The first time I got a panic attack I was around 9 years old. My parents were fighting, which wasn’t new, but after so many years of witnessing this, I guess I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I remember that day clearly because I threw up everywhere and I couldn’t breathe.
It didn’t stop them from fighting, though, so my panic attacks became more frequent and severe. I had meds for a while, then I don’t know what happened. I might have lost my inhaler or my mom never took me back to the doctor. Because I stopped using my medication and I wasn’t open with my mom, who at the time was going through her own set of problems, at 12 I began to cope with my anxiety and depression by cutting my wrists, my hips, and ankles.
I’d be in my living room or sitting on my bed and suddenly my palms would get sweaty and I could hear my damn heart beating so fast. I was so naïve, just a kid. Sometimes I would think to myself, “I might be dying. Is it a heart attack? Am I really dying?” I’d go find a blade or knife and I’d cut. For some reason, it would calm me down. I couldn’t stop the panic attacks from happening, but the cutting, pain, and bright red blood distracted me. I liked it better than gasping for air and regurgitating my breakfast.
Fast forward to today, I’m 23 years old and still struggling with anxiety and depression. Not yet healed, if that’s even possible. Though it has been about 10 years since I last cut, it has been less than 24 hours since my last horrendous panic attack. Now the panic attacks are brought on by traumas I’m not ready to discuss yet and so many more things, some that intersect with my abuse, some that don’t.
I have triggers. If you’re reading this and you are an anxious being like myself, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Fucking triggers.
My body knows when something is off before I do. It’s triggered and it reacts accordingly before I am able to admit it is happening. This is a blessing and a curse. Wait, maybe just a curse because I can’t ease my pain anymore. I can’t prepare for what is to come. I refuse to cut. I refuse to abuse drugs or drink excessively. The only way to cope is to let them happen. So last night, there I was trying to control my breathing, trying to stop the tears.
But they just flowed and flowed, and like 9-year-old me, I sat there gasping for air.