The only feeling I can compare it to is when you contract a stomach bug. At least, when I contract a stomach bug. I'll lay in bed writhing in that throbbing stomach pain that subsides only to come back even harder just daring myself not to vomit. My brain stands off with my body. No way. No retching happening over here little virus. No puking. Brain v. Body (or in this case, virus.)
That's what happened two nights ago when I laid on my stomach and could feel my heart pounding through my chest. What's this? my brain wondered. The pounding felt so strong and rapid and irregular. When was the last time I had my blood pressure checked? Was that a lump on my chest? Was cartridge pressing on my heart surely causing it to explode and my husband will wake up and I'll be dead and I'll never see my children again and... No way? No way! My brain shouted!
Shit. I was having a panic attack.
It had been well over a year and a half since my last panic attack and my brain, once it realized what the hell was happening, was seriously angry with my body. This wasn't some virus picked up from a slimy student, this bizarre exploding heart feeling, inability to inhale and exhale, heaviness in my chest and pains in my arms was my body playing dirty, evil tricks on my brain.
No way. My brain stood up for herself. This is a panic attack even if it feels like something very serious. It's a trick! Stop whatever outlandish, fatalist feelings you're having this minute! Get off of your chest. Lay on your back. Take slow, deep breaths. In with the white light, out with the dark light. And repeat.
At some point my husband woke up. My brain told me to confidently tell him that I was having a panic attack and that I just needed to calm down and everything was fine and yes I would like some water. He's seen these before, in the middle of the night. One time, my brain let my body win and we went to the ER together. Tonight he just held my hand.
The next morning he and my brain both wondered what had brought this on. My top three possibilities included the fact that my children were four hours away (and out of my control), my disastrous substituting gig with sixth graders the day before Spring Break (way, way out of control) and the fact that before bed, I'd watched The Wolf of Wall Street a movie about a man so far out of control, I couldn't even enjoy it.
But if it was my body that won this round, that surprised my brain with this out-of-the-blue revolt, the reason could be that I started taking birth control again three weeks ago after a six month hiatus. No stomach virus to contend with here, just additional hormones battling my already precarious, rambunctious little batch. Until next time, both my brain and body agree that being a female is sometimes not so much fun.