For people who've never had a panic attack, I've got to assume the name of it sounds kind of... lame. I mean, we all have moments of panic. "Did I leave the car running?" "omg, my child just bolted into the road!" "I'm totally going to get fired." But none of those are panic attacks. The Mayo Clinic's website says,
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.That's the basic gist. But what does it really feel like? This is what it feels like.
I'm doing something pretty normal, but overall it's probably either a stressful day, like a day where I visit a doctor, have to do a performance evaluation, or pack for a vacation. I start to feel off, I know something's not quite right. I'm getting tingly. The tingling numbness creeps up my neck and all over my face, seeping into my head. I feel dizzy. I think maybe I didn't eat enough today and grab for whatever's at hand. A piece of candy, a handful of crackers. My head is feeling fuzzy so I sit down.
|View from an abating panic attack.
Although sometimes a small part of me thinks of seizures or heart attacks, I know better. I know it's a mounting panic attack when my heart starts beating harder. Not fast really, just... hard. Like the heartbeat in the background of a horror film. The panic is raising in my throat, pressing on my chest. I'm already starting to get scared. No, no, not again, not now, not here. The right medicine right now might cut it off here, bring the crescendo back down. But even the right medicine doesn't always work.
I don't want to move, but it's impossible to sit still. I want to be frozen but somehow my body just won't listen. I pace. I lash out. If I try to hold it all in I twitch. Then the tears come. Broken dry cries. Weak angry shrieks break through, while my brain screams shut up shut up shut up. I can't really cry a real cry, something that may be cathartic. It all gets caught in my throat and in my head.
I get angry. At this feeling, at myself, at anybody. I want it to end. I want to smash my skull in and make it end. Sometimes I can't hold back and I pound my head with my fists, or hit it on the floor. Just enough to hurt. It feels like relief for a moment to have physical pain.
I crave physical pain. Cuts, burns, bruises. Then that scares me more and I stare at my shelf filled with pill bottles. I could take them all. I could end it forever. But I don't. Real tears come now. Slow, sad tears. Now I can lie still and cry and breath and wait for it all to be over. And eventually it ends. It always does. And I'm tired. But I'm still here, and with my sanity coming back, and my head clearing, I'm grateful. It's always stops eventually.
Until next time.