How to survive a panic attack in three acts

Prologue: 

On the bulletin board next to my desk is a handwritten checklist from my therapist: is it truthful? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If no, let it go.

.  .  .

Act 1: 

Hold an ice cube in your hand, squeeze it until all you can focus on is the pain shooting up your arm.

Nobody found me there, sitting in the workroom, rocking back and forth. I was paralyzed by some unidentifiable fear, a vague ‘what if.’ If you move, the world’s going to explode, my brain shouted at me. Move and you die, like some stranger holding a knife to your neck; only, the person holding you hostage is yourself.

You’re ok. You’re ok, I whisper to myself, as I breathe slowly in and out, trying to hold back the tears that are starting to fill my eyes.

The light starts to fade to dark.

.  .  .

Act 2:

Focus on your breathing: in for four, hold for four, out for four, until you can breathe normally without thinking, until it starts to regulate itself.

When the panic sets in, I have to remind myself to breathe. I become too focused, too caught up in the mutterings of my mind to stay sane. I can’t get out unless I breathe. But, even then, sometimes it takes more than just “focusing on my breathing.”

. . .

Act 3:

When all else fails, let it go. Put it in a box, watch it float down the river, watch it careen over a waterfall and crash on the rocks below. When all else fails, ride it out. This, too, shall pass.

You’re ok. You’re ok. You’ll be ok.

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