I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. The difference? A trigger.
With anxiety, I can determine the cause and therefore control my reaction.
Panic attacks? All bets are off.
My ears are no longer able to absorb the general sounds of my surroundings. The noise becomes distorted and distant; it echoes intensely like a kick drum rattling against my brain (think Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”). My energy level crashes, despite adrenaline surging to every single artery of my body — I know this is what death must feel like.
Here are the three most-terrifying attacks I’ve experienced in the past six months:
1. I was driving south on Route 611, near Abington, when I was hit with adrenaline; I got on the turnpike going west toward Harrisburg. At that point, I didn’t feel out of control, so I kept driving until I was completely numb. Not feeling like I was safe, I got off at the next exit and had a complete mental breakdown in a random parking lot in Downingtown.
2. About a month ago, I was on my way home from a reality meeting in Doylestown. My vision crossed and my eyes focused in and out. All traffic and headlights were blurred into little stars. When I pulled into my driveway, I was trembling. At my front door, I was fumbling with my keys when I blacked out for 20 minutes (I think …).
3. It’s happened at school before. I was sitting in class, shaking, unable to breathe. I went to the bathroom to calm myself down. In the process, I made myself sick and reached into my backpack for a car key. I scratched my arm raw.
For me, the easiest way to gain composure is to vent to someone when I feel myself losing control. That way, I have a clear focus on reality and I can snap out of the controlling trance.