I walked from my last full-time job in 1999 because I was suffering from stress and panic attacks.

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Christine says:

"I walked from my last full-time job in 1999 because I was suffering from stress and panic attacks. I still don't feel in a position where I could go back out to work so I totally understand how you feel.

I've done the following: -

Counselling - this did help

Hynotherapy - I felt immediately better but the feeling soon wore off

I tried lower paid and less stressful jobs but it was the little things I found stressful. I worked for the Post Office entering the incoming mail onto a database and the work wasn't a problem at all. My problem was the breaks, health & safety regulations meant you had to take a 10 minute break every 50 minutes (or something like that) and it was the walk to the canteen which troubled me more than anything. The mind plays funny tricks on you and it is the silly things that become a big issue in life. I had a thing about making my son's packed lunch, it seemed like the biggest obstacle in the world. I had some really awful panic attacks throughout the summer of 1999 and I can't remember an awful lot about that year. I still get them occasionally but I accept them, I think because I don't attach so much importance to them any more things have improved.

I just tell people openly what my problem is these days and because the attacks are decreasing all the time I don't have reason to tell so many people now.

What surprised me when I talked openly about this to people was the amount of people that also suffer from them. People I have respected because they always seem so "together" have admitted to me they have them, and I respect them all the more for their honesty.

You need to cut out alcohol and caffeine, get lots of sleep, and avoid anywhere with strong flourescent lighting, e.g. supermarkets. Go to your doctor and ask for counselling, it is hard going but these people are trained to help people with panic attacks. They know the right questions to ask and you will be surprised, with me there were issues going on in my head that I wasn't even aware of. Now they are out in the open I feel so much better and I am more accepting of things.

On the Dragon's Den programme the other night there was a man who was talking and he suddenly stopped and said "deep breath" or something and then had to start what he was saying again, that is me all over. The thought of meeting some of the people on here fills me with terror, yet I know I don't come across that way. Don't be fooled by appearances, there are many people in this world who are fighting the same battles you are.

Because I walked out of my job and gave up a 25k salary we had £300 more going out than coming in each month for nearly a year. In that year I wrote a book, that is one of the most therapeutic things I have ever done. I found my way back into the work place eventually when I saw an advert for homeworkers in a local shop and now I supervise about 10 other homeworkers. My boss knows all about my panic attacks (he had a friend who had similar problems) and he has been nothing but supportive. Honesty is the best policy in my opinion, if people accept you warts and all then there is nothing to be afraid of.

I strongly advise you go for counselling, they can help you take a step back from your problems. I do this thing where I pretend I am like Worzel Gummidge and have spare heads and when I feel a panic coming on I put what I endearingly call my "bo*l*cks" head on. Everyone probably thinks I am completely mad now but it really does work!

My mind felt like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces muddled up, the counsellor helped me take the pieces out and put them back in the right places. I couldn't do this myself because there were pieces of the puzzle which I didn't even know existed, and I needed to find a place for them as well.


Stuart replies:

"Counseling is indeed extremely effective. I knew someone who was very adverse to counseling after the death of their Father. Any mention of counseling led to a very extreme reaction and lots of shouting! Which was very unlike this person.

They felt that they should be able to cope with the situation on their own and why should they need to just go and talk to someone.

I tried several times from various angles to broach the subject for about 2 years but to no avail, the person was still grieving and was stuck at anger.

Then I looked at the situation and decided to try a completely different approach.

The person in question used to be an engineer so (after a bit of preamble) I asked the following.

Me: "If you had a job that required a certain tool but you didn't have the correct tool what would you do?"

Him: "Either buy it or make it" (Toolmakers, bloody know it alls!, but I digress!!!)

Me: "Say you couldn't make it because you didn't know how to or didn't have the skills?"

Him: "Well, I'd probably buy one"

Me: "How would you buy one?"

Him: "I'd phone someone up or call a supplier"

Me: "So you'd ask someone to supply you with the correct tool?"

Him: "Yes"

Me: "You'd ask someone to help you get the right tool? But you'd know how to use it right?"

Him: "Probably, if not then they could show me."

Me: "You've just described what a counselor does"

We then had a bit of a discussion about this but essentially I had suddenly realised that this person was more afraid of the unknown quality of counseling than living with the anger.

And I think that is a good description of what a counselor does, they give you the tools to help sort out the problems you have, and show you how to effectively use them.

Talking is really useful, it helps to externalize the internal "pressure" and lets others offer you advice. If you are adverse to having counseling I would say that that, in and of itself, merits further investigation. OK none of us like the thought of unknown strangers meddling with our lives, but we all go to the Docs when we have a physical problem (OK we may put it off a bit if it's embarrassing, blood clot in a vein in the rectum sir? Oh yes, that was one of my least enjoyable two days in hospital, but again I digress) so why not go sort out a mental problem with one who is qualified to help. I think it boils down to the Taboo of mental heath, but hey, I went "mad" once and I'm still here to tell the tale, in fact I tell everyone and anyone who asks! I don't think many people get to "old bones" without experiencing some kind of mental "trauma" I think the lucky ones are the people who learn how to cope with it, whether you need help coping or not is irrelevant, the end result is the same.


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