What a Panic Attack Feels Like*

*to me
  1. First: a bad feeling. Usually crying.
  2. Then: a fear of what that bad feeling is becoming, how its covering your whole whole head and heart with its bad feeling blanket.
  3. This part is when you start panicking about the very idea of having a panic attack. It's almost funny.
  4. A hiccup in your breathing.
  5. The hiccups multiply and start to feel like gaps where you're not breathing at all.
  6. Since you have to breathe to be alive, it kind of feels like you're dying every time it halts and the bad feelings blanket is covering you much tighter now, so much so that you can't see anything.
  7. Your entire body stiffens, your stomach and your chest both feel like clenched fists.
  8. You are suddenly so aware of your throat and your teeth and how your jaw feels when it's held this tightly.
  9. You've gotten good at this so you start to try to sneak the idea of breathing underneath the bad feelings blanket fort. The fort does not want to let breathing in. The fort loves feeling like this, thinks that this utter panic is exactly what you deserve.
  10. Breathing, eventually, finds a way in. Sometimes this takes 90 seconds that feel like an eternity, other times it takes 20 minutes that are one. Either way, you think about the possibility you could die from this, from panic.
  11. Once breathing comes under the fort, it still takes forever to smooth over your breath — hours sometimes. Those hours are hard because if you let yourself think about what happened, or what made what happened happen, it starts to come back.
  12. You have to sit with just breathing for a long time.
  13. Just breathing is boring, but it's also your hero and it's brave and it's kind.
  14. You did it!!!!!!