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    An Inquiry Into My First Panic Attack

    After living with anxiety and panic disorder for nearly a decade, I decided to go back to look at my first panic attack.

    The feelings of a child

    I had always been a bubbly, light hearted kid. Things that come along with that territory include being everyone’s friends even when they didn’t like you, putting other people’s feelings and experiences above your own as to not upset anyone or to feel like a burden, making people smile and laugh, having a heart too big for your own body often to your own detriment. But any kid feels these feelings right?

    From the time where I could think for myself I thought that everyone though about other people as greater than themselves. “You are here to serve the people who came before and to take care of those who came after.” But life was good right?

    The first Panic Attack

    We’ll needless to say, after years of therapy this isn’t how most kids think. Kids think about how to make people happy sure, but not to their own detriment. I had a crashing realization of this fact when I was 15 working as a maintenance worker for a local office. I was painting an overhang and I felt my heart began to race. I felt dizzy and nauseous and then I felt the darkness. The darkness that is not unlike the darkness when looking into the deep ocean at a drop off. It’s dark, it’s deep, it is all encompassing. It’s the capital “A” Abyss. The place where people don’t want to go. And as I’m painting this overhang I see the Abyss. And it swallows me. My mind is flooded with deeply irrational thoughts. I’m reminded of snow days where I give up using a snow blower and thinking that I will always be a quitter, I’m flooded with visions of bombs dropping in my small Pennsylvanian town, there’s depth and death and darkness. I think I’m going to die. Death was as real as this desk I am sitting at now. I come too after heaving in the bathroom for 45 minutes a different person. Long are the days of bubbly, carefree attitudes. I have seen the Abyss and it smiled back at me.

    Finding meaning in the Abyss

    Nearly 10 years later and I still think about this day. I’ve had countless panic attacks since and still continue to have them. I’ve been in therapy for years and been able to experience all of the life changing that brings along with it. But this day in the summer of my Sophomore year of high school still haunts me. I can almost remember every single thought that hit me that panic attack. I can remember where I was and what I was doing. But that’s besides the point, the point is there here and now. What was the point of all this rambling? The point is I’m still here. I still breathe and see and hear and feel and laugh and cry and struggle. There is meaning in that Abyss that I saw. Some people see it earlier than me, some never see it, yet it’s there, ever encroaching on mental states broken down by modern American society.

    The meaning is there, and it is up to you to find it. I’m not going to sit here and act like I have the answers. The only answers I have are my answers, and they let me live a life. My truth is one of observation. The way a poet would love their life. Small smiles of loved ones, the way bugs move, watching animals play. It’s love. Love of the birds, love of people, love of the air and the love of the Abyss.