When I have a Panic Attack

The anxiety voice in my head wins. You know, that dick voice that tells me I have knee herpes? I start to believe it (not about knee herpes, though. Those have cleared up.)

The first thing I do is start to hyperventilate. Then I try breathing exercises to calm myself down, and picture myself lounging on a hammock in Hawaii covered in chocolate and puppies.
Fuck that, says my anxiety, and kicks my breathing into overdrive. Suddenly, I feel like an angry cheetah is chasing me and I have to run for my life, only there’s nowhere to go, I don’t have any limbs, and the cheetah is hurling insults at me. Fucking cheetahs, man. They’re sassy minxes.

Then I begin to cry. Not just tears streaming down my face (though that happens in the first stages of hyperventilating), but full on Whit-is-gasping-for-breath sobs. The kind of crying that is ugly. Snot bubbles form and I shake from head to toe and generally look the opposite of Natalie Portman when she cries (when she cries, it’s the most adorable thing in existence).

You’re not good enough. You deserve to feel like shit. Everything will be terrible. Obviously no one cares about you, otherwise you wouldn’t be in this situation.

And I try to remember that I’m strong, and smart, and I think I’m pretty goddam funny. But all I can hear is the anxious voice in my head, tearing me down. Your pants look like shit. Your makeup is ruined and now everyone can see how ugly you are. You’re ugly. That zit on your cheek keeps getting bigger. Nobody likes you. That guy that came to visit thinks you’re an idiot right now. He’s basically telling you you’re an idiot.


Nope, we’re going to ride this one out. You’re a dumb, ugly whore that gets used and dropped and crushed and now you’re going to have that rubbed in your face. Also, you have something in your teeth. Idiot.

And my anxious voice makes me feel like shit until I can talk to someone who can calm me down. So I call my mom, sobbing, and tell her that I’m having a panic attack. She doesn’t know how to help, she says, so I tell her to distract me by not discussing what I’m panicking about. So she fills me in on her life, and soon, I’m laughing.

Before we hang up, she says, “You know, you don’t have to go tonight…” And I feel the lump in my throat build with my heartbeat. Yeah, let’s cry again. She continues, “Never mind. Let’s not talk about that.” And I tell my anxiety to kiss my ass.

And when my panic attacks cease, I am embarrassed. I hate that I let something control me, even if it’s just for five minutes. But try as I might to navigate the emotion and hee-hee-hoo my way through the complete fear that takes over my system, I can’t. So I’m left feeling like shit for panicking in the first place, and I spend the rest of the day trying to not feel like an asshole.

Panic attack
I need a back rub, someone to feed me chocolate, and the ability to kick my anxiety right in the testicles.

I am SO GRATEFUL that panic attacks only last five minutes. It’s like the worst sex you’ll have in your life, and the fastest. So it’s a win-win lose-lose situation.

31 thoughts on “When I have a Panic Attack

  1. “Covered in chocolate and puppies”?! I guess that was with your clothes on – otherwise it would be really weird – lol.
    I once had a panic attack – it came out of nowhere and I was actually talking to my mother on the phone at the time. I was struggling to breath, gasping and crying and I didn’t know why. My mother worked out what was happening and told me – I had heard the term “panic attack” but I didn’t know what it was until then. I don’t want any more.
    Good luck with that voice in your head – try laughing at it.

  2. And, to use your words, I also think that you are strong and smart and pretty and goddam funny. I got the “pretty” in the right place!

  3. Thats so sad ! 😦 like really I’m sorry that that happens.. I kinda can understand because a few years ago I couldn’t control my crying/emotions and I would start crying in school in front of every bloody one. And later I used to bunk school for days because I couldn’t show my face in that place again anytime soon.

  4. That’s so sad. I’m so sorry that that happens. I can actually really understand because a few years ago I had no damn control over my crying/ emotions. I used to start crying in school in front of every bloody one. And then I used to bunk school for days since I couldn’t go back to that place and show my face anytime soon.

  5. Whit, you could try this mental image: a couple of puppies are giving a backrub to your chocolate-covered back, while a few larger puppies are chasing your anxiety around the room and nipping on its testicles.

  6. PANIC ATTACKS. Ugh, they are no fun. Have you tried Brahms Rescue Remedy? It’s essentially just aerosol chamomile and alcohol, but it works. You know what also works? Going onto amazon.com and realizing you can buy food off there. Like that waffle cereal that used to be around in the 90s. That shit is still out there somewhere, and so are dunkaroos. Also, love your blog.

    1. I have some of that rescue remedy! In fact, I meant to pack it because I knew this situation was coming up. Buuuut I left it in my car.

      ALCOHOL?! That explains so much of why it was weird the first time I tried it…

      Your comment wins. And thank you, friend!

  7. I actually googled “knee herpes” after reading this because I wasn’t sure if it was a real thing or something you made up. On a related note: don’t google “knee herpes.”

    I feel like I have a much better grasp of panic attacks after reading this. It’s a hard thing for someone who’s never had them to understand. You are a good writer and your brain should be nicer to you.

    1. Thank you, friend! I actually wrote a piece a bit ago about how I was afraid I had Knee Herpes. And I totally googled it then–isn’t that gross?!

      I’m really glad this helped you understand them. It’s a curious sensation. You feel like you’re fighting for your life, like you’re about to run away from a bear or an angry cheetah.

      My brain is very kind 95% of the time! 😀

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