Flames Of Panic

By , Arlington, VA

Dance class was supposed to start in nineteen minutes and my tap shoes were nowhere to be found. They may have been tucked in some corner or forgotten in a minivan but definitely not within the find of a nineteen minute search. As I continued to search the house I got more and more frantic, tearing through every shoe closet insisting that they had to be there. My parents started urging me to get in the car without them, this suggestion throwing fuel on the flames of panic caused by the fact that thirteen minutes had passed and I still had not found my shoes. I could faintly hear my mother’s firm voicing telling me that I could borrow a pair from the bin at dance and that I needed to get in the car now or their would be consequences, but my brain tore up these words and replaced them with an anguished cry of disregard. I gave up searching and felt myself begin to lose rationality. My brain tells my mind that I could not possibly go to class without my shoes because then I would have to borrow shoes and what if they did not fit, and then my feet would hurt which would undoubtedly cause me to dance terribly, and the teacher would surely pull me from the recital making me the only child in the class that wouldn't get to dance and so on until this never ending train of thought careens off the rails.


Tucked in the corner of my room crumpled into the tightest ball my body would allow, I watched the door bang open and my father storm in, his frustration and anger emanating from him in a thick cloud of dark red. He grabbed my arms and lifted me from my spot trying to force me out of my panicked state and into the car. He yells at me saying something about how I would have to pay for the class if I did not go and that I had already missed half of the class. His words only made me lose the little control I had left and he was forced to release me when my breathing changed from frantic gulps to rapid gasps. He dropped me like a dead weight onto the floor and desperately tried to rationalise my thought process explaining to me that it makes more sense for me to go to dance class without my shoes then to miss the entire thing. His words made sense but in my head “sense” was a desolate concept that had lost all meaning. I was eventually put in the car, and my mother drove me all the way to the studio. She sat in the front seat and rapidly tapped the steering wheel as I gulped in air and water and desperately tried to regain control. 


I ended up missing the entire dance class that day. After the recital came and went we decided that I should no longer do dance because it gave me too much anxiety. The same thing happened with gymnastics, and diving.  Activity after activity that I loved doing was taken away from me because I might hit my head on the board, or feel nauseous when doing a floor routine, because I had lost my leotard, or a pair of shoes, or my control.
Panic attacks are an extremely scary experience for anyone, but they are especially unnerving for a young child who does not have any understanding of what is happening. I used to constantly compare myself to other kids wondering if they too freaked out when someone told them who the half blood prince is because they were convinced that the entire series had been instantly ruined for them. I wondered if when other kids found out that eating cookie dough can give you salmonella from the raw eggs it made them overwhelmingly sick and if they too begged to have their stomach pumped because the terror in their belly felt like a serious disease. I wondered if the other kids on the dive team clung to the seats in their cars in hysterics unable to get out and go to practice with everyone else. I wondered if they didn't understand why either. It took me a long time to understand that most kids were scared of things like lions and the dark, and not of their own minds. If a lion stood in front of me and opened its jaws wide in a menacing rawr, I would simply open my mouth just as wide and rawr back louder. When I was left alone in a dark room, I would fill the space with my laughter and make up for the missing light with my radiant smile. However, when I looked in the mirror the figure I saw wielded a 20 foot sword whereas I stood unarmed. 


Anxiety tosses and turns me through sleepless nights and draining days. ADHD comes loudly knocking on the door of every silent room. They are a tag team fight in a ring that has no exit. Medication feels like steroids pulling me up and giving me a chance of winning then puttering out and leaving me to be pummeled alone. Mice of missing assignments become bears of inevitable failure. Sitting still in a chair becomes a steep mountain I must climb for seven hours and twenty two minutes each day. I feel like walking prey, awaiting a trigger to seize my brain and suck all the air from my lungs. Panic. A word that encases an entire poem of figurative language describing the uncontrollable, irrational, scary, and sickening feeling anxiety causes.






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