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The Uncommon Panic Attack Symptom We Don't Talk About

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Anyone who has experienced a panic attack knows it is one of the most terrifying and physically exhausting things a person can experience. People talk about the common symptoms a lot: hyperventilating, chills, shaking, crying, disassociating, feeling like you’re going to die, sweating, etc. But one of the less common symptoms is one of the absolute worst for me — throwing up.

For me, this isn’t nausea or anything. During my most severe panic attacks, I can’t breathe. I still experience most of the other symptoms — I shake a ton, I cry, I get chills, and I hyperventilate what seems like 100 miles a minute. But because I’m hyperventilating so much, I just cannot get enough air into my lungs. So, I end up choking and coughing, and then I feel it. That feeling right before you throw up. Your mouth starts to water a ton, and you can just feel it coming. And I run to the sink because it’s the closest thing to me, still shaking, and I vomit. And I’m still coughing and hyperventilating, my legs are crumbling beneath me. And I’m just talking to myself at this point, whispering, begging myself to hold on, “Come on, come on girl, you got this. Breathe, you gotta breathe, come on, just breathe. It won’t always be like this, I promise you. I promise you that you’ll get out of this. I promise. Come on, just breathe, please calm down. Please. Come on, please.”

And then it comes again, and my head is on the side of the sink, tears welling up in my eyes from throwing up again. I stumble back down to the floor, shivering and shaking, trying to calm myself down. I’m rubbing my arm and legs, trying to get myself to stay still. And for a little bit, I’m OK. I take some deep breaths. I stand back up. I look in the mirror: my hair is a wreck, my face is stained with tears, my body is exhausted. I start crying again and the process just repeats. I’m hunching over the sink, wondering how there is even anything else left to throw up. My stomach hurts from all of this and I just want it to stop. But, it won’t.

Sometimes this goes on and off for up to two or three hours. But, the aftermath is not much better either. The depression sets in deep and the exhaustion from fighting yourself is unexplainable. And no one understands why you’re so tired, but your stomach is now empty, you feel so weak, you’re scared to eat anything, you’re scared of it happening again, and your brain just needs a break from this.

Whether you throw up during your panic attacks or not, they are awful to experience and I am so sorry to anyone who has to deal with them. When I’m alone, it is so incredibly difficult to get it under control by myself. I try to talk myself down and breathe, but it’s not something anyone should have to do alone. It’s hard to reach out, it’s so so hard to reach out in those moments, but I promise you it’s worth it. People need people, and that’s OK.

Getty Images Photo via Berdsigns

Originally published: February 19, 2018
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