As a person who’s been dealing with anxiety for the past three and a half years (and a lot longer if I look back at undiagnosed symptoms), this is what a panic attack feels like for me, in GIF form, because seriously, is there any other more perfect mode of expression?
Maybe you’ll relate or maybe you’ll have your own set of GIFS that sum up what happens when the anxiety takes hold with all of the enthusiasm of Mark Wahlberg in a franchise reboot.
1. My heart starts beating fast, and I want to vom.
Am I dying?
2. It feels like everyone is staring at me.
Does everyone here have a problem with me? I wouldn’t blame them.
3. ... when did I start crying?
Yep. Those are real tears. How did this happen?
4. I literally cannot move, talk, or think.
This is it for me now, guys. Go on without me. Save yourselves.
5. I need immediate assistance.
I have no f*cking clue what I need exactly, but help me. Please.
6. It’s getting hot in here.
Did I accidentally walk into a sauna? Why am I suddenly sweating so much?
7. My brain is…
I think the official term for this is FREAKING OUT!
8. There are a million conflicting thoughts in my head.
This overload of ideas is completely confusing.
9. I become the most self-critical I’ve ever been.
This is the worst possible time to think about every sh*tty thing I ever did, but that’s all I can think about, in excruciating detail. I am the worst.
10. I need to get out of here.
Why? I don’t know. But I need to leave wherever this is, right now.
11. I disgust myself.
Everything I do is repulsive. Looking in the mirror is painful. I’m sure I looked pretty once though? Probably never.
12. My whole body aches.
I don’t understand. Why does everything hurt so much?
13. Words become meaningless.
I no longer have the capacity to process what you’re saying. I just can’t.
14. My mind clears.
And what’s left is truly terrifying. A barren, empty space.
15. Then as suddenly as it began, my panic attack starts to ease off.
It’s like I was possessed by a demon spirit, but it’s being exorcised out of me.
16. It’s over for now but...
I survived another bout of anxiety. The storm is over, for now. But stay vigilant, fellow panickers.
While these are some of the emotions and physical symptoms I endure during a panic attack, yours might be totally different. The most important thing is recognizing you might need help, support, or health care for your condition. Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of, and however it manifests, it’s a process that can be worked through and managed.
Amy Mackelden is a weekend editor at ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Marie Claire. She’s written for Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Ravishly, The Independent, The Guardian, Hello Giggles, and Teen Vogue. She’s currently developing a show called MS Is My Boyfriend, about what multiple sclerosis is really like. Follow her on Twitter @AmyMackelden.