By Claire Dever
When I was eleven, I had my first panic attack. I was on a mountain, hiking, when a daddy-long-leg crawled across my foot. My chest immediately closed up, as did my throat. I started to cry and it took everything in me to keep walking forward. My body kicked up the fight-or-flight instinct, screaming at me to run, run, run, but my body wouldn’t move forward. I now know I have a phobia of arachnids, but at the time, I thought that this was a normal occurrence. I thought that everyone had episodes like this, times when they couldn’t breathe or move.
A year later, I had another one in June. It was sudden and intense, but I didn’t think of it as odd. I had one more a month later, then another, then another. I couldn’t walk through the crowded halls of school without feeling the same panic. At this time, I had started worrying about everything. I was analyzing everything I said and didn’t say, I thought about worst-case scenarios until I convinced myself that they were real.
I finally told my parents, and they spent months trying to convince me to go to a doctor. I was firm on “no”. Finally, on Easter Sunday, they sat me down and said that I had to go.
When I was four, I was caught in a riptide with my father. I don’t remember much, just the sound of the rushing, black water, the taste of salt on the back of my throat and the feeling of being completely and utterly out of control.
When I got my diagnosis, I felt like I was back in the ocean. I was drowning, out of control. I was being tossed and turned in the waters of my own mind and the words of the doctor.
Two years later, and I’m still struggling with feeling like I’m drowning. Except now, my head is above water more than it is under.