The first panic attack is a little like first love: “you never forget it!”
It was the middle of the night, and suddenly I woke up. Anxiety and palpitations attacked me and took over my entire body. It was totally dark and I turned on the small light on the night table. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Then all at once came a cold sweat, a feeling of constriction in my chest, palpitations that increased more and more…
I was afraid, I was really afraid that I would die!
I couldn’t get my breath, my lungs were not large enough to contain enough oxygen, and a thousand thoughts went through my head. I was totally confused, and I ran to my parents to get help. I was certain that, within a short time, I would be dead of a heart attack.
The trip to the hospital was prompt. We went there in short order. The doctors told me that the panic attack was caused by stress and probably had a psychological origin.
The diagnosis was made: I was an “imaginary invalid” and with this conviction, I returned home.
From then on the same thing repeated itself nearly every night. For this reason I began to ask myself: how do I deal with an “imaginary illness”?
Going head in reading you will realize that the imaginary ilness wasn’t imaginary at all.
Beginning to read about it we would understand that there was little that was imaginary about it. The ailment that gripped me was more real than you think.
It wasn’t an illness brought on by stress (nor was it imaginary), but rather it was a true and valid illness, an illness that has the same value as other illnesses, considered worthy of being dealt with in a serious way.
A true illness! But one which the world has called “HYPOCHONDRIA.
But one thing, which like Andy I never lost in all these years, is hope. As he himself stated: “Fear can keep you a prisoner, hope can set you free.”
Thus I found myself, at the age of 24, on the edge of madness and pain, with a wrecked back, spending my days in bed and vomiting into a basin next to me as soon as I put something into my stomach.
I would like to have you understand the state of my mind.
By now, I had found myself for a good while, from 18 to 24 precisely, in this continual downward spiral made up of disability and strange symptoms. I was in total desperation, as I had seen every sort of medical specialist, and truly, it seemed there was no more hope.
All the doctors “of course” told me over and over again that it was an illness with a psychological cause, and that I needed to consult a psychologist. And I can tell you that I did visit many of them, truly a good many, among the psychologists and psychiatrists. I underwent various types of therapy, but I derived no benefit from them. I got no benefit from them because the cause of the illness was not the one that had been diagnosed. It was like repairing an electrical installation with a funnel.
Because of all this my family situation wasn’t the best, as it wasn’t easy to explain the illness that I had; it wasn’t easy for people to understand. There weren’t just a few arguments, for this reason.
My father and I cursed each other out many, many times, just for this reason. The same thing happened with my mother, with my aunt and even with my granny. My life had become hell.
In other words, it was a paradoxical situation, wherein I had a “real” illness, quite severe, that was consuming me day after day and in spite of which I had no credibility. I was considered to be the same as a hypochondriac. That was the limit!
I almost reached the point of convincing myself that something in me was totally wrong. I was afraid I was a freak of nature, was genetically impaired or programmed for suffering, all the more so as others did not see anything wrong with me. The only thing that was clear to everyone was that I suffered from anxiety and hypochondria.
These feelings of distress were heightened by the fact that all the doctors I had seen were in agreement with the diagnosis. It was truly hard to bear the fact that I was a hypochondriac, particularly as I didn’t feel myself to be one!