What It Really Feels Like to Lose Control During a Panic Attack


This piece was written by Kendra Syrdal a Thought Catalog contributor.

It feels like stopping. It feels like that record scratch moment in comedic movies where everything freezes and there’s a close up, usually at unflattering angle, of someone’s face and they’re trying to explain in a run-on sentence (not unlike this one) how exactly they got here. Only there isn’t anything funny. And there isn’t anything to laugh at. And there isn’t even really an explanation. There’s just you and your heart palpitations, trying to make everything stop spinning.

Sometimes my fingertips go numb. In a way I legitimately can’t explain. It’s like when you knock your funny bone, or sit on one foot for too long. But it’s exponentially less curable. And instead of being localized, it radiates through my fingers, my arms, my shoulders, my chest, my torso, my stomach, my thighs, my shins, my toes, before reverberating back up and making my brain vibrate in a way I can only describe as, “Not OK… not OK at all.” Sometimes I can’t even taste when it’s happening. Coffee, water, wine, chocolate, another person. It all blends together in an inexplicable way because I’m so removed from my own body.

It’s fight or flight — and I’m definitely not involved in the decision making.

It feels like vibrating in the least fun way I could possibly describe. I’m the rubber band that was snapped and I haven’t settled yet. I’m just existing. Tense. Tight. Pulled. Waiting until I am able to exhale and relax and stop holding myself taught. I overanalyze every word that comes out of my mouth. I can hear the tension between each syllable. I know other people can too and I feel like they’re judging me for it. I feel like they hate me for it. It feels like they don’t get it and explaining it wouldn’t make sense, it would make it an excuse. I hate the idea of being an excuse.

It feels like failure. It feels like losing control over the most base level thing: myself. It feels like an out of body experience in which I’m watching myself flail and spiral and become this completely inept version of myself with absolutely no way of intervening. So I sit there, bile bubbling at the back of my throat while I try to appear OK, attempting to preserve the illusion of “normality.” The facade of fine. The ruse of “alright.”

Even though I’m not.

I’m not, I’m not, I’m not.

And I’m not sure when I’ll feel otherwise.

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Thinkstock photo via berdsigns.


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