I had never suffered from panic attacks until I got involved with him.
I think they started because he was so unpredictable. I could never figure out what would make him laugh, what would piss him off, what would make him proud of me, what made him upset.
You never want to be unsure about someone who has a nasty temper. It’s like being in a room with a snake and being told that it’s going to strike, but no one knows when or why, or what would set it off.
You spend your time terrified, waiting for the strike. It’s almost a relief when you’re finally attacked, because you aren’t waiting for it anymore.
Almost, because anyone who’s been screamed at or hit or had things thrown at them or been whipped or been bruised or been cut — anyone who has experienced anything like that can tell you that there’s nothing scarier.
Because during that strike, during the period where they’re actually lashing out at you, you are genuinely afraid that you could die. That this might be it, the one time they take that anger too far and snap.
I never had a panic attack when he was with me, because I strapped all my feelings down so tight that I almost believed I didn’t have any anymore. I really thought I didn’t care, that nothing mattered.
And then I’d go home, lay down in my bed, and lose my fucking mind.
It starts with the thoughts, clicking around to a million places, whirring along like a cartoon lawnmower that someone accidentally let go of. Your mind starts reviewing things, looking at things from different angles, piecing things together.
Your body starts to respond to memories, thinking over the ones you didn’t fully deal with at the time. Your heart starts pounding like you’ve just finished a sprint, even lying down perfectly still; it becomes a jackhammer in your chest and your throat and your ears. You hear the blood rushing in your ears, feel it spreading through your body like you’re about to take off running.
And then you start taking breaths, one after the other, faster and faster, and the more breaths you take the less oxygen you get, and suddenly there are tears in your eyes, because you’re terrified because you can’t breathe.
It really happens that fast.
One moment, you’re just laying in bed, thinking about your day, and the next, your heart is racing and you can’t breathe and you’re in tears and your life, quite literally, feels like it’s falling apart around you. And you can’t figure out how you got there.
Something about him, and the fear, and the uncertainty, caused these to happen all the time.
After him, it took me months to get my breath back.