I was on FaceTime with my boyfriend. And I felt myself getting winded as I was talking.
Everything was fine. I was sitting down. I wasn't exerting any physical energy. I shrugged it off.
Then I found myself getting distracted by absolutely nothing. I was looking off into the distance and my boyfriend goes, "Are you okay?"
I laughed it off and said, "I'm pretty sure I'm having a panic attack."
I could not catch my breath. It felt like there was something blocking my airways. I started scrambling around looking for an inhaler.
My mind was going a mile a minute. Why can't I breathe? What is going on?
I felt like I was going to die.
I went downstairs to tell my mom. None of the other usual symptoms had set in yet. So I was still shrugging it off. "I think I'm having a panic attack. I can't breathe."
My mom felt my chest. I wasn't wheezing. This was happening. My body was rebelling against me.
We piled into the car. 10 o'clock at night. We drove to my grandparents. I could barely walk up the stairs to the front porch.
I started to cry. It felt like someone had put a rock on my chest. Why can't I breathe?
My mom found the inhaler. I took my panic medication.
The room started spinning. My head was pounding.
When we got home, I curled up into a ball on the couch and waited for it to pass. 45 minutes to an hour of hell. And then all of a sudden, I could breathe again. In and out. I focused on filling my body up like a balloon.
I felt like I had been hit by a truck. There was no energy left for me to give. It had been taken from me by a monster I couldn't control.
When it was time for bed, my mom climbed into my twin with me. She held me until I fell asleep. I started to wonder about how I would be able to manage when I finally moved out. Can I take care of myself?
I didn't go to school the next day. I had flu-like symptoms. My joints ached. I got winded walking down the stairs. I didn't want to eat. I stayed in bed and watched an entire season of Santa Clarita Diet, with my blackout curtains drawn, under my weighted blanket.
I couldn't go to school the following day either. But I switched up the routine. I went and worked out. I got myself out in the sun. I avoided caffeine. I was feeling like myself again.
Wrong. I went back to school and ended up in my professor's office sobbing, saying I couldn't sit in her class. I couldn't be in another classroom with no windows. I needed to get outside.
So I got myself to a park. I caught up on some reading I was behind on because I couldn't even think about school while I was trying to cope with all of this. I went and worked out. Once again, I was feeling like my typical self.
What people don't understand about panic attacks is that they're not an isolated incident. It doesn't pass and then life goes back to the norm. It takes a toll.
It hurts your body. It hurts your mind. And there is nothing you can do to stop it from coming.
People won't understand it. They won't understand why you have to tap out on life for days. Why you can't answer the phone or emails or texts. Why you can't be around people. Why you can't stop crying.
To be honest, I don't even fully understand it. But that doesn't mean I can ignore it. It has happened before. It will happen again. Maybe I'll be ready. Maybe I won't.
But my weakness does not make we weak. I am capable. I am strong.
And despite the fact that a panic attack may put me out of commission for a short time, it's a reminder to slow down, to take care of myself, to just breathe.