One thing you may or may not know about me is I used to get panic attacks. It comes with the territory of having anxiety. Luckily, I have not had one in four years or so. When I was in high school, I would have them pretty frequently. But then again, high school is incredibly stressful. And I didn’t have good friends. They brought out a lot of stress and unneeded drama in my life. But that is a topic for another day. Maybe a discussion post on toxic friends or something like that.
Anyway, I wanted to do a discussion post about panic attacks and how I would like to see them in books. Because sometimes I feel panic attacks are not accurately repped or treated properly. Lord knows, we are all SICK of the love curing everything trope.
The usual disclaimer: I am an expert (sometimes) in my own mental health. What I am going to talk about is something that I have experienced. I know it will not be the same for others. Also, if panic attacks are triggering for you, please practice self care and if you can’t read my post because of it, that is completely okay.
Panic attacks are hard to write about. Hell, they are pretty hard to tell someone in person about them so they can help you. Because of the not being able to breathe or talk. Sure, you can look up an official system list but that doesn’t cover everything. There is a common theme with the symptoms, though, that is usually physical but how does one really capture the impending sense of doom in writing. Or the whirring of thoughts as they shift into overdrive? It’s hard. I truly applaud the writers that can capture it well, like in Under Rose Tainted Skies. Yes, I reference everything from that book. It has touched me in ways that I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
Here are some of the things I experienced that I would like to see in books with MCs with panic attacks (thank you to the anxiety and depression association of america website for this super handy list of symptoms. this was so helpful in getting the terms correct so my lovely readers can understand everything):
∇palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
∇trembling or shaking
∇sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
∇feelings of choking
∇chest pain or discomfort
∇nausea or abdominal distress
∇feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
∇chills or heat sensations
∇paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
∇derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
∇fear of losing control or “going crazy”
∇fear of dying
Yes, this all things that happen during a panic attack. Yes, this has all happened to me before and let me tell you, friends, it sucks. You have no idea if you are going to make it out alive. I would honestly just like to see even half this list when I read about a character with panic attacks. This is a very real and very accurate thing that happens and I think having this happen to characters would help to normalize that what happens during panic attacks is a very real and very scary thing. We don’t do this for attention. I mean honestly. That is a lot of stuff to fake.
I hope this discussion post was insightful. These things are never easy to talk about but I think they are important. We, the bookish community, have to make sure our illness are being repped correctly and psotivly.