How It Feels To Have A Panic Attack


Everything feels normal, but then—slightly off.

Colors are more vivid, bright somehow brighter, contrast more definitely so.

You almost don’t notice, but once you do you become completely enveloped in the sensation.

It starts with a disturbing awareness of every movement: the casual nod of your head as you walk, the speck of dirt that floats across your eye as your contact lens readjusts to every blink. Your heart pulses and you feel the blood rushing through your limbs. Muscles sporadically tense and relax. Your right hand shakes, your left is still. The wind picks up and you notice it rustle your eyelashes and slink through lips. Every sensation is magnified and you feel it all at once. You begin to question the tenseness in your jaw, the way your tongue rests behind your teeth, the oddity in how your head balances on your neck. Your skin is electric. Waves of energy radiate from your skull and rush downward, meeting their end in unpredictable sparks at your fingertip, elbow, shin.  You try to follow them in your mind but tracing the imaginary lines makes you dizzy.

You pace, desperate to lie down but terrified to be alone. People pass and you glean comfort from their proximity: if I should fall, surely someone will catch me.  Poignantly you note the amplification of their mundane chatter as they continue at their steady pace, completely immune to the sensation of their blood boiling.

Deep breath.

The movement is too much and you sit—a thousand images of dogs and drunks defecating on similar city corners pass like a flipbook behind your eyes but you’re too gone to care.

You pull out a book in desperate attempt to distract yourself but the words pop from the page, so sharp the bold type against their off-white backdrop. The letters seem somehow three-dimensional and the casual act of reading becomes a chase, taxing in commitment.

Your mind runs too, hosting a thousand thoughts that flee just as quickly as they appear. In the beginning they were a reign of terror, now they’re almost comforting in their familiarity.

Breathe. You are not dying. Breathe. It will pass.  TC Mark

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