The Anatomy of a Panic Attack
Your throat closes up and your chest tightens as you gulp and pant for oxygen. Your body gets hot and sweaty, but you shiver like you are ice cold. Your vision is like looking through an unfocused camera lens; fuzzy and narrow. Your legs turn to jello and feel as though they will let you down at any second. Your stomach flips and flops and threatens with waves of nausea. Everything you hear is muffled, like a coffee grinder is running in the background, loud and overwhelming. You know you are dying as you lose control of your mind and body.
This is a panic attack, or at least what my panic attacks feel like.
It's impossible to explain to someone who's never had one. It's something you have to feel to understand how utterly terrifying they are. They are completely crippling and draining. It takes a physical toll on the body to come down from one and sometimes an even harder tax on the mind to overcome.
To me, one of the most difficult things is you experience them in silence. It's probably difficult for anyone else to tell I'm having a panic attack. I probably look a little zoned out, but I'm not collapsing on the ground into the fetal position or convulsing like I'm having a seizure. I'm quietly locked in my own mind and body as they rebel against me. It's my own personal, private prison.
I'm absolutely terrified of having a panic attack. I'm worried I will do something that makes people stare at me or think I'm crazy. I'm scared of that feeling of death. I obsess over them to the point where I cause them simply from thinking about them. I avoid things I know will set them off. I've removed myself from countless social situations or get togethers with friends because of my fear. It's a miserable, unexplainable way to live. I know I've lost friends and opportunities because of it. I know people have felt hurt or mad when I've backed out of things, even though it's not personal. I've been called a bad friend and been told I'm missing out on life.
While I am fully aware of these things, it doesn't change my truth. I'm doing the best I can every day to survive and I've become happy with that. It's a constant battle and I know it always will be no matter how much therapy or medication I take. Although, both have certainly helped. I'm forever thankful to those who have battled with me, shared their stories, or stood by me as a reassuring presence even though they might have not understood. I've been blessed to have a support system I can lean on and be open with. That said, I am always open to be another's support. It's a shitty, difficult thing to talk about, but I'm here to listen.