I Had My First Panic Attack

Having a panic disorder sucks more than you think. Especially when you aren’t exactly sure what is happening to you. It is an indescribable feeling truly, yet here I am attempting to spell it out for you. Because it is a condition that isn’t something you can see, some people (myself included at one point) didn’t think it existed. It’s more than nerves, it’s more than being stressed, it’s more than being scared. It’s a creeping, physical feeling where you think something absolutely awful is going to happen. Either someone or something dreadful will “get” you in some manner. It’s painful, terrifying, and extremely real. I remember it so vividly.

Starting when I was about seven years old, my summers were spent in the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn, New York where my father had a rather large upper-part of a brownstone. He worked nights at the famous Village Vanguard jazz club so his days were, of course, deemed for sleeping. When you’re seven years old, that shit don’t fly. Luckily, next door was a wonderful black woman and her two daughters, one around nine and one in her late teens at the time. The mother, who we will call “Miss Viv” was a teacher, so her summers were free. Her youngest daughter (who we’ll call “Kenya”) and I were thick as thieves from the get-go.

Eventually, I ended up practically living there, sleeping on a pullout mattress in Kenya’s room. Since Kenya was a bit older, that meant of course she was contractually obligated to torture me a little bit. Scare the shit out of me at every opportunity. And, I was a fucking scaredy-cat in every sense of the word. One night when I was 11, and she was maybe 14 or 15 , the trailer for the 2005 Rob Zombie movie “The Devil’s Rejects” came on the TV. The operative word was “trailer”. That shit scared me to my fucking bones. I had never, ever been so disturbed in my life, and I didn’t even know why. Horror movies still to this day petrify me but this did something to my psyche. Since I slept in her room, it was her domain and she wasn’t scared of the dark. I WAS. (Side note: before you call me a pussy, yes, I agree in retrospect as a 22-year-old but I was a naïve child with naïve child-like thoughts. So bugger off) And I think the combined stress of being away from home, being in the dark, harboring a deep-seated fear of my father, and the loneliness I felt very often culminated that night and I had a panic attack. I could not breathe. I could not even cry. I shook in the fetal position so violently; Kenya called her mom into the room. I couldn’t even explain how afraid I was or what was wrong. It must have been intense because my dad had to come from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back at past midnight. Oh, the perks of being a parent.

In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad but I was still really terrified. Panic disorders are extremely real and opened a door to a mental illness I didn’t want to accept I had. I got addicted to the medication prescribed to manage it and now I’m struggling to live a clean life while managing everyday stresses that make life possible. So Godspeed to everyone out there who has this condition. We’ll chill out eventually.

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