My heart is racing and it is pounding through me and pushing its way out of my chest. I can “see it” when my eyes are open, and can “hear it” when my eyes are closed. There’s something making my insides shake, and not a little bit, but like someone took their cellphone, put it on vibrate and shoved it inside my chest cavity.
I can feel myself breathing but I can’t seem to get any air into my lungs. I feel like something is pulling me down, and I’m drowning in water that isn’t even there. I can no longer feel my feet on the ground, but I know I’m not floating. I have never been so aware of my skin before, and I think I’m itchy. But it’s not itchy, it’s scratchy, like nails on a chalkboard.
There’s a voice in my head telling me that I’m dying. It is clear as a bell, and as loud as anything that I’ve ever heard spoken in my ear before. It has consumed me. It is winning.
Suddenly I’m sitting on my couch and I’m working out a plan. I know that I’m about to die but I can’t figure out the best place for that to happen. I go and get the telephone and finally decide to sit on the floor by the door and just wait. But then I realize that my kids would find me, so then the pounding and panic begin again. I don’t know what to do.
While all of this is happening, there’s another voice in my head speaking to me. It’s telling me I’m okay and that I’m not dying. It’s telling me to relax and calm down. It’s telling me that I’m fine. It’s reminding me to breathe and to not stop moving. It’s keeping me upright, but the strength of its voice isn’t strong enough to really be heard.
A blackness of unreasonable and irrational despair has taken over my brain, and I’ve become powerless to stop it. These words that make absolutely no sense, that have just shown up out of nowhere are starting to feel more real than the truths that I know are actually true. I have left my body.
This was me 5 days ago. The day I was supposed to die. It was the first panic attack that I’ve ever experienced, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the last. I am normally a very calm and rational person and it takes a lot to stress me out or even shake me a little bit. But this, this has been the worst fight of my life.
For me, it was brought on by a triple dosage of a strong steroid to fight an infection, so it will go away. But for the first time in my life, I have a small understanding of what my son lives through everyday, and my heart is broken. I am so sorry & ashamed for all of the times that I lost patience with him for being irrational and “crazy”. I had no idea what panic and anxiety really, truly was until that day last week. Why in the world did I think he could just ignore this?
I think of all of the friends and family members that I know that suffer with this. The many foster children and their siblings that get completely lost within their own heads. The people that the world has labelled as crazy and I want to cry. I want to find the words to help people understand what’s going on with them, but I don’t think I can. Instead, I give you my story and hope that it will help you see them in a different light.
If you’ve got people in your life that suffer from panic and anxiety attacks, please understand that they can’t help it. They can’t stop it. They can’t explain it and they most certainly can’t fix it. What they are feeling is very real, and it is all-consuming. They know it’s irrational, but they still can’t shut it off. They “know” that they’re safe, but they don’t “feel” it. Please hug them, hold them and let them feel your presence. Be patient with them, as your loved one is in there, they’re just struggling to find their way back out again.
Thankfully, I know that my journey into panic will be short-lived and that eventually it will go away. I know that I will find my way out of this fog, and that the old me will return. But for now, my insides vibrate and my tired brain is trying to convince me that I’m not okay. Even as I write this, I can feel my skin again and the worry is trying to fight its way back in. BUT, I know that one day soon, I will wake up and it will be gone. For now, I sit and I pray and wait for an end to this nightmare.
Today, I choose Life.
* PLEASE, If you are suffering through attacks like these on your own, please get help. No one deserves to live a life this way. Tell a friend, a loved one, your pastor, or a doctor. Just tell someone, as you do not need to get through this alone. We are going to be okay.