The funniest thing happened last night, or should I say scariest. Yes to be more correct I found myself in the most terrifying of situations yet. A panic attack. An actual panic attack. Full fledged, feeling like I was at death’s door, dilated pupils and all. Worse still it came out of nowhere, completely left field! And to think with all the shit that is and has been going down in my life both past and present, none of those actual and tangible issues made for the cause of my discomfort last night.
Unbelievably I was simply laying in my bed, lights off, praying to the Universe and God for a better tomorrow. Going through my usual spiel on the days running’s, what I was grateful for that day and what I hoped would miraculously transpire the following day. Praying while listening to the rain patter against my window pane. Completely at ease and for the first time in a few nights I hadn’t even been crying myself to sleep which is what makes this sudden attack so damn bizarre.
I was just praying, going through the days blessings when I suddenly felt weird. Something just didn’t feel right within me and for what it actually was I was unsure and it made me bolt upright. Nothing actually felt out-of-place nor did I feel any real pain on any part of my body nor organ for that matter. But for some reason my brain kept warning me that my heart was beating too erratically. I felt for my pulse time and time again but it was beating steadily. I started to recall all those dreams I’d been having of dying ever so suddenly and I felt that impending doom take over, almost feeling somewhat light-headed and began acknowledging my fear of being in this darkened room so I hastily switched on my bedside light but in doing so it just made everything I was feeling mentally much more real. Illuminating and heightening that feeling that the end is nigh.
I suddenly did not want to be alone in my room so I jumped right out of my overly warm bed and made for the bathroom. The coolness of those lilac hued tiles helped snap me back into reality. This was clearly all in my mind. I attempted to steady my breath, though my breath was already steady. I tried calming my mind, reassuring it that my heart was not in fact beating out of its cavity. It helped for a few seconds until I needed to use the toilet. I finished up, washed my hands and turned to leave for my bedroom but I stopped short of the door handle.
My mind flared up yet again.
Only this time serious shit hit the fan.
I felt like I was again at Death’s door. That the Angel of Death would materialize before me at any moment. I contemplated seeking help from my sleeping parents in the room next to mine but the visualization of myself being carted away into the night in a large white van with screeching alarms and flashing red lights told me otherwise. I wanted to go downstairs and get a tall glass of water and take a shot of Panadol to snap me from this terrible reverie. But I was too frightened to go down there in case I suddenly needed real assistance from my parents or worse still, just dropped dead. I wouldn’t leave the bathroom as if it’s dated lilac tiled floor and walls were protecting me from the Grimm Reaper himself.
I remembered it was all a fragment of my completely overactive imagination. Physically I knew I was ok and my heart beat proved so despite my brains pestering persistence. I reached for the wall mirror and stared at myself, looking deep into my green eyes noting with horror how eerily my pupils had dilated. I saw that I was physically ok and continued to reassure myself of this. Affirming so over and over again. It took a few panicked moments of me clutching at my throat and feeling for a non-existent palpitating pulse but I somewhat calmed down, eventually.
I convinced myself that somehow all was well and went back to bed.
For the next hour or so I continued back and forth to the bathroom, in need of using its facilities. I even made my way down those stairs and took my Panadol with that glass of water I was craving before. I tried to meditate to steady my breathing and calm my mind the fuck down but to no avail. It’s impossible to steady ones breath when it’s already as relaxed as it can get. So I did what we all do in times of desperation and began to self diagnose with the help of generous Dr Google. Even though physically I felt great, better than great even and I wasn’t actually experiencing any tightness or pain of any sort, I still had a gnawing inkling that all was not well. I have Mr Cerebrum to thank for that. I began to wonder if maybe I was having a stroke since I kept feeling waves of heat course through me and rest on the crook of my scalp before the drama began. I found a checklist for symptoms so stood in my room holding limbs in the air, walking in a straight line, reading and talking to myself. I ruled that out since I passed with flying colors. I even had to triple check my reflection to prove to my uncooperative brain that one side of my face was in no way drooping nor did I feel numbness on any part of my body, let alone an entire side.
I don’t know why I though this but I decided to Google ‘panic attacks’ and lo and behold I found the answer I was seeking all along. Confirmation that I was not in fact dying but that my mind was being a real c**t tonight. The more I continued to read, the more sense it all seemed to make. Medical blogs, forums of personal recounts of situations of some unfortunate humans who experience this regularly brought some peace. I found a blog post on Tiny Buddha from one such being who went into detail about how to overcome and gain an upper hand. The first step was to make yourself present and aware of the situation. Tell yourself that you’re having a panic attack. Simple. So I did and you know what it worked. It shifted the power play back to myself.
From then on when I began to sense that heat and note that my brain was on the brink of hyperventilating itself yet again with its false rumors that my heart was palpitating, I was able to take the reins back and coax him back into his rightful place. I started to feel incredibly cold, my body convulsing with shudders and my skin prickling in those ghastly goose pimples which began to cause chaos for my mind yet again. But I cooed at him that all was well, again checking my reflection to soothe his qualms that I was dying. Closing my windows, no longer feeling the humidity of the Australian sun in my room but a sharp chill from the rains falling from the heavens above. I slipped on a pair of wooly socks and climbed under the covers and continued my search, scrolling through forums and finding others who experienced the exact same symptoms as I was.
Symptoms of impending doom, eye dilation, hot or cold flushes and the constant and irrational need to use the toilet. Peaking within ten minutes into the episode for a mere but grim few seconds (even though it really felt like an eternity) then slowly subsiding in droves for around thirty minutes. Though I felt like mine took a good hour or so to subside. And I ended up staying up, attempting to distract my trouble making mind with Candy Crush and Farm Heroes until three in the morning.
It did work. Though when I was finally able to switch the light off I had moments of weakness when my brain let itself loose as I was on the fringe of sleep but I easily reeled him back in. This morning when I woke up and even now I still feel like I am possibly on the verge of facing another (then again, reliving that nightmare as I type is probably not helping) but I know it is all in my mind and I am hoping to distract him before it’s lights out again tonight. I’ll even feed him some omega rich tuna for lunch just to get him working right again.
All in all what transpired last night has completely skewed my perception on the matter. And while I was frantically searching for solutions last night, reaching out on Twitter to see if anyone else had been experiencing these same symptoms, I noted in the search that the majority just throw it out there like some kind of adjective, describing their stresses and pressures over not having completed an assignment or if they hadn’t had their hit of caffeine for the day. It’s a term that we seem to use as some crazy-cool endearment or such when in fact it is seriously no laughing matter. Ever. I thought I’d had “panic attacks” before, especially with the dramas over my finances but after last night I truly know better and the difference.
They are not planned. They are completely extemporaneous. And it is a feeling like no other, something needing to be felt to actually be believed and understood. Most importantly, something you would never wish upon another human no matter how much hatred you’d feel towards them.
I understand fully what it implies now and because of this, this is now a term I shall no longer make light of again.
P.S: I really hope this will never, ever and I mean ever befall me again.