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When Panic Attacks Convince You You're Dying

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Foggy vision. Burning pain. Shallow breathing. I can’t walk. Heart palpitations. I’ll never get through this. Heart racing. I’m dying. Uncontrollable crying. Choking. Shooting pain in throat. Why? I’ll never get through this. Dizzy. I’ll never get through this. Dizzy. Foggy. Numbness in my face. Blurry. Dizzy. Thump thump thump. Why? Who can help me? I’m dying. Smoke. Can’t feel my arms. Dry mouth. Frozen. Tongue numb. Can’t speak. Why won’t my legs work. I’m going to faint. Nausea. I’m so tired of this. Upset stomach. Heavy chest. I’m dying. Tense. Trembling. Chest pain. Shaking. Crying. Heart hurts. Stomach pain. Why? Crying. Excruciating. Trapped air. Hyperventilating. Shooting pains down my legs. I’m dying. Can’t breath. Water in my lungs. Shrinking. Collapsing. Sweating. Dissolving. Crying. Crying. Crying. How did I get through that? Despair. Crying. When will it happen again…

Even after thousands of panic attacks – some with as little as one of the above symptoms, some concurrently, some all at once — one thing that’s consistent is the fact I am certain I am dying and that whatever is happening to my body will kill me. It sounds silly, dramatic and totally irrational, but the feeling could not be more real, more terrifying or more debilitating… every.single.time.

You’d think I’d be able to apply logic: “It didn’t kill me last time,” “This will pass,” “It’s a panic attack.” True, I know my reaction to the sensations I feel are that of panic, but what I don’t believe is that panic brought them on in the first place, so each time this happens all I think is, “It will get me this time, this time it will get me.”

What’s hard to explain to those close to me is that in every single attack I have, the terror is just as strong as the last, but each time it happens, outsiders’ sympathy and help lessens, understandably so. “Oh, there she goes again.” For those of you who never have (and hopefully never will) experienced a panic attack: it’s like someone is about to push you off a building, like you’re on a sinking boat, a crashing plane. If you’re with me… hold me, reassure me, let me know I am safe with you.

I could be walking along the street, watching a movie, out for dinner, in the shower, at a party… in fact, I can probably guarantee I’m doing something with entirely no stress attached to it and I’m probably quite happy or relaxed… then bang. Blood drains. Here we go again.

I wanted to start writing about my demons. Anxiety. More specifically, panic attacks. This year, panic attacks have destroyed me. My life has fallen apart, and I have no idea how to put back the pieces, but I’ve been writing in a diary. It’s a total mess and random collection of thoughts, worries, feelings, anger, etc., but the idea of writing a somewhat more legible piece that others could read and quite possibly find help in seems like quite the cathartic task.

I hope the above image gives a little insight to others in how panic attacks can feel, so you can see what we’re up against.

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Thinkstock photo by Vanessa Galeote

Originally published: February 1, 2017
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