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Of Stress, Fear and Panic Attacks

Many years ago, when I was in UK, I went on a trip. Somewhere between somewhere else, I had to use the toilet. We stopped at a public restroom. It was at quite a strange location. It was in a middle of nowhere and it was under an overhead bridge. I went, of course, but hurriedly. When I was walking back to the car, I heard footsteps behind me. I ran. It took me years to get over going to public toilets. And when I could help it, I will never go.

But that was years ago. The other obstacle which I remember having to go through was the area where my bag was snatched. It took me more than a year to pluck up my courage to go back. Unfortunately, my favourite roast duck is there. Otherwise, I will never set foot in that area and that will be too soon. But overcame, I did. Now, I can go there without much of a problem. Still wary and feeling a little nervous but of course the aroma of the roast duck cancels out most of the negativity. 

But the worse was yet to come. Last year, while going to KLPac for a ballet performance, I got lost and embarked into a monster of a panic attack. Ridiculous thoughts like I am never getting out of that area, I will be lost forever permeated my mind. Incoherent babbling and sobbing were noises that emitted. I had the right sense to ask for directions but my brain did not register what they were telling me. 

But of course, the next day, I could not believe  what I went through. They were illogical. As the esteemed Mr. Spock will say. But I set it aside, thinking it was one of those rare experience.

Two weeks after that, during class, I suddenly could not breathe. I had to make very consious efforts to draw in air. I was so scared. I thought I was having a heart attack, or a stroke. Then, my wise daughter said that it sounded like a panic attack.

Panic attack??? But why? I was not lost. I was teaching, not something that was unpleasant at all. Why? On hindsight, the only reason I could think of was lack of sleep, because it was exam season.

And, subsequently after that, it had been happening fairly frequently. Some from last year which I cannot recall in detail. This year, it was twice in KLCC carpark and once in Hong Kong Airport. 

After the lengthy introduction, what I really want to talk about is the emotion that one goes through during one of those moments. 

To use an analogy, it seemed as if things were out of proportion. A problem could look like a huge boulder in my way. People's actions misinterpreted/speculated. I began to think that everybody is against me. There were conspiracies against me. People were laughing at me behind my back. That I have no friends and that nobody cared. 

Sleep will totally be impossible even though I am very tired. And it will be a vicious circle. Being sleep deprived, the boulder becomes even bigger. When, at last, the body goes into auto shutdown and I manage to get a few hours of sleep, I wake up to a rational day. Then, everything will be in the right perspective again and I will feel stupid for having gone through the night with demons.

Now, I can understand how some people, in these similar moments have committed various acts of which in any normal circumstances, it will not be even considered. Things like suicide, violence and even murder. Now I sort of know the probability of 'temporary insanity' Those feelings of nobody caring and loving me were very real. In the dark of the night, one feels so alone. Pray? At that moment, God seemed so far away.

Why am I talking about it? This Saturday, I shall be going to the very same place which began this rollercoaster - KLPac, and watching the same company performing. I do not want to be one of those individuals who cannot even step out of the house. I enjoy my independance and mobility. I do not want to be trapped inside a mental prison of which I have build myself.

But how shall I break free? Where do I find the key? Hence, perhaps, writing about it will keep it at bay. And most definitely, I MUST break free.


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