Noun: A physical or mental breakdown.
Verb: (of a person) fall down and become unconscious as a result of illness or injury.
Origin: Early 17th century (as collapsed): from medical Latin collapsus, past participle of collabi, from col- ‘together’ + labi ‘to slip’.
Concerned and worried voices, questions, suggestions, someone or another pulling me about this way, then the other, my breathing hard and strained, too hot, dizzy, wedged in the narrow train corridor, hunkering down on the ground – the sudden realisation I must have fainted – but my body just didn’t want to respond. First they tried to stand me up, then decided to lay me down onto the floor, realising I was very hot and clammy, removing my coat, finally pulling me up onto a seat with my feet raised on someone’s lap.
I heard all the baffled conversations still going on, my poor boyfriend trying to explain himself in English to a loaded train full of worried Germans, all eager to help, trying to make them understand that I too was German and they could talk to me in their own language. Just I couldn’t make myself properly heard.
My breathing was still fast, sharp, laboured. My speech nearly inaudible, the words slurred, my eyes still simply didn’t want to open. Someone sprayed water in my face. Another wanted to give me biscuits to get my blood sugar up. I answered some questions with vague nods or shaking of my head. I was still gasping for air, the dizziness really not helping. My hands and feet were tingling and my nose and upper lip were strangely numb.
I was pushed, pulled, half carried off the train by what felt like everyone on the packed train carriage at the next stop and sat onto a bench at the station. I was a little less dizzy and communication became easier but I now started shaking and feeling quite cold and my eyelids were still too heavy to open them.
So my first ride in an ambulance and I didn’t see much, not even what the paramedics looked like. They strapped me into the seat, checked my vitals and blood glucose and told me to slow my breathing as I was hyperventilating – I actually didn’t realise I was breathing too much but thought I was keeping my breathing under control!
We had been on the way to meet friends and got onto the delayed overcrowded train with me already feeling stressed and overwhelmed from a week of visiting family and friends in different areas of the country, having driven over from the UK via ferry. My medication had been increased for the second time only a month earlier and quite frankly I was tired and exhausted on top of increased symptoms of anxiety and depression which the medication didn’t touch.
I could feel it getting too much for me on the train, standing squashed together in the corridor, nowhere to go, nowhere to hide – only half an hour, only half an hour, it won’t be long, it will be okay, just keep breathing, calm down, breathe – wherever I looked I saw faces and phone screens. Unfortunately I didn’t take my MP3 player with me to help me calm down.
Then I started to feel sick and worried what I would do if I had to throw up. My breathing increased, I got hot and started sweating, my legs began to feel shaky and then I could literally feel the blood drain from my face and you already know what happened next.
In the emergency department I was checked over again but nothing abnormal was found and after having had the opportunity to lie down for a while I started to feel better and was able to talk normally and finally even open my eyes. But I was left feeling as if I hadn’t slept for weeks, tired and mangled.
On day 52 I first mentioned the onset of panic attacks (read the post here), but until now I never actually fainted, and maybe I wouldn’t have if I have had another way of escaping. Since the physical escape wasn’t an option, my mind buckled instead. Fair enough.
Now, what I have learned from this experience, as well as what made my New Year’s resolution for 2018, is that I need to prioritise myself, look after myself and be kind and gentle to myself. As part of that I also made the decision to not travel to Germany this year for my annual visit. I have noticed over the past few years that it caused me more stress than it gave me opportunity to have my well earned annual leave and rest.
This incident made me realise that I don’t have to do anything but instead can choose what I do and don’t do based on whether something makes me happy or serves a purpose. And if it doesn’t make me happy but still needs to be done, well, then I will have to outweigh the advantages from the disadvantages.
But I can guarantee you that it won’t be that simple but I feel it is important for me to change my mindset in order to make the right decision for myself instead of doing something that I feel I should do albeit I mentally, emotionally and physically don’t feel up for it.
This I have clearly described to my family and friends in Germany in a detailed email and from the responses I had so far it was worth it. Not all of them had been aware of my struggles with anxiety and I confess that it was not always easy for me to talk about it, since until now I firmly believed if I pretend everything is just fine that it will indeed be just fine. Which I now realise is a dangerous Fata Morgana, projected by my very own mind, which has basically now told me that it can’t do that anymore. So off to another chapter, another year. Let’s see how many more days I will count on antidepressants.
Happy New Year everyone!
Day 597 written in retrospect for 16/12/2017.