Together at the Poles

Joshua DeWolf: Panic Attack

Josua DeWolf sent me this description of what it feels like to have a panic attack. Being susceptible to them myself, I found it terribly familiar. I thought it could serve as a springboard for those of us with panic symptoms to discuss what it is that we are going through and how it feels. -Daniel

It always starts off slowly, hiding at first behind a host of symptoms that could be anything. But I know it’s there; I can sense its evil presence. The dull pain in my chest throbs, and my brain starts screaming that my heart is under attack. This is, of course, not a heart attack and I know it, but making my body obey is a little trickier. “I’m gunna be ok, I’m gunna be ok” is the mantra I mutter to myself, the way an gray-haired Italian lady works over her worry beads. This is meant to combat the next part I hate so much, the part where my mind becomes merely a passenger on this vicious ride my brain about to depart on. My thoughts latch onto something negative, logical or not, and start repeating it over and over and over, until it is like being bludgeoned again and again. Thousands of years of conditioning and evolution have adrenaline pumping into my system to fight off its foe. Only that foe is my mind itself.

My breathing becomes faster and faster to flood the body with oxygen, only mine isn’t. My breathing is also growing shallower with each breath. Faster and faster I breathe in and out until I get light headed. Then my fingers and toes go numb. The painful sensations travel slowly up my limbs. Some time I’m able to scream until the lack of air slowly strangles the sound. I can feel my mind detach itself from my being and I can see myself, like a 3D computer model. I seem to be able to examine and study it at will and yet in the space of a mere moment. I lash out to find any connection with reality, and thing to make this nightmare end. Flailing my arms and legs I long to touch something, anything. In that moment something snaps. I now KNOW something, I know I am going to die, I know that I am going to fall here where no one can see and simply cease. This knowledge, however false, permeates every essence of my being. I scream.

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Counselling from Daniel
Daniel Bader, Ph.D., RSW, CCC
Daniel Bader, Ph.D., RSW, CCC is a Registered Social Worker and Canadian Certified Counsellor with a private practice operating out of Kitchener, Ontario. He provides in-person counselling in Kitchener and email, video or telephone counselling within Canada.

To find out more, please visit the website for his private practice, Bader Mediation & Counselling Services.