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What a Panic Attack 'Comedown' Feels Like


It’s 8 p.m. and I’m just coming down from a panic attack. My body has finally stopped shaking enough for me to get downstairs.

Sometimes, my panic episodes only last for a short while; other times, they can go on for hours, panic attack after panic attack. Tonight’s “moment” was 45 minutes.

While 45 minutes might not sound like a huge amount of time, it is when your whole body is violently shaking, you feel like the food you just ate may make a reappearance any minute, you’re burning up and freezing cold all at the same time, your heart is thumping, your chest feels like its bearing the weight of baby elephant and all the while your brain is talking at you at a million miles an hour. That’s just some of the symptoms I experience during these times.

What is just as unpleasant is the panic attack “comedown.” The aftermath. The moment of time when the panic has gone, but you are still recovering.

 Firstly, I am utterly exhausted. Not just tired and could use a nap, but completely wiped out.

You remember having to go swimming in your pajamas as a kid? And how heavy you felt getting out the pool in your soggy gear? That’s how I feel now. My limbs feel heavy.

My back and stomach are burning from being so tense for so long. My whole body hurts and aches. I have a lump in my throat I just can’t shift. My stomach feels like I’ve drunk too many liquids and then jumped up and down.

I’m cold, and I’m still not quite “with it.” My brain feels tired from all the constant chatter it’s been filling my head with. I can’t even begin to describe to you what happens to my thoughts when I’m in a moment of panic. It’s like having seven people try and tell you a different story at the same time. Only with lots of questions. Over and over again. Constantly.

Afterward, it’s like my brain needs some time to rest. It becomes hard to focus on things. It’s a miracle I’ve managed to write this much. I’ve looked at the clock three times, and I still don’t know what time it is.

But as I sit here, curled up in a blanket with a hot water bottle, I can feel both my body and my mind relaxing.

I’m OK. It’s over. Just rest.

It’s going to be OK.

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Thinkstock photo via Giulio Fornasar