My First Panic Attack

My wife and I just signed papers to become homeowners. She’s also 3 months pregnant and because of my neurosis about a miscarriage or birth defects (or my fear of not being ready to be a father, despite my desire to be one), we haven’t told anyone.

Three years ago, I was living on the opposite coast, trying to save a relationship that actually ended long before it did. I remember that denial and pain and the numbness that came with it. I was sad and confused. I was anxious, worried and lost too, but as I slogged through that experience, I never felt panicked. Today I have a lump in the bottom of my throat, made up of stomach acid, anxiety, fear and excitement. And I can’t breathe.

Last week I turned 30 years old. Multiple times in my haphazard adolescence, I got the feeling that I wouldn’t make it to this birthday. That thought stuck with me, in the darker corners of my brain. Well isn’t this a surprise, I thought, as I blew out the three candles. One for each decade. One for me, one for my wife and one for our fetus. The air left my cheeks, the candles went dark and I couldn’t breathe.

I suck air in through my mouth but it doesn’t reach my lungs. It sits in the back of my throat, swelling, reaching out, smelling the panic and fear in my gut. I gulp air, desperately through my nose. It swirls with the last breath and they agree to move no further. My heart is beating faster now and I still can’t breathe.

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