I started having panic attacks the second the United Kingdom Border Agency put me in “detention” (jail) for the “crime” of applying for asylum. I had 20 to 40 panic attacks every day, but before I went to the UK, I had at most experienced two panic attacks per week. In fact, while the UK Home Office was illegally detaining me, the medical staff working for Geo Group diagnosed me as having panic disorder as a result of being locked in detention. I now believe that before being placed in jail, I had never had a panic attack. I have had anxiety attacks and they feel different than panic attacks and have a different biological mechanism.
The panic attacks were so severe that I did not care about anything else. I did not care about asylum–I only wanted the panic attacks to stop. I did not care about whether or not I would be homeless–I just wanted to get out of jail so the panic attacks would stop.
By the time I wrote the following letter, the UK government and Geo Group had taken my medical history multiple times and I had insisted that I meet with multiple nurses and doctors. They were fully aware of my medical conditions but they refused to treat my conditions properly. They explicitly said that they would not give me benzodiazepines under any conditions, for example, even though multiple other doctors had prescribed them for me. Furthermore, one nurse for Geo Group took my last alprazolam dose, told me she would give me a receipt for it (as required by law), did not give me any other medication to replace it, and never gave me a receipt for it.
One of the drugs they prescribed to “treat” my problems was a beta-blocker. Beta blockers slow the heart rate of the patient. The only benefit it could give to me was to treat one of the many symptoms of panic attacks. While my heart would not beat as quickly when I was on the beta blocker, I still felt all of the other symptoms, such as the mental distress of “fight or flight”. Even worse, before prescribing beta blockers, doctors are supposed to test the patient’s heart to make sure the drug will not cause heart failure: they purposely did not test me because it would cost money.
View the letter in PDF.