I am doing some creative writing workshops with the brilliant Off the Shelf festival and I wrote a piece about how my panic attacks feel. I thought I would share an excerpt from it here. I have had a bad few days but the release of writing has really helped me.
I want to talk to you about that feeling of being so overwhelmed, of the tsunami of fear, sadness, worry and anxiety, of the panic.
It is like you are floating in the ocean, there are bumps and waves, occasional swells. There is the movement of the sea that changes with the tides and pull of the moon. Sometimes there is a surprise splash that hits you unexpectedly in the face. But hey, that’s just the ocean, right?
You deal with the ocean’s movements even the unpredictable ones, but sometimes the waves grow higher. They are choppy and the atmosphere changes, you can feel that something dreadful is approaching.
You feel the tide pull from underneath you, as if the whole world is taking a deep breathe in, it is gathering momentum. It is drawing all the power from around you and pulling the oxygen from your lungs.
Then there it is. A swell ten storeys high and it is heading straight for you. In panic, you look left and right in a frenzy for an escape but there is nothing but deep blue sea for miles around. The horror is the knowledge that this is going to hit and it is going to hurt and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
In those last seconds, you gasp, there is silence, you are alone.
Then it hits you with a roar so ferocious that you just hope it takes you quickly. You are under.
Which way is up? Which way is down?
You tumble without control, arms and legs flailing, you are falling yet being yanked in every direction. You are drowning in the weight of the whole ocean, pressing on your chest, crushing your spirit, breaking the very centre of your being.
The noise is incredible, the whispers, shouts and howling screams of every bad thought you have ever known and ever will know.
It hurts so bad that you just want to give in, to sink to the bottom and allow your body to go back to the earth and your soul to return to the universe. You just want it to end quickly, you want peace wherever that peace can be found.
When you are at that point, when you want to screw your eyes tight to stop your tears escaping and keep the world out, please open your eyes and see your tribe around you.
Though your fists are clenched tightly, your brain telling your muscles to contract, to grip your palms, to be ready to fight the world, open your fingers and reach out your hand to the ones you trust
When your throat is closed tight, when the words won’t escape and are trapped, choking you, you need to speak to those who are there to listen, to soothe, to never judge and to take some of the weight.
At the best of times, at the worst of times, in the darkest, most isolating and horrific of times, in the times where you feel there is no hope, no light, no point. Reach out to your loved ones and allow them in.
You aren’t alone.
You will survive this.
Peace and love