experience of a panic attack. the shortness of breath. the feeling of dying.
Bad day 106 out of the 200 since January first.
I know because like an idiot I track it.
Three short breaths and I cannot catch any air. Am I even breathing? Is the air at all entering my chest?
I lean forward and take one long inhale. A bit of ease and then again three short breaths and I am back again unable to feel the air entering my lungs. When will this end? When will this end!?
My knees curled underneath me and I bury my face into the pillow. I’m already suffocating, might as well rush the ordeal and end it. My chest begins to hurt but I am unwilling to scream.
Why is this happening again?
Concentrating on my breathing frightens me. What if this is it? This is the end?
I manage to catch a good amount of air. At ease for a moment. Then it starts all over again. The room begins to spin. My hands shake. I revolt from my bed to the window. This isn’t helping.
I need air. I need air!
the summer’s thick and humid air hits me. It doesn’t help. I try to inhale once more unsuccessfully. Then leave the window discontent and aim for the door. The room spins faster. The door seems heavier than usual and with difficulty I pry it open. Everything forms into a mirage. There is a noise to my left, but I ignore it and take cautious steps.
“I can’t breathe!” I finally scream when I reach the bottom of the stairs. “I can’t breathe!” Everything and everyone are dissolving in front of my eyes and then the whispers. Whispers inside my head. Whispers outside my head.
“Wow.” My father gets up from his chair as I surge through the door into his office.
“I can’t breathe.” I mumble but seeing him brings slight comfort, knowing that someone’s in my presence, here to help. I collapse onto the couch and pull my knees under me. In the child pose because it’s the easiest to tolerate. My chest’s painful. My hands shaking. My mind’s unreachable. My legs erased.
The third day of my misdeed. The third night, unslept.
“Lift your arms up.” My father on my side, softly whispering, aiding. He has done this thousands of time. “Now, relax them to your sides.”
“I’m going to pass out.” I whimper.
“You’re not going to pass out.” He reassures, but it doesn’t matter. “Hold your breath… one… two… three.” He counts it out softly.
“I can’t do this.” I whimper again. “I feel like I’m dying.”
“You’re not dying… hold your breath… one… two… three… and exhale.” He does it again so gently. It’s soothing.
My breaths are short, and it hurts. Am I getting enough air? I’m worried that I’m not getting enough air. But I hold my breath until my chest beings to hurt… and exhale.
How long has it been? How long can I go on?
“Where are your toes? Do you feel your toes?” He asks.
So predictable. So simple. Distract yourself. Take a survey of yourself. Make sure all of your body parts are still attached. How humorous. Nonetheless, I reach for my toes with my mind.
I feel them. They’re there. Another short intake of air. This is killing me. I can’t do this anymore.
My heart is about to combust. I can hear it trying to break free out of my chest. I can’t do this anymore. I want to give up but for some stupid reason my mind is fighting to get in more air… more air… more air… more fucking air.
But there is never enough air. Or the right air. Clear my head but there, the persistent whispers.
“Hold your breath… one… two… three.” My father’s soft voice fighting the whispers.
It’s gradually aiding… alleviating.
“Hold your breath… one… two… three.” I can vaguely hear my father but it’s helping.
Hundred more times through the same loop. breathe in… one… two… three… exhale and repeat.
I sit up feeling slightly better and speak. “This is the fourth time today.”
“I know.” What a glum note from the man who can keep it together in any emergency.
“I can’t do this anymore.” An admission. My words tremble. The air is still insufficient but faintly better. I look up at the clock. The time seemed to stop. “Wouldn’t be better if I took something?” My desperate plea.
“You’ve taken enough medication for today… besides you know the method…”
“Talk it out.” I finish his thought but I have nothing to say and inhale a sum of air less violently. “I still can’t sleep.” I confess. The thought of dying by morning keeps me up at night… and I wait for the morning but it doesn’t help. The sunlight doesn’t help because I’m still suffocating.
Fear. The constant fear that my life is going to collapse, drown me, that I’m going to fail. A huge ‘F’ in life and it all twists to a simple gut-wrenching and choking fear… I’m going to die and to some extent I wish it would just end. That my mind would simply shut down. Not even reset because what’s the point. It will still malfunction. So please, press that fucking ‘off’ button already. Yet I’m fighting to live when I can’t go on living like this. The two opposing thoughts.
© Jacob Greb — 2012
appeared in Stigma Fighters (Feb. 4, 2019) and Terror House Magazine (Mar. 16, 2019)
return to Story Teller