Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When Panic Attacks

I can remember the first one I ever had. I was 11, in my bedroom at home, and my parents were at a parent-teacher conference, learning all sorts of terrible things about me.

I paced, I sweat, I felt like I was trapped in a tiny box, waiting for the inevitable collapse of the universe.

It seemed normal. I'd done wrong and I was about to be caught. For years I described the feeling that way. "I don't know. I feel bad. Like I've done something terrible and someone's about to find out and there's nothing I can do about it."

It wasn't until I was out of college that I realized I was having panic attacks.

For me, it starts slow. There's a buzzing, a sense that I'm very, very behind, that there are 40 things I need to be doing and that I don't have enough time to do any of them. I get frozen in place, a little flailing starts in my heart--do this, no, that's not the right thing--do that, no not enough time--I should--

And now it's creeping through my bloodstream--a swarm of bees nesting in my fingertips, eating my brain. Panic, adrenaline, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. I sit, I stand, nothing feels good. I want to run, outrun the bees, but I don't know where to go and now there are rodents nibbling at my extremities--pain--

I can't think. I'm starting to stutter now--thoughts trying to push each other out of the way to escape. I'm bad. I'm just a bad, bad person and nothing I do is right.

I want to go fetal. I want to explode. The rushing, rushing, heart pounding, blood so loud I can't hear whatever thoughts are left.

Help.

Sometimes I type that word into a search engine as I try to force myself to concentrate. Check email. Check blog. Adhere to the schedule. The schedule will save you. Dogs out. Dogs in. Time to walk.

You're ok, Meaghan, you're ok. Think of nothing. Think of a blank slate. Think of a blank slate. Think of a blank slate.

Slowly, so slowly, it backs down.
I'm ok. The rushing is still there, but I'm moving now, decisive. Time to walk. Put on your shoes. Get in the car. You're ok. Depeche Mode on the stereo--an almost involuntary smile. You're ok. You're ok.

Hours later, I feel hung over from the adrenaline, exhausted. A few lone bees are still looking for the hive. Buzz. Ouch. I'm ok.

6 comments:

Amanda said...

That's such a good description. I have had anxiety attacks, or something similar; they aren't quite like that, but what they are like, I am not even close to able to put into words.

Andrea Q. said...

Very well said. I don't know that I've had this, exactly, but my sister does and... well. I understand far better now, and I thank you for that.

Gina said...

I have never had panic attacks, but your description was the best I've ever read. Usually people will just say if offhandedly and I have never really known how it all goes down, although it must be somewhat different for different people.

I am glad you are feeling better.

j. shelton said...

i can absolutely understand that.... i think i may have them..... b/c i know that feeling. as if the world is collapsing around me... 'there's not enough time' that too.

hmm.

you make me think meg.

ashley said...

I know all too well exactly what you're talking about.

steph said...

ugh, panic attacks are the worst. they seem to come in waves for me...i do all sorts of visualization techniques to help, which sounds so cheesy, but it works pretty well. although sometimes in the thick of it, it is so hard to be rational and get through it. like i said in my blog, that is why i excercise so much...it exhausts me so i don't have that extra nervous energy that i carry all the time.
ugh!!