(The Daily Rumpus) Anatomy of a Panic Attack

1 maand geleden


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Panic attacks are a fact of (my) life. There might be a precipitating event, but not always. Maybe the attack comes out of the pretty blue sunshine s

   

Panic attacks are a fact of (my) life.

There might be a precipitating event, but not always. Maybe the attack comes out of the pretty blue sunshine sky of nothing-is-wrong. I’m fine, and then I’m not fine. I’m laughing and then I’m crying while gulping down air.

This could be about what I haven’t said out loud. Or about my mind and how it moves faster than a mouth ever could. Or maybe I have no idea why an attack is happening until afterword, when I pull the repeating thoughts apart to get at its tangled roots.

A mild panic attack might not even draw your attention. My chest with an invisible belt pulling tightly around it. I’m holding my breath and I discretely reach for my always-on-hand pill box and slip the pill into my mouth. If I have water nearby it’s easier but I can swallow the pill without water by now.

Places I’ve had a mild panic attack include: a crowded commuter train, dinner at my in-laws’ house, a Broadway theater during intermission.

A severe panic attack might terrify you. I refuse to breathe even as you are screaming at me to breathe. Or I’m hyperventilating—insignificant, useless, too-fast swallows of air. I’m drenched in sweat but I tremble with chills. My face is somehow ghostly pale and apple-red at once. If I’m standing up, I will lean into a wall or slide down the floor. If I’m sitting in a chair, my head will drop at the neck, eyes closing and opening but looking downward.

If I can, I will ask for help. I will tell you where my pill box is. If I can.

Places I’ve had a severe panic attack include: the basement of Miami International Airport, the lowest level of a parking garage, a late-night MUNI bus, every apartment or house I’ve ever lived in.

This is not an exhaustive inquiry. I’m skipping over details. I’m making conscious decisions to omit and include.

This is the anatomy of a panic attack, and my familiarity with it doesn’t do me any good.

Love,
Marisa

P.S. As I mentioned last week, throughout May we’ll be running pieces on the theme “Mothering outside the Margins.” We’ll be publishing essays, reviews, interviews, stories, and poems that aim to broaden our understanding of what it means to be a mother—or not to be a mother, or to want to be a mother but fall short of cultural ideals around motherhood. We hope you’ll follow along, and consider sharing the pieces that resonate with you!

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