When “What If” Explodes Into Panic

Continuing on as promised from the first part: Panic attacks.

I’ve had two now, and lemmie recount my experiences with the second (it’s shorter to explain and was more dramatic) and hopefully that illustrates a panic attack a little better.

One day I was sitting at my computer desk, going over a manuscript a member of my writing group had submitted. He’d written it in a Google Doc, so I could immediately edit it. It’s immensely soothing and satisfying to me, in that Grammar Nazi way, to correct little spelling and grammar errors; however, the manuscript in question was an early draft. What Andrew wanted was broad strokes, big picture. And that’s what I was actually looking for, but I couldn’t help but to correct the small semantics, too.

So since it’s in a Google Doc, Andrew could see the changes as I made them, and he happened to be looking at it while I was reading it. Andrew sent me a text saying something along the lines of, “I’m not looking for grammatical errors right now, this is just a rough draft”. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say – in fact, I have said something of that nature to the members of my group when submitting a piece, too. We all know that that we generally can’t help but correct little mistakes and that that’s still gonna be feedback sometimes and none of it – none of it – is a big deal.

I freaked out when I got that text.

I started to panic. Oh no. Oh no! Andrew hates me! Andrew isn’t just a symbiotic writing relationship to me – all of those guys are dear friends to me. They’re precious. And Andrew, he’s the kinda guy who doesn’t waste time on people he doesn’t like. If he doesn’t like you, you will know it.


It’s the opposite of this.

Which…makes it all the more unreasonable that I was flipping out about this text. If Andrew hated me, I wouldn’t be in the writing group. The dude invites me over to watch anime and reviews games and game systems with me and we play DnD together. As someone who doesn’t play games of niceties, this is a clear sign Andrew does not hate me.

And even as I’m freaking out – and I mean, I start crying and shaking because I’m so upset about how this stupid, simple text means that he hates me – I know this. I know that there is no way in the Nether Andrew so much as dislikes me. And I start crying harder because the whole thing is so dumb. I am dumb because I am crying and freaking out about something that is obviously false and stupid. And I need to stop crying right now. I need to stop immediately. And holy heck Andrew hates me no this is stupid, stop it, stop it, STOP IT!

And instead of stopping, I start hyperventillating because I can’t stop it. I can’t stop. I’m out of control. I’m choking now because I’m literally hyperventillating. I thought people only hyperventillated on purpose but I’m not doing this on purpose and now I can’t stop but I’m still trying to cry and I’m still furious with how stupid I am and this whole thing is and now my body is shaking and trembling as I choke on my hyperventilating crying and I collapse out of my chair and curl up into the fetal position under my computer desk and cry and choke and breath after big, unplanned breath and choking and

and I think

I’m dying

I knew I was having a panic attack, but it felt like something was happening to my heart. That much was true. It felt like it was exploding and being ripped out simultaneously. But it was hardly my heart that was the focus, that just put a nice touch on the “dying” bit. I was breathing but I couldn’t control how or when I did, and it felt like every breath I took in wasn’t oxygen but something else just as free-flowing and cold, cold, cold. And I couldn’t feel, and I couldn’t stop shaking, and I was constantly choking, and my ribcage had become fingers of something malevolent squeezing, squeezing me. Much like had happened with my first panic attack. And my whole mind was hazy. I felt like a weird videogame POV when the POV character collapses. Like that part in Skyrim in the Thieves’ Guild quest where you find Karliah and she shoots you with that poisoned arrow and then Mercer stabs you. Or any other time in any other similar POV game when you fall down from an explosion or something. My cat walked towards me and sympathetically sniffed at me and it felt…like it wasn’t my experience, just a weirdly angled cut scene.

After a few minutes, like it was all a part of the same cutscene, I crawled out from under the computer desk and staggered through the kitchen, down the stairs, along the hall, to my bedroom, where I closed the door and collapsed into bed, still with the odd hyperventillated breath and latent sobs. My last thought was worrying that the baby, who should have been napping but I heard her playing in her room when I staggered past, wouldn’t leave her room and cause trouble while I freaked out in the dark, cool, safe of my room, and hopefully, while I slept.

I did sleep, and the kid just played nicely in her room until Tyler got home. And I was…mostly okay. There was a lump in my throat, a huge one, extremely painful, that didn’t go away for weeks, maybe even a month. It hurt badly to swallow, and it hurt to touch from the outside. I believe I’d pulled something, hypertension or somesuch, during my panic attack. Eventually I asked for help and was told to massage it and drink hot drinks and use lavander oil and similar stuff. Some of it worked, the muscles relaxed, and all was well.

Except for the part where I still have anxiety, of course. But so far, no more panic attacks. And maybe as I accept this new part of me, I can keep it that way.

About Rii the Wordsmith

An aspiring author, artist, avid consumer of storytelling medium, gamer, psychologist (insomuch as one with her bachelor's is a psychologist), wife, mother, DM, Christian, a friend to many, and, most importantly, an evil overlord.
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