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Doing the Aftermath

I’ve never experienced an earthquake, but from what I know about them, I’m guessing they’re a lot like panic attacks.

Both are difficult to anticipate (unless you’re in a particular zone, in which case, you should just expect rumblings at any time).

In their aftermaths, they somehow make sense, whether they were big or small. But you don’t feel consoled. Your shaken state makes you a conduit of past and future. You anticipate the next one will be as bad as the last one without knowing how to prepare for it.

Yesterday morning I awoke about two hours early gasping for air. A bad dream faded from memory as I stared at the clock and tried to slow my breathing. Feeling as if I were suffocating, I peeled off my long-sleeve shirt.

I sat in my t-shirt with the covers thrown off me and listened to Doug and the dogs breathing. Their sense of calm heightened my anxiety. I felt like an outsider, so I went to the living room to read. I stepped into the world of the book, but remained alert to possible dangers in my own imagined world, psychologically surveying the area every so often before returning my attention to the calm scene I was reading.

As the day progressed, I settled down. As usual, I don’t understand what set off the panic attack. But I’m grateful that it’s been a few months since the last one. For years, I had them every day or two. I can’t fend them off. All I can do is hold tight.

Now I ignore the temptation to imbue them with meaning. In and of themselves, they’re like words on a page that, after years of repetition, don’t say much. They communicate a physical, biochemical story, and sometimes I throw in a little metaphorical value to make my reading of them interesting.

They don’t warn of the end of my world, even if each one feels that way for a while. More quickly now, I remember the feeling. I know, Oh, right, I’ve felt like this before. Not that I’ll be able to prepare for the next one. But every moment I’m not overwhelmed is a little victory.

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One Response

  1. I have experienced several earthquakes, but never a panic attack. I’ve had the shakes hit while asleep or awake, although I’ve never been jolted out of sleep by them. And although the idea terrifies me and I know how dangerous they can be, I really can’t do ‘panicky’ either during or afterwards. Weird, I know.

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