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.
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.