I had a panic attack earlier this week.
It’s been almost a year and a half since my last serious moment. It came out of nowhere. I was hugged far too tightly by someone who was not welcome to touch me, and I panicked. It started off as something I thought I could work through….shaking hands, a slight shortness of breath. It didn’t slow down. It didn’t get better. It got worse. Shaking hands turned to full body paralyzation. Shortness of breath turned into the inability to see or breathe or speak in coherent words. I lost track of time. It was terrifying.
I was in a public place. I was at my job. I was in possibly one of the worst places to totally shut down because I’ve kept most of my history separate from my work environment. I was lucky enough to have one friend there who I’ve known for over a decade who knows all of my past and was able to drive me home and make sure I had moved past the worst of it, but it was impossible for most of my colleagues to know why I was just leaving work in the middle of a shift.
That’s the thing about having ptsd. That’s a factor that I’ve dismissed since it’s been so long since my last crippling episode. It can come back at any time. Triggers can’t be controlled. You can try to avoid situations where thoughts and feelings come rushing back, but that isn’t a hundred percent guarantee that you’re the person before the event or events that caused your trauma.
I think one of the worst parts to me is how embarrassed I feel. There’s a sense of shame and humiliation that comes with completely shutting down in front of a bunch of people that you’ve only known for a few months. It shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately most people don’t understand the feeling that every molecule of oxygen is being squeezed from your lungs, that you have to clench your fists so tightly that nails cut skin just to keep your mind somewhat in the present. That became clear to me when I was told that I “just have to get over my past and move on”.
Some traumas are impossible to get over. There’s healing that will happen and the fear or hurt may subside, but it doesn’t just magically go away. You can’t just snap your fingers and become instantly mentally or emotionally healthy again. It doesn’t work like that. I wish it did. I wish there was an instant fix to make all of the bad feelings disappear. But it does not work like that, and unless you’ve dealt with trauma in your life, it’s virtually impossible to understand that fact. It’s a slow process and there are setbacks, as I’ve recently experienced, but the healing does come. Days get brighter and breaths come easier. It’s just important to remember that it takes time.