I'd been walking through my mom's empty house, when a foreign sensation punched me in my chest. Stopping dead in my tracks, I tried to take a deep breath but found my chest too tight for that.
The couch was a few feet away so I decided to sit down and told myself I'd been under a lot of stress recently, and that my heart losing it's rhythm and beating in some alien fashion was completely normal.
I didn't believe me.
After deciding to try laying down, my heart returned to the rhythm of predictable beats that most people never notice. But after a few minutes, it returned to skipping beats and extra beats and if my heart had been the drummer in a band playing live, there would've been boos and tomatoes.
I was scared. And starting to shake.
It wouldn't stop. My heart had completely lost it's mind.
And so I lost my hold, and spiraled into the worst panic attack I'd ever had. And the first one where I actually saw my life flash before my eyes.
Hyperventialing, losing the feeling in my hands and arms, I somehow drove myself to the ER, on the phone with my mom, because I was sure I would be dead in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.
Of course, the ER doctor ran all the standard heart tests on me, and when everything came back completely normal, he asked if I was experiencing any new stress.
At the mention of my grandfather dying, he just nodded his head.
"Just a panic attack," He'd said. "You just need to find a way of coping with them."
Which is the great secret, isn't it? How to cope with panic attacks.
Feeling like an idiot for thinking I was dying, I walked back out the automatic glass doors of the ER back into a world that didn't look like the one I'd woken up in yesterday.
The panic attacks started coming all the time, from the moment I woke in the mornings, until I paced myself exhausted into bed at night. They were unrelenting.
I was afraid to get in my car, afraid to go to work, afraid to swallow food.
I was afraid to live.