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My First Panic Attack My First Panic Attack

Do I wish to even return to that night when the first stirrings of ungodly fear wrapped its fingers around my heart? No, I donít. But I will.

I had been very sick for half the year. First, bronchitis had laid hold of me, wracking my body with fever and a cough that seemed to be trying to tear out my soul and serve it up for dinner. Once pulled from the depths of that, strep throat took hold of my already ravaged body. With its blinding headache and searing fever I once again thought surely I would die. I was at the end of this illness, sighing deeply at seeing some light return to my soul when the panic monster entered my life. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

On that particular night there lay in the upper reaches of my closet something I had bought some time before. It was touted in the magazine I bought it from as a foot massager. But let us face facts, it was a dildo. It was actually funny because the only place I ever used it was on my feet (swear to God!). Iím not, shall we say, prone to sexual exploration.

At any rate, this thing lay perfectly harmless, nestled among shoe boxes full of junk, on the top shelf of my closet. The batteries within it were good because, as I said before, I did use it occasionally on my feet.

On that horrible night I lay nestled next to my husband, free from fever and headache at last. An encompassing and blessed fatigue lay upon my mind and body as I drifted off to sleep. I was relishing the sweetness of sleep, not quite there but close enough, a semi asleep state, when it happened.

Out of the stillness and perfectness of the night came a horrid noise that wrenched me like a sleeping kitten and plunged me into the abyss of a whirlpool. How do I describe it? How could I possibly show to you in words the horrific sound which emanated from my closet?

Looking back, it would have been comical, if not for the truths which were about to be paraded, naked as a newborn babe, before me. The vibrator had fallen from its hiding place, landing in the corner of the closet and somehow turning the dial which activated it. It was in an unstable position, lying awkwardly on top of a pile of shoes, so it rocked back and forth precariously.

The sound that came and went from my closet was this thing leaning against the wall, humming its little heart out. It sounded like a jackhammer with the sound turned way down.

In my semi sleep state, I had no idea where this sound came from. My mind careened from one possibility to another, settling insanely on beings from outer space. Where the hell did that come from?? They were in my closet and what was I going to do about it?!?

By the time sanity settled in my brain and I realized where the sounds were coming from , my entire being crossed the line I had been teetering on for so long. And by then, it was too late.

The truths of life that most people reach in old age, or never even comprehend, were laid out flat and terrifying before my eyes in a blinding flash.

Life, this pulsating flesh we call our body, this spirit within us that dictates our direction, was fleeting and mortal. Nothing in the universe was stable and anything, anything beyond our wildest nightmares was actually possible. The millisecond that I faced this jarring truth was my undoing. Some people come to it with poise and grace, others give it a passing nod, and others run screaming into the night.

Before I could react to this horrific, magnificent reality laid in front of me, my body leaped into action. Was it trying to protect me, divert my attention, give me strength? Perhaps in hindsight this is exactly the answer. Good old Fight of Flight adrenaline surge.

A mighty force descended on my chest, pinning me to the mattress. My hands went dead and my arms tingled as if I had plunged them into an electrically charged pool. My eyes dilated to a point where all I could see was blackness with pinpoints of light swirling amidst the darkness. I could not get air.

Desperately I clutched for my sleeping husband. ďIím having a heart attackĒ I told him. He rolled over and went back to sleep. Why? I donít know. That I will never understand and donít even want to go there.

We all know now that a panic attack lasts less than a few minutes but it seemed like an eternity. I was 27 years old and dying of a heart attack. I was certain of this. Somehow I managed to get to the car and I drove myself to the emergency room, fingers at my throat counting heartbeats all the way.

That night took its toll on me. I lived each day, each night, in total fear of dying, in total terror of another crushing attack. You do not enter that abyss and blithely forget it easily.

It has been ten years since that first attack - ten years of fear so intensely felt that at times I wish to tear my hair out in an attempt to rip the madness out and shake it dead. Well, that is how it all started.


K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2006

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