If This is Panic, Where’s the Trigger?

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This has happened before. I’m not sure what triggers it, but I hate the feeling. It’s not the same as when my mind won’t shut down. You know what I mean. Thoughts just keep circulating through your brain, randomly, on their own. You try to convince yourself to stop thinking and even yell at yourself in your mind. That’s not fun either, but it’s different.

When a Panic Attack Hits

Deep breath. Innnnnnn. Ouuuuuut.

When my mind is in overdrive, I usually know what it is, what’s driving the overflow of synaptic energy. Sometimes just getting up and reading or walking around can help, but this is different. This is like panic setting in, like waking from a nightmare but your body is slow to react.

It hits me suddenly, without warning and always shortly after I’ve gone to bed, settling down for sleep but not yet asleep. My heart feels like it’s racing, so fast I expect to see the bed sheets bouncing just a little. The blood rushes past my ears in a loud echo. Then my chest fills with cotton, restricting the movement around my lungs.

In. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Out. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

I have to talk myself through the steps, forcing my body to suck in as much air as I can and then control its slow release. If I don’t, I think I’ll start hyperventilating, though I don’t know for sure.

I can’t lay still. I need to move, adjust my position, confirming that I’m not pinned down and I’m free. I sit up slightly thinking that a raised head will make it easier to breathe. I lay down because my arms hurt from propping up my shoulders. I slide my legs to the left and to the right, nudging the cats off the bed, seemingly unfazed with my predicament. I get out of bed, trying to not wake my husband, and stand bent over with my head and arms dropping to the floor.


My mind is blank except for the chants to breathe. There are no thoughts of work or home. The blackness in my brain hasn’t triggered this. It’s always the same. It’s always sudden, no real reason. And just like it started, the feeling ends. Almost two hours of breathing, fidgeting, focusing on calm things, the tightness and racing heart stop. The feeling doesn’t slowly fade; it just stops.

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Like that, I slowly drift to sleep, wondering yet again what has caused this sense of panic. Well, it’s not panic, but it feels like how my body would react to panic. It knows the steps, but didn’t wait for the trigger.

Thankfully this doesn’t happen that often. I think the last one was maybe last year. The infrequency is probably one reason why I’ve never worried too much about the symptoms or brought it up with my doctor. Dealing with it only a few times doesn’t make it any less disconcerting in the moment, when I can’t breathe, when I struggle to regain composure. But for now, it’s behind me. Already what was an overpowering sensation is fading in my mind’s eye. Soon, I will forget altogether until the next time. It’s funny how our mind gets us through, especially on the things its played a part in causing.

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