I Am Having a Panic Attack

Yes, right now.

I trained as a singer for a while, so normally I breathe through my belly, pulling the thick muscle of my diaphragm down so I can draw in more oxygen with less movement. Now, my belly is tight, solid, immobile. My ribcage is perfectly still. Only my throat can move, and only to open. Air goes in and out in thin spurts.

I don't feel like I'm going to cry, but my face is wet already and there's no reason behind it. I can't stop.

I never got panic attacks before I was pinned down by someone I trusted. When it started happening, I had no idea what it was. When I was younger, I was accused of having temper tantrums, or faked nausea to get attention. It took a bout of mold in my old apartment to pin down the issue—I'm moderately allergic to mold, and it started causing asthmatic symptoms.

I can't breathe I can't breathe I can't breathe I say to myself, willing my throat to stay open. Call someone; you know what to do, just call It's okay, but I can't and I don't.

Every panic attack ricochets on the last one. They bounce off each other, like a physics demonstration on a pool table. This one's the white ball, and it hurtles towards the other.

According to physics theory, you can see the state of something as is, then, knowing the momentum of everything on the table, you can back-derive everything that has ever happened. I back-derive. Helplessly, I find the source of why my chest is tight and I can't breathe and I obsess over this first thing, the thing that set every subsequent thing into motion.

The first time you called someone no one helped. There were laughs in the dark. Don't call. The imperative stops me. It stops me every time. Even now, when the piece is done, I can't hit publish, not yet. Don't call.

I don't have tissues in my office, so napkins disappear, filled with face goo. I don't know what to do. My chest starts moving again, but it's illusory; the feedback loop is just turning on itself again, finding its tail, biting its tail...

The scary part of ouroboros symbolism is not that the snake is eating itself. It's that the snake is always, always, always hungry, and has only the one thing to eat.