Hello Panic, Still Surprising After All These Years

By: Lori Lane-Murphy

Halloween is long over. Tell that to the demon climbing up my ribcage.

I’m not sure even the Exorcist himself stood a chance against the terror that clutched at me last night with determined fingers and the express purpose to bring me down.

I haven’t had a panic attack like that in awhile. In fact, I haven’t had a panic attack like THAT, I think, ever. I generally know how my body works and when my anxiety builds, I tend to suffer some panic-like symptoms. I usually manage well. After all, I’m no amateur. I’ve had over 35 years of experience in this department.

I think I must have gotten complacent. Last night my brain had some sort of unresolved score to settle with me. It pulled out all the stops and showed me some new moves that I was powerless to fight. I tried. I did everything I’ve learned over the years. Somehow, paying attention to my breathing or grounding myself in the present just wasn’t cutting it against the rolling waves of sheer terror crashing into my body.

My husband said I was “wild eyed”. I was gripping his hands until my knuckles were white (note to self: I must check how his hands are today. I think he’s ok). After pacing the floor and bracing myself against this new shapeshifter of panic, I was convinced this was the end. There was absolutely no way this could be happening to me for no reason. Someone was trying to kill me.

Logic played no role. It rarely does and those of you who are burdened with these things, you know.

I sat on the bed and rocked. I rocked and waited. My husband kept talking to me. Inconsequential stuff. My son’s hockey game. Christmas plans. The comedy show we’re looking forward to going to on Saturday night. Our anniversary. The fact that one of our dogs has stopped pooping in the house. Anything. I wanted to smile and tried. The demon was holding my head in a vice, but I was stubborn.

More pacing. Back on the bed. Pacing. Bed. And then a general numbness began to replace the rampant pins, needles and breathlessness I’d been experiencing. My world was still narrow, but I could feel the mattress underneath me now. This was going to pass. Dear God, it must pass.

Slowly, very slowly it did. I tried to stop fighting it. I tried to believe that I wasn’t going to die. I felt that if I stopped talking, my heart would stop. There wasn’t going to be a tomorrow if I stopped talking. Exhaustion was creeping in and it was getting difficult to think of things to say. My tongue was getting thick due to the anxiety medication I was finally able to take. My body was getting heavy and the demon was starting to climb back down my ribcage.

My tears were drying on my cheeks and my breathing was returning to normal. I was still here. I was home. I hadn’t died and was starting to think maybe I’d live to see another day.

I let go of my husband’s hands and raked mine through my hair. It was going to be ok. Deep breaths. More hands through hair.

My husband looked lovingly into my eyes at that point and said, “Nice hair.”

I giggled. Then I collapsed on the bed, depleted.

It took twenty minutes.

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