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When Nurses (Wrongly) Said My Severe Physical Symptoms Were 'Just a Panic Attack'

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The use of four letter words can sometimes be a stress reliever. But I have recently discovered a new word that causes a visceral reaction when it is directed at me!

This word can be used as a verb, a noun, an adjective and as a name of an illness. When I hear it in any one of these forms I start to feel distressed. I feel judged, not listened to, disrespected and belittled. My new special four-letter-type word is “panic.”


The way this has been applied to me while I have been hospitalized over this week has included:

1. “Panic attack” – This is a new illness being diagnosed and ascribed, e.g. “Calm down, you are just having a panic attack – there is nothing wrong with you!”

2. “Panicking” – This is the verb form that is being used to describe what I am supposedly doing, e.g. “You are just panicking.”

3. “Panicky person” – This is labeling me, akin to telling me I am a hypochondriac! “You are making yourself sick by being a panicky person.”

4. “Panic” – The noun, as in, my behavior is causing me to get into this state. “You are just in a panic.”

You see, my lungs collapsed during an operation to replace my knee this week. I was in very serious trouble! Since then, my asthma has been all over the place. I spent two days in intensive care and another 48 hours on oxygen. Since being moved onto the ward, two particular nurses have used these labels of “panic” and “panic attacks” and “panicking” without first looking at the situation and context. This has caused very significant emotion.

This totally denies my reality! It really is a form of bullying. That word “panic” has started to hold very negative and very strong emotional connotations for me. It has become a new “four-letter-type word” that causes an automatic response in me. There is anger, frustration, fear, hurt, impotence all raging around in my body along with all the drugs that have been used to keep me alive! I think I have enough on my plate without having to deal with these plain nasty comments and uninformed and unsolicited opinions.

Fortunately, I was operated on by an amazing surgeon with a wonderful anesthetist who saved my life. On hearing what was being said to me by two members of the nursing staff, they reassured me of what really was happening, what reality was! It wasn’t panic! It was lung collapse and broncho-spasm. I nearly didn’t make it through. So, my body has been through hell. I am still having broncho-spasms and they are not panic attacks.

If only people would think about the impact of their words before uttering them! It is not the time for labeling, judgment or humiliation when someone is vulnerable and very ill. There actually isn’t a right time to do this sort of thing to anyone!

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This post originally appeared on NanoStockk.

Originally published: September 29, 2017
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