So This Is A Panic Attack, Eh?Commentary • Opinion • health • ISSUE 45•31 • Jul 30, 2009 By T. Eric Mayhew Hmmm. Something seems to be happening. I'm definitely noticing a quickening of the breath, a pounding of the heart, racing thoughts, and I believe yes, the feeling of an elephant sitting on my chest. If I didn't know any better, I'd say this is one of those elusive "panic attacks" I've heard so much about.Huh. I really didn't expect it to be quite so utterly terrifying. Weird.It's almost as if the more I think about how panicked I am, the more panicked I get. Like some kind of, what do you call those? Vicious circles. Like I'm spiraling around in an state of utter helplessness, unable to function on even the most basic level. Yeah, that about sums it up. I'd like to try to calm myself down by drinking a glass of water, but—it's really the darnedest thing—the kitchen sink feels 400 miles away, and the thought of actually getting up to go over there feels about as impossible as flapping my arms and flying to the moon. Man, these panic attack things really are as petrifying as they look in the movies!Now, granted, I'm new at this, but I can't help but notice that there doesn't appear to be any concrete reason for me to feel so terrible. How odd. I guess I assumed that such a sudden, paralyzing wave of unbearable dread like this would follow an actual occurrence of some sort. Like, say, my girlfriend leaving me. Oh my God, what if my girlfriend leaves me? Perhaps if I think about it for a moment longer, I can come up with all kinds of specific reasons to feel this terrible.Oh, yep, here they come. Here they come. Loneliness, getting fired from job, alienation by social circle, blood clots in legs, my dog hates me, plane crashes, cancer. Gee, these panic attacks are powerful stuff, aren't they? They weren't kidding!I can't quite put my finger on the total sensation of unavoidable doom that's coursing through my body like a tidal wave. But if I had to describe it, I'd probably go with "all-consuming." Yeah, definitely all-consuming. Everything in my field of vision seems to contain malevolent, menacing forces bent on my destruction, which is a bit of a surprise considering they're just inanimate objects in my living room. Lamps, end tables, rugs who knew they could be so horrifying, in a nonspecific sort of way?Aaaand, now I'm sweating. Oh, my stars and garters, isn't this wild?I wonder what's going to happen next. If I weren't stuck in the fetal position, I'd be on the edge of my seat with anticipation. Going by what my brain has been telling me repeatedly for the past 20 minutes, I'd predict that I'm about to die. Probably a heart attack. Or stroke. Or brain aneurysm, diabetic shock, spontaneous lung collapse, or can you panic to death? My, my, what amazingly rapid thoughts I'm having.Maybe if I repeat some simple phrase to myself over and over maniacally, that'll calm me down. It's worth a try, right? You're fine. You're fine. You're fine. Nope. Turns out the only sounds I am capable of making right now are strangled gurgling noises and quiet sobs.Oh, wait. I seem to be calming down a bit. Yes. Things are coming back into focus and I can feel my heart slowing. All right. Settle down. Breathe slow. Someday I'm going to die. Oh, God, it's back. Here we go.I had better call 9-1-1 and have an ambulance come pick me up. Then they can take me to the hospital and complete a barrage of tests that will all come back negative, and the doctors will tell me there's nothing wrong with me physically, and they'll chastise me for wasting their time and valuable hospital resources, and the bill will be outrageously high, and I won't be able to pay it, and I'll be right back here in this whirling vortex of unrelenting horror and fear.Oh, my goodness gracious. How long do these things last? Perhaps hiding under the covers in my bed will help. Let's see now no, nope. Still just as panicky under there as I was curled up in a ball on the couch. This panic attack sure is persistent. Looks like it's going to follow me wherever I go.In fact, come to think of it, nothing can help me at all. Alternately hugging the couch pillows and throwing them across the room doesn't seem to have any effect. Sobbing with big fat tears running down my face isn't doing any good either. The worse things get, the more I panic, and the more I panic, the worse things get.Who knew that, all this time, when people were talking about a panic attack, what they really meant was a nonstop rocket-sled ride to hell itself, where your soul gets sucked through a straw by demons?Well, at least I finally understand what all the hubbub is about.