There’s no ‘perfect’ panic attack, but there is a best case scenario. It’s grim, the entire way through.

  1. See/hear/feel/think about your trigger – It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be deep or really, really stupid. The result is the same. It’s uncontrollable. It’s inevitable.
  2. Tunnel vision – Suddenly you can only see one thing. Sometimes it’s not even real. It can be a flashback of something completely different. All anyone else sees is you looking at some inanimate object like it just punched you in the stomach. Worse than that, you get this hollow feeling for a brief moment. It’s serene but it’s a signal if you’ve had panic attacks before. You already know what’s coming. There’s still hope, though.
  3. Starting to crack – There’s not really a physical difference here. Your eyes might tear up a bit and your breathing might get a little harsher, but all in all, no one notices yet unless they’re expecting it.
  4. Escape – It’s time to get out before you really lose it. It’s some lame excuse, usually mumbled and usually not noticeable if there are multiple people with you. The clock’s ticking. If you’re lucky, you make it out.
  5. Shatter – There’s a cliché of breaking into a million pieces during heartbreak but it’s more applicable to anxiety. It’s a metaphor but doesn’t feel like it. This is that part you have nightmares about. Is it wrong to panic about having a panic attack?
  6. Cry until you can’t breathe – This step blurs with step 5, but really they’re separate. The chaos lasts a few minutes. The crying can last for hours. It’s that part that makes you feel the weakest. It’s this that steals every ounce of your energy.
  7. Try to move – You know that feeling when you first wake up and you just want to do anything but leave your bed? Your muscles feel heavy. It’s goes beyond not wanting to get up, you actually can’t find the energy. The tears stay on your face and you’re still in the crumpled heap you fell into back at step 5.
  8. Move a little – You finally get back to your friends, if you were lucky and made it through in a relatively short amount of time and they haven’t moved on to other things. Whether they’re gone or not, the next time you see one of them, they ask if you’re okay. No matter how much you want to scream, NO I’M FUCKING NOT, you brush it off.
  9. Slowly recover – This can take time. Sometimes a few days, sometimes just a few hours. Anything you do is sub-par and there’s no explanation for it.
  10. Pretend it didn’t happen – At least until the next time your trigger finds you