If Your Panic Attack Makes You Feel Like You’re Dying, Read This
Everything will be OK.
I remember my first panic attack. I was a sophomore in college, minding my own business in the back of the classroom, listening to the professor review for our upcoming exam. I went from a typically functioning hardworking student to a fear-stricken helpless victim in the matter of a fraction of a second. I was fully aware of the 29 other people in the classroom, and fully aware of my hands shaking uncontrollably. I felt trapped in my own body and had the urge to scream. I didn’t know why this was happening to me. I didn’t want the other students to notice my short breath and my trembling. I sat at my desk telling myself over and over: “I’m about to die.” Eventually, my panic ended and everything was OK.
I remember the panic attack I had on the day I insisted my father take me to the emergency room. There was a shooting pain in my chest and sweat dripping from my face. When I tried to say words out loud, they only came out as stutters and I couldn’t form sentences. When we were in the car, I told my distressed father that I was about to die and that I loved him. I sat in the ER waiting room shouting to be seen by a doctor because I was dying. They gave me oxygen, and my panic eventually ended. Everything was OK.
I remember the panic attack I had while driving and had to pull over on the highway. I was driving home from my boyfriend’s house when I started having trouble breathing. All of a sudden, my face and hands went numb and I felt like I was losing control of my vehicle. I pulled over onto the shoulder and tried to call my boyfriend, but I couldn’t hold my phone steady and my vision became blurred. I frantically waved my arms to the strangers driving 70 mph past me, hoping someone would help me because I was going to die. A police officer pulled behind me shortly after. She didn’t know how to help me and agreed that I may possibly be having a heart attack. She directed me to sit in the back of her car, then poured a bottle of water down my head and called for back up help. The ambulance came shortly after and checked my breathing. They assured me I was not dying, and my panic eventually ended. Everything was OK.
I remember the panic attack I had the day I was supposed to be in the baseball stadium with my boyfriend and his family. We were at the bar beforehand, when all of a sudden I felt a flicker in my chest. I ran outside when darting pain overcame the left side of my whole body. I was going to die. I was sure I would faint. My boyfriend prompted me to focus on my breathing and tried reassuring me I was safe. He didn’t understand that I was dying. I collapsed on the sidewalk with both hands wrapped around my neck. The baseball game was half over now. I hated myself for being the reason my boyfriend was missing the game with his family. I hated myself for lying on the streets of Baltimore, crying for help. But I couldn’t help it; I was dying. Slowly I got up and made my way to the stadium. With one inning left, my boyfriend held my hand and offered forgiveness and acceptance. My panic eventually ended. Everything was OK.
I remember the panic attack I had at work. I was in the bathroom when I started to feel nauseous. My heart started pounding out of my chest, and I yelled for someone to get my boss. Two of my co-workers escorted me to my boss’ office because I was having trouble walking. I laid on the floor, ashamed and disgusted for the professionals I admire so deeply to be seeing me this way. I laid cradled under a desk as I profusely repeated “fuck” while checking my pulse. My supervisors rubbed my back and insisted that I drink water until I calmed down, which I did. My panic eventually ended. Everything was OK.
I remember the panic attack I had on St. Patrick’s Day, sitting across a booth from two best friends. I felt dehydrated and dizzy. I was certain I was going to have a seizure. My chest began to throb and tears rolled down my face. I took two walks outside and tried to calm down before I became a “burden” to my friends. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. I came back to the booth where my concerned friends waited for me. They told me, “don’t focus on the ‘what ifs,” and assured me I would not have a seizure. I talked to them about my anxiety, and they listened. My panic eventually ended. Everything was OK.
I remember the panic attack I had at the movies. I remember the panic attack I had while I was taking a walk. I remember the panic attack I had while I was listening to music in bed. I remember the panic attack I had when I couldn’t find my keys. I remember the panic attack I had when I got my first traffic ticket. I remember all the panic attacks I’ve had at music festivals and concerts. I remember the panic attacks I’ve had at all the restaurants. I remember all the panic attacks I’ve had while I was driving. I remember all the panic attacks I’ve had in front of my friends. I remember all the panic attacks I’ve had in front of my co-workers. I remember all the panic attacks I’ve had in front of family.
I remember all my panic attacks and I remember all the people who have helped me through them.
I have survived every panic attack I’ve had so far and I will survive more. My panic will eventually end, and everything will be OK.
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