When Panic Attacks Feel Like You’re Fighting Yourself


It’s helpful to those who do not have panic disorder or have never experienced a panic attack to understand what the feeling of a panic attack is like. This is my individual experience of what a panic attack is like, not to say that every person experiences things in the same way:

A knot so small you barely know it’s there lies deep in the pit of your stomach.

Uncomfortable — yes.

Unbearable — no.

The knot is familiar because you live with the knot every day.

The knot is the annoying roommate who will not clean up the dishes, but nothing worth fighting over.

Continue to go about your life just like every other day.

A message on your phone, a thought, an email, an article, a word and suddenly like a finger on a gun, you’ve been triggered.

All coherent thought lost.

Breathing, barely. Crying, hysterically.

Crouching in a corner scared.

“Don’t come near me.”

You can’t do this.

Why don’t you understand?

They mutter things back, but my brain so full of fear and adrenaline that it cannot comprehend their words.

Suddenly, the spot that was fine a minute ago has become unsafe.

You want to be safe.

“How can I help you,” they ask.

You wish you knew.

You try and explain what you need, but words escape you.

Some get frustrated, some berate you.

You might yell back.

You might feel like you’re being attacked.

You might say nothing at all.

100, 99, 98, 97. Why?

Identify three things for each sense. Why?

Deep breaths. Why?

You know you’re trying your very hardest from every damn session you attended and every article you read looking for help.

None of it seems to work.

The pain in your chest intensifies and you wait for it to pass.

“Just stop,” they say, and suddenly you’re crying more.

You’ve become a concept that people cannot grasp.

A “freak show” in the window of a circus for passersby’s to question and point at.

You sit there and cry and question what you’ve become, but your inability to find words prevents you from shouting what you really want to say: “Stop it.

Everything is spinning.

You don’t even feel like yourself.

You’re talking without thinking.

Your heart is beating at an unhealthy rate.

Tears run down your cheeks.

All along just begging for it to end.

Your breathing slows.

You begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Your heart is still racing, adrenaline still pumping through your veins, but you know your strategies will work better now.

100, 99, 98, 97.

Heart rate a little slower.

Identify 3 things for each sense.

Color returning to your face.

Deep breaths.

You almost feel like yourself again.

Once it passes, the feeling is not over.

Suddenly the fear and misery has turned into regret and guilt.

Why did you say that?

Why can’t you be “normal?”

Do you choose to be this way?

Why is the medication not controlling this?

Why didn’t you take the pill this time?

How come your face is so hot?

Why does anyone bother dealing with you?

Aren’t you just bothering anyone who is in your life?

Will everybody judge you and treat you differently because of this?

You are the same person. Right?

It kicks in from the aftermath of what just happened.

It makes you want to lie in bed and never get up.

It makes you hate everything you are doing.

The guilt and pressure consume you.

You know they tried. You know they do their best.

But your aggression and anger toward your own inability has been destructive.

You apologize for days.

Or maybe you’re doing embarrassed to do it.

You think about the fact that: you knew it was growing, you knew it was emerging.

How did you let it happen?

You feel like you’ve walked out of a war zone on enemy grounds.

And you did.

But the enemy you’ve been fighting is you.

If you or someone you know is experiencing panic attacks, please know there is nothing wrong with getting help. People might not understand, but you deserve to feel comfortable and safe in your own skin.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Zooner RF


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