Saturday, June 27, 2009

Anatomy of a Panic Attack

So, when it happens to come up in a conversation that I have panic attacks, I usually get one of two responses. The more common one being "Oh damn, that sounds horrible. What's it like?" and the other being "I/my family member/ my friend/ my coworker/ my child gets those as well. I'm so sorry you have to deal with that too, I know how scary it is. You look like you are doing well though! Good for you!"

I love getting the second response, it makes me feel a little less like a nut case. This post is for those who would give the first response. This is the anatomy of a panic attack, as recorded by me in an old journal from January of last year. I think I had read somewhere that a good way to get over a panic attack is to record it as best you can and analyze it in logical terms. So that's what I did, or tried to do. All misspellings and such have been left unedited.

12:06 Just woke up. Don't know what woke me up. Feel kinda weird.

12:15 My knees and elbows feel loose and weird. Hard to explain. Having muscle spasms in both thighs. On edge. Another long night ahead, i know.

12:31 Crazy on edge now. Have that feeling of when you are wallking down a dark hallway and know something is going to jump out at you from around the corner but you don't know when. Shaky hands makes it hard to write. I wont even be able to read this later probably. Can't really think straight. Eyes having trouble focusing.

12:36 Feeling like throwing up. That scares the shit out of me. I really want to go wake up mom. Feels like it's going to be the middle of the night forever. No one here to help me. Heart is beating way too fast and I think i'm going to start hyperventilating soon. I'm so scared. I think I really am sick. I should go wake up mom. I might have to go to the hospital. I don't want to wake her up though. If I were sleeping, i wouldn't want to be woken up. I'm not going to die tonight. Just keep saying that. I'm not going to die tonight. Sweaty hands makes it hard to write. Salem just came in. She can sense it i think. God, i'm scared. I don't want to die alone.

(12:36- 1:48 were spent in the bathroom, hyperventilating, crying, and trying to induce vomiting, which is something I always do when I panic because I think I am sick and want to get it over with.)

1:48 Can't throw up. Guess that means I'm not really sick. It feels like my stomach is full of acid. My chest hurts from trying to make myself puke. I'm just going to stay close to the bathroom and wait for it to come naturally for now. I think my whole body is shaking now, but i'm breathing normally again. I wish it was morning and everyone was awake and its like normal agein. I should go back to bed but I know I wont be able to. Still having muscle spasms in my thighs and in my sholders now to still feel like i might throw up any second but it hurts so much to try to force it. Cant sit still like after too much coffee or something. Pacing my room helps a little but i dont want to wake up people downstairs. Salem is still here. Shes on the pillow watching me.


That's where the entry ends. If I remember correctly, I did manage to fall asleep that night after a few hours of pacing and distracting myself with books and the Internet.  Even after all the therapy and all the medicines, the panic attack is exactly the same. I could have written this same thing yesterday. The progress I have made has not effected the length or severity of my panic attacks, but it has greatly affected the quantity of attacks that I have. For a while there I had at least two attacks every day and usually another in the middle of the night. Now I have only 4 or 5 in a whole month. It's still not great, but it's getting better.

Words can't express the fear and loss of control that comes over you when you have a panic attack, but I hope this helps some people understand them a bit more.


  1. I'm really very proud of how far you have come in coping with these attacks. You're a strong woman. I'm glad they come less frequently these days. I love you, baby girl. HUGS

  2. I understand completely.And you are so NOT a nut case! It sux I know, but sounds like there has been improvement. Hang in there. :)

  3. My sister used to have panic attacks. I've never had one myself, but the closest I've come to having a panic attack was feeling edgy one time when my karate instructor was being an ass and not listening to me or my dad (long story), and I was wide-awake until 1:30 AM. Actually, I'm starting to wonder if I have post-traumatic stress disorder... I probably don't (I tell myself it's a normal teenager thing), but I still want to look it up on Wiki to see if I meet the criteria.

    Wow, that's a long comment. Sorry.

    PS: thanks for recommending Hulu, but unfortunately, Canadians can't use it :( My city's library system has box-sets of anime, though :)