“My name is Madeleine. I’m a journalist and writer - and sufferer of panic disorder.
I had my first panic attack at 14 and at the time had no idea of what was happening, just that I was suddenly victim to alternating huge waves of unbridled terror, and the sensation of being engulfed in a darkness that I just couldn’t shake.
Many sufferers of panic develop safety behaviours they think will stop or at least help to attenuate subsequent attacks and I was no different. Agoraphobia (in my case in the form of a fear of being surrounded by people or in spaces where there is no escape) and emetophobia (a fear of vomiting, which has its root in social phobias) followed, and I spent years of my life planning exit routes when out, or spending hours battling nausea rather than living my life.
At its worst, I could only make it one or two streets from my house without feeling that something unspeakably awful would happen. Even thinking about wandering further afield would push me into threat mode. But there were and are also plenty of middle spells, where life just becomes a bit tricky.
Now, thanks to a holistic approach and great psychiatry, my life looks kind of normal. I go to work, I fly (sometimes great distances, which has been beyond me at times), I even get the tube across London without someone coming with me (this was truly impossible at one point). But that’s not to say it’s simple. I have bad days when I’m superstitious, finding patterns where there are really none, seeking out safety in random, inanimate objects like the good seat on the train, the lucky lipstick that I've never panicked while wearing. Of course, this is a burden, of course I'd like my life to be easier at times. But equally, I sometimes feel that the desperation of sad, long days of feeling mentally unwell have made me cherish the relatively healthy days all the more - and have unquestionably made me a better, kinder, more compassionate human.” 0