You arrive at a restaurant where you’re supposed to be meeting your friend, and he texts you to ask if you can actually save five seats, all on your own.
He’s bringing extra people, and everyone will be a little bit late.
You can feel the anxiety setting in. You feel the looks people give you when they see you’re taking up six whole seats in a very crowded bar. You want to cry, but you also want to try.
You know this won’t end well.
Or, maybe an encounter with a potential romantic partner went awry, and you’re convinced that everyone is talking about it.
The more people you pass, the more convinced you become.
This still won’t end well.
Whatever the situation, whatever the reason, your feelings are escalating. You can feel them rising and falling in your chest and soon, you can only feel them rising.
These feelings are climbing up your chest and lingering at the bottom of your throat.
Slowly, they start to scale your throat. Some of these feelings climb onto your tongue, and others continue to the backs of your eyes.
These feelings are rising and soon they will hit the top. Soon, they will have to come out.
The explosion starts off slowly, as only a special kind of explosion can. You’ve felt it coming on, but you wanted to believe you could subdue it.
You want desperately to be able to control these panic attacks, to stop them before they happen, but you are only human.
A panic attack is a force you don’t really even understand, let alone have the ability to control.
You are in public when it starts. The tears start to come, silently, and soon, so do the stares.
You’re trying not to breathe too much because you know if you do, the hyperventilating will come. But soon, you don’t have a choice.
Your breathing gets heavy and you know you need to take cover, right now.
You are panting like a maniac, and the stares are pretty consistent now. Everyone is wondering what your problem is.
And, so are you.
You get yourself to the nearest bathroom as fast as you can. With any luck, it’ll be a single bathroom.
With no luck at all, it’ll be a public bathroom with multiple stalls, and anyone else in there will hear your commotion.
You slam the door to whatever it is you’ve got and let the full panic attack take over. The tears and the hyperventilating are at full force.
You are practically convulsing, you are crying so hard. You can’t breathe. You can’t see.
For a few moments, you honestly feel like you are dying.
This awful, full-force attack lasts for entire minutes before it starts to die. It is strong, it has stamina and it won’t let it go that easily.
For what seems like a painful eternity, you are under full control of this attack, and it’s not fun.
It’s not something you can just shrug off. It completely takes over. It takes everything out of you. It doesn’t care how it’s making you feel.
Panic attacks are ruthless.
Finally, after centuries in that tiny bathroom, it begins to back off. Your breathing gets slower, and so does the flow of your tears.
When your breathing is back to normal and your tears are dry, you are shaken.
You feel lightheaded and sort of nauseous. You feel a little like you just completed an excruciating workout.
Your entire body is reeling. Your face is blotchy and you feel like you might not even be able to walk straight. It’s over, but you don’t feel any better. You feel broken.
You take a moment to calm yourself before you head back out into the world. You close your eyes. You tell yourself it’s okay.
This isn’t your fault, and you’re not stupid for going through this.
You examine your face. It looks like you’ve just been crying. Everyone will notice, and really, they have no idea. None. You’ve just been through a war against yourself.
You head back out and try to act normally. Of course, you guess, you’re not. You assimilate back into the swing of things, and you try to forget.
You might still be shaking. You might still feel woozy. You will probably just want to sleep.
And all of this over saving a few chairs. It sounds ridiculous. It sounds like a tall tale, something that doesn’t actually happen.
But, it is very real. This is a panic attack, and for so many people, this is a reality.
Panic attacks are not your fault. Panic attacks are not something you brought on yourself. They're nothing to feel guilty about.
You are fine, you are fine, you are fine. Even if you don’t feel fine, you are.
Panic attacks are awful, and so many people experience them. If you see someone about to lose his or her sh*t in public, don’t judge.
He or she isn't emotionally unstable or crazy and certainly can’t help it.
Instead of judging, just smile.
Even if a person can’t show it in that moment, he or she will appreciate it more than you will ever know.