it hypervigilance. I have this symptom often. Even yesterday when babies were crying next to me at the bank, I felt extremely startled and it affected me.

4. Somatic symptoms

These refer to physical symptoms that don’t have any underlying medical cause. For example, when something reminds you of the traumatic event, you might feel dizzy or nauseated.

These are definitely not ALL the C-PTSD symptoms, but just four of them. I know without a doubt I suffer from these. Not always, but sometimes — which is also why this diagnosis can be complex. It’s important to know that symptoms of both PTSD and C-PTSD can vary widely between people, and even within one person over time. (Another complex thing!)

Sometimes people with CPTS are irrational too. Their thoughts and beliefs might not always match up with their emotions. They might know that, logically, they should avoid their abuser. However, they might also hold onto a sense of affection toward them.

What Causes C-PTSD?

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how traumatic stress affects the brain and leads to conditions like CPTSD. However, studies on animals suggest that trauma can have lasting effects on the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex.

These areas play a big role in both our memory function and how we respond to stressful situations.

Any type of long-term trauma, over several months or years, can lead to CPTSD.

However, it seems to appear frequently in people who’ve been abused by someone who was supposed to be their caregiver or protector.

My ex husband was a Vietnam vet (he himself had PTSD ). He stalked and threatened to kill me for many months before leaving me in a foreign country , South Africa, where I was singing in a show. This happened in 1996 but is still traumatizing to think about. He took all our money out of our joint bank account and left me penniless with no way to get home, to the U.S.

OH DING DING! So, THIS (according to my therapist) is considered a long-term trauma! Hence C-PTSD.

Even though in many war veterans (and in the fictional Jack Ryans case), they experienced physical trauma, emotional trauma is also a legitimate and real cause of C-PTSD.

Yes, this is a complex medical condition but I believe that the more we talk about it and bring it out of the shadows, the sooner we can come up with better solutions. I’m glad that trauma related disorders are finally getting the attention they deserve and that scientists are spending more time on researching them.

Maybe someday these trauma issues won’t be nearly as complex to understand. That’s my hope.



My article on…

View at


Trying to salvage the weekend…

I did go to the theatre last night, but was so disappointed that I left half through.

I got some food on my way. Mozzerella cheese to eat with caramelised onion. Some Skyrr – a high protein Icelandic yogurt. I also got some marzipan filled chocolates that I discovered recently. They remind me of Germany.

I ate the mozzerella with a glass of good red wine. Delicious.

This morning I got a text in relation to the anger spewed on me on Friday. It sent adrenalin through my body, with the subsequent pain, muscle spasms and anxiety. I replied with some information, and added that the text had made me highly anxious and I don’t expect this on a Sunday morning. So I got a second text which compounded my anxiety.

I told a friend which I soon regretted as he started telling me what I should have done instead so he is temporarily blocked until I feel better.

I wrote an article today which helped me focus and feel purposeful.

There is some technology I would like to have to reduce my general pain, anxiety etc. But it is expensive so I need to start a Go Fund Me page.

And I’ve realised that my medium page in here is not a link, as I had thought.


Yesterday was difficult for breathing…

We have had rain and milder weather. Damp air impedes my breathing. So, although yesterday started well, I later felt short of breath quite a bit.

The only thing I can do is use my inhaler. I am going to get a small dehumidifier. I can at least alter the atmosphere where I write.

I have had a chat with my GP about my appointment with Respiratory Medicine at the hospital. He approves that I went ahead with my course of steroids. The hospital will have to wait six weeks before they do tests, so that the steroids are out of my system. I am glad that I am a good self-manager, most of the time.

I have found myself much too warm, and much too cold. This is partly because of the steroids, and partly because I have a niggle of anxiety about the ‘specialist’ I saw, and his manner. Having gone against his instructions would not affect me if I did not have this neurological disease. It displays any anxiety in a physical way.

I also need to explore if anything I am eating is causing my shortness of breath. I am allergic to sheep’s cheese. I found out in the typical way, and have avoided it since. I have recently made changes to food I eat, so must check.

I am having a facial today. I can ill afford it, as I was presented with an unexpected utility bill from my previous provider. But I deserve it, so I will enjoy it.


About who I wanted to be…

I’ve written about what I have done with my life, but that is not what I set out to do. I never thought I would become a psychologist or work with an NGO. This all came from the cloth that was cut for me.

At school I did very well in English, French, and German. Despite having had German as my first language, because I was teased at school, both my sister and I did not want to speak German at home. I wish my mother had continued to speak German to us, even if we had replied in English. (I used to speak to my daughter in German when she was tiny and sing to her German lullabies and nursery rhymes.)

I loved learning and using languages. I was ‘top’ of the class in French and occasionally knocked to number two by the friend I sat with. We would pass notes in French between us. This often led to her collapsing in giggles, while I, having a dry sense of humour, would perhaps smile. It caused some quick thinking to give a reason for her giggles but sometimes she was able to turn it into coughing.

My rival at German, was a boy who also had a German mother, and his parents were loosely acquainted with mine. He was a little big headed but although he would never admit it, he was somewhat protective of me as I was the subject of much teasing and ridicule after my brain surgeries, because of my appearance.

So I was very shocked when my mother refused to let me stay to do Sixth Form ‘A’ level English French and German. My sister had done Sixth Form at college where she did a pre-nursing course and went on to fulfil hr dream of becoming nurse.

I had dreamt of going on to do a degree in modern languages and become a translator, maybe with the Foreign Office or a holiday rep overseas, or possibly teach ‘A’ level languages.

My mother told me I had to get a ‘profession’, a paid job, as she was not going to support me through two more years of school. I was devastated. A profession would need sixth form at least. So I found a job at the Head Office of an international branch of a well known bank, and put myself through college one day a week. It was Business Studies, but got me an HND, even if it was a long way from my ambition.

Day-release at college is no easy ride. You do the same amount of work as a full time course. Many in my class did not return for the second year. It was hard work. I remember once I fell asleep at my desk, and woke to find my face on my work book, the lecturer saying my name and apart from that dead silence. The lecturer was not compassionate, but making jokes about me. I didn’t care, though I was embarrassed. If I had to burn the candle at both ends, I was determined to get the qualification.

One of the guys with whom I worked, would sometimes let me crib his homework when I’d struggled with maths. I have a phobia around maths, as I was once good at it, and after missing two and a half years of school while I was very very ill, had brain surgeries, and some recovery, I was put back in the top set. Of course, I struggled and failed and was utterly humiliated. To this day I can’t do anything except the most basic maths in front of another person without anxiety, stress and mistakes.

After I had worked at the bank for four years, I decided to go and work with an NGO that a housemate had gone to. This would be my work for three years, visiting five countries and seeing unnecessary poetry, disease and death. I was also involved with pastoral care for those around me, and felt a degree of frustration in my ability to give the right support. Then I heard about an opportunity in southern California, where I could attend lectures at USC and after certain amount of time and enough credits, would be able to work with a certified recovery programme. This was in Alta Loma, where by weird coincidence one of my great poet contacts lives, Frank Mundo. He believes in me as a writer and poet, and he rocks.

So that is how I came to be a psychologist. I discovered I had enough credits to have gone half way though a Masters when the accredited link with the place I was working at folded, but by looking for a tutor I was able to write my Doctorate.

During this time I was a counsellor, and an assistant house-parent. I loved it when I was de-facto houseparent especially, as I could feel the love of the people I was responsible for. They would change the oil in my car for me, they would like it if I was on meal prep with them. And some of them would always come to sit where I was, whether in the house or outside. When I was assistant or deputy, I would take a group to have frozen yoghurt, or to the video/DVD rental shop. I would organise car washes to raise money for someone who had a particular need, or to buy sports equipment for the house. I was always on the lookout for fun recreational activity that would not be to competitive individually. When you are responsible for people recovering from addiction, PTSD, people with various mental illness diagnoses, there is need to stay with team sports. I was very dismayed when I played baseball for the first time, having loved rounders, that the diamond was gritted, not grass, and my sneakers were not suitable and I slipped.

There are people who still stay with me. A man who was silent and had frozen his fingers off because of his shame of masturbating. A recovering alcoholic who asked me to go with him to an AA meeting and I said he should go alone. A woman who walked into the kitchen, announced she had taken 40 tablets and was going to to lie down. I told her no, put salt in a glass, added water, made her drink it, and go 2 of the most reliable residents to walk her around the garden while I phoned the Sheriff. Another woman would eat a pack of 12 bagels in the night and then be in agony because she did not purge. We had to have a lock put on the food store and make sure the fridges did not contain anything she could binge on. Locking them was not a good option as the climate is so hot and dry and cold drinks needed to be available.

I have a memory of coming to the house and finding the original houseparent talking to a bathroom door, saying ‘if you want to commit suicide, go somewhere else’. I emptied the drawers of kitchen knives, and hid them in our hiding place.

There were occasions when I had to wing it. Two kids set a fire in the garden. I thought I heard rain, but it was 10 ft flames. I had to call the fire service and organise the most mentally able to soak the lawn between the house and fire with a hose in the hope of containing the fire until the truck arrived.

I had a tiny office which was really a walk in closet. When things got on top of me I would go and sit on the floor with the door shut. I would breathe deep and slow, and pray. I would pray for inner peace, pray for each of those in my care, I would pray for wisdom, I would ask the Holy Spirit to come into the house.


Finding the balance…

This local avenue of trees illustrates symmetry, a form of balance. I am still on my search of not exhausting myself whilst enjoying my day, with allowances for the unexpected.

Yesterday, my inhaler ran out and I did not have a replacement in the house. So some lapse of management on my part. I phoned the pharmacy and my doctor and then realised that waiting would only allow anxiety to creep in. So I set out on my trolley on a circuitous route, which took me a part of my neighbourhood I had not ventured in before. I enjoyed this and my plan was to reach our High Street at the ‘bottom’ so that I could book a hair appointment. Success with that. Then I remembered I need some cash, but I hadn’t brought my purse so I did some window shopping in a store as I’m in need of a thing in which to hide my spare key. Nothing. I eventually reached the pharmacy and they had just ‘reminded’ my doctor’s practice to sign a script so I meandered to the practice. On seeing me, the receptionist typed urgent messages to the doctor and I had the script within fifteen minutes. It was filled within another fifteen minutes.

I thought my friend was coming to eat with me so I rested when I got home, knowing we could put a meal together quickly. She was at home having cooked for us there and finally sent a text saying she was worried about me. So I went and we had a wonderful meal that she had cooked, complete with dessert. I became very aware of how tired I was and asked that she walk me home, which she gladly did. She locked my door and then I realised I had no energy to walk back to switch off my kitchen light so called out to ask her to do it. She is learning about my diagnosis as I am learning to manage it.

A wonderful evening closed a busy day with unexpected events. I need to use foresight much more in my self management. What tools do you use? What occurs in your life that can put a spanner in the works?


Still asking for responses to managing difficulties…

When I encounter someone with a problem they find hard to manage, I ask how they can break it into ‘bitesize’ pieces. One lady found it hard to do her vacuuming, so eventually she decided to vacuum one room at a time.

With my breathing problems, I need to sit often and stay calm. I have always enjoyed gardening, but now I must use patio planters and pots, though a small flowerbed I made with help is flourishing. I am filling it with perennials in shades of blue, purple, pink, and white with a bit of ivy to trail out. It will jostle with flowers from early spring through summer. But now, new neighbours have been making a nuisance by drilling holes into public land to hold their back gates open. (What happened to wanting some privacy?) This has affected my access through my gates, deliveries, collections, tradesmen etc. Sam, my lovely friend, hurt her back by having to close their gate nearest to me so she could take some paving slabs.

So I am less relaxed in my garden on my own, and today after I had planted two plants I was hearing my neighbour making lots of noise in their garden and my chest became tight. I had to go to my doctor’s practice to be nebulised. My doctor asked if I had any anxiety, and when he returned to me I told him about my neighbours . He expressed his dismay and incidentally suggested a new medicine that helps prevent allergies exacerbate inflamed lungs.

I am a good self manager, I just need an intervention now and then and more in summer.

How do you manage your stresses? Do you have good strategies or are you still looking for new ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts please.