I know how to stop myself from having a panic attack.
Sometimes, it doesn’t work.
On the days that it does, it makes recovery seem like within the reach of my fingertips. On the days when it doesn’t, on the days when I hide in my bed, under my bedsheets, hiding myself from the world, recovery seems like some kind of sick joke someone would tell to just be a jerk. Like telling someone who’s drowning to just “think happy thoughts” or “you need to fight harder against the waves; that’ll save you!”
Panic attacks make recovery worth it. When you’re not fighting an enemy, the victory seems… stale… like crackers that have been left in the pantry two months past their expiration date. Panic attacks aren’t always hyperventilating, hands covering, protecting eyes from triggers or familiar faces, ears covered to hide sounds that remind you of the things that your nightmares are made of.
Sometimes, panic attacks look like a silent scream in the middle of a prayer session. Contortions as you silently fight against your body, wanting to let it all out but you can’t because you’re in public and you have to control yourself. You wouldn’t want others to think something’s wrong, now, would you? Of course not. Don’t be silly. So, you hold it until you get alone and then you can let it out. Silently scream or actually scream into a pillow… or the air.
Sometimes, panic attacks look like an open chasm of broken tears. The kind of tears one would make when one steps on glass—barefoot—in the middle of the night. Almost as bad as stepping on a Lego. Almost.
Panic attacks aren’t always hyperventilating. Sometimes, they look like anger. Sometimes they look like numbness… like void… like nothing. Sometimes they sound like you picking a random color, maybe blue or red or magenta, and naming everything you can think of that’s that color to trick your mind into thinking: “You’re not crazy. See? You have control. You can still recognize colors, cars, shoes, books and… purses and… blankets. Anything to forget the touches, kisses… angry, loud, cacophony of voices… see? You’re fine. You can recognize the TV and your lamp that’s on your desk. And the tea bags. And the books that are scattered all over the room. And the car outside. And the green grass outside your window. You’re not having a panic attack if you’re in control, right?”
I know how to get rid of a panic attack. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The days where it doesn’t… are the days I fear. They do nothing more than validate the thought in my head that I don’t actually have control, that I can’t get better.
One day, this’ll be over. and I’ll be happy again. And won’t automatically look for the negative things in a good situation. One day, I’ll be at peace. No more fear or panic to control me. One day. But until that day comes, panic attacks make recovery worth it.