The Poetry of a Panic Attack

People have often asked me to describe what it’s like to have a panic attack.

And I guess it makes sense that there’s this fascination with how it feels if you’ve never had one. Hell, I’ve had a handful and I still find the entire experience fascinating. If you’ve never had one, god bless your sweet soul and I hope it’s something you never have to experience. If you have…well, then you know how utterly terrifying they are, especially the first one or two. That inky black hole of spinning that sucks you in and completely consumes every corner of your mind — as you know, you KNOW that you’re going to die and mother of god I had so much planned for my life and I never took that trip to Barcelona or chopped off my hair and now I’m going to die here on this airplane/kitchen floor/in my shower.

If you’ve had one, you know what I’m talking about.

I was on a flight a while ago (flying is one of my triggers), and I started to think about my anxiety. The physical and emotional responses to it. The poetry of it. And more to the point, how it manifested itself differently when I was in public versus when I was curled up in a ball on my living room floor.

So, as I do when I’m emotional peril, I wrote. And this is what I came up with:


Thumping, speeding tiny rabbit feet

Skipping through my veins and across my skin.

Feverish fantasies, vivid and terrifying.

Acutely aware of horse-hoof heartbeat.

Liquid silver panic trickles down my back, tickles the insides of my wrists until they itch.

Elephant Chest, no good breath, pressing pressing pressing.

I’m dying I’m dying I’m dying this is it I’m going to die surrounded by strangers.

Will it back, you’re fine you’re fine you’re fine it’s fine you’re breathing you have a pulse pulse pulse you’re breathing.

Horse-hoof thump thump thump thump sweating sweating cold sweat shaking.

Stay still.

Stay so still and no one will know.

No on has to know the lightning ripping through your body.

Be so still and they won’t know

you’re splintering inside.

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