Last night I had a panic attack. A bad one. It was so bad, I wanted to kill myself.
It’s not the first time this has happened, and while I hope more than anything that it was the last, I know it won’t be. I was diagnosed with panic disorder a few years ago, which fit nicely alongside my PTSD, sleep disorder, depression, and anxiety, all of which I’ve struggled with for years. Basically this most recent diagnosis means that every so often, for reasons known and unknown, I will enter into a state of panic and if it’s intense enough, be unable to calm down without medical intervention. Think trapped mountain lion, but with less claws and more existential crisis.
Even most people close to me don’t know I suffer from these illnesses. I would describe them as “mental illnesses” but that would be like casually referring to a cough as a “lung illness” and nobody does that, so I don’t see why screwed up brains should be an exception. Either way the point is, I’m sick.
And last night, I was really sick. I don’t typically become suicidal when I panic, but for whatever reason, last night was so dark that I ended up reaching out to five people for help. Fortunately one person (who happens to be a mental health professional) responded in time to assist me, and eventually they were able to help me return to a safe mindset.
While calming down, my panic was immediately replaced with guilt. It’s humiliating to be in that situation, to disturb someone’s night because I can’t control my own emotions. I knew instinctually that asking for help was better than the alternative, but that couldn’t soothe the shame of making my problems someone else’s. I feel unimaginably weak being so low, to be unable to do what literally every other human is capable of doing every day – living.
And after all, what do I have to be so upset about? I’ve just married my high school sweetheart, I’m spending three whole weeks vacationing in postcard-perfect Belize on someone else’s dime, and I’ll eventually return home to my life of leisure where I’m free to live out my dream of writing full time. My life, from all objective standpoints, is perfect.
But like that girl who recently shared her before and after photos of having an anxiety attack, what everyone sees of my life on social media is a piss-poor representation of my actual existence. The photos are picked apart, edited, and re-edited to be visually compelling. The stories and captions are selected due to their positivity, and while everything I post is 100% true, most of what goes on in my life is left out, certainly all the negative stuff.
The shaking fear as I sit down to my keyboard, unable to write the novel that I quit my job to pursue. The crushing disappointment in myself as another day goes by without exercising, cleaning my bedroom, or addressing any of the other quickly-fading items on my to do list. The stoic numbness I force myself to inhabit, lest vulnerability lead me down the path of pain. The knee-jerk terror that arises every time I feel the slightest bit of nausea, left over from a teenage misdiagnosis of a gastric disorder as a psychological one.
I know I’m not alone in suffering from panic disorders – I read that 40 million Americans freak out with me, but it’s incredibly lonesome to be trapped inside your own mind when your mind is trying to do you in.
Nobody shares these kinds of things on social media, and this is by no means a suggestion to start doing so. My point in sharing this very personal side of myself is not to garner any sympathy, pity, or attention. I even know that some people will be disappointed in this admission. But this is a way for me to sort through what happened last night, and maybe for someone reading this, a reminder that they’re not alone in fighting an unseen battle.
There’s no revelation here. This is nothing I didn’t know before yesterday, and nothing you haven’t read already. But I felt compelled to share my experience anyway, because it’s mine, and it’s real.
For anyone else struggling, please reach out for help: Suicide prevention lifeline // 1-800-273-8255