In the past, several people have asked me to explain to them what exactly happens when I have a panic attack. I’m not going to lie; this is a painful topic for me in more than one way. But I feel like I do need to address it in a more extensive manner than I have in the past.
I’m going to start by saying that panic/anxiety attacks are a little different for everyone. Yes, there are some commonalities between people’s experiences, but in essence we all have a unique view of them.
Since I have social anxiety, most of my panic attacks are brought on by negative social interactions or relational issues (i.e. friendships and other types of relationships). And because social anxiety consists of being wary of embarrassing myself in front of others or having people judging me, I tend to not want to have a full on panic attack in front of other people. Sometimes I can’t control it but most of the time I am able to exit the situation and get to what I consider a “safe space”. A place away from other people or at least away from most of them (not going to lie this tends to be the bathroom).
Now we’ve come to the big event. The grand shebang. The mother load we’ve all been waiting for. I’m going to be really honest with you all…panic attacks are terrifying. Just thinking about them scares the crap out of me. My worst panic attack happened when a friend of mine, someone that I trusted and admired, said something extremely hurtful to me for literally no reason at all. It was through a text message, mind you, and I was alone in my room when I read this text.
The first thing that happened was that I started to shake like a leaf. I could not control my body in any way whatsoever. My body was practically convulsing to the point where I began to sob. None of these delicate tears streaming down the young heroine’s face like it happens in movies, but big, messy, ugly tears. Then I couldn’t breathe. Just imagine that. Take one second and imagine what it feels like not to be able to breathe. If I had to compare it to something, I’d compare it to running for your life and then collapsing on the ground afterwards in absolute pain, gasping for just an ounce of air. My heart was pounding in my chest like a bird trying to escape through a closed window. I could not control the scope of my thoughts. My self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness towered over me and I could not escape them. Then it all stopped. Then it started again, this time a little less overpowering. This time I tried to fight for control. This happened over and over again throughout the course of several hours until I was finally so exhausted from the constant battle that I escaped into a dreamless sleep.
So now you know how serious they can be. They aren’t as trivial as they sound, nor are they easy to deal with. But I hope, if nothing else, that me sharing my pain has helped you in some way. To know that if you yourself get panic attacks, you are not alone my friend. You are not alone. Over and out.