I was out eating dinner with some friends when I had my first real panic attack. I had spent the whole day at work and was eating some Indian food out in the warm summer air. We were all chatting and hanging out, relaxing after a tiring day. I knew these people quite well, and I knew this restaurant too, so nothing was really new to me. It was just what I was used to on a regular week night.
At some point during dinner though, I started to feel like I was getting sick. My stomach suddenly felt like it had been turned upside down, and I felt very nauseous. I was also getting quite hot, and started sweating. I put that on the slightly spicy food. I can’t really take spicy food, and it always makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable, but this one surely wasn’t strong enough to cause such problems. My breathing got faster.
In seconds, I had trouble breathing. It felt like not enough air was coming through my lungs, so I kept trying to get more. As I thought I was controlling my oxygen intake, I only felt sicker. I started feeling a weird sensation within me, like a rush of adrenaline going from my gut to my face. I thought I was about to pass out. I got up and went to the bathroom.
Locked inside the small cubicle, I started to feel better. I put my sudden uneasiness on the account of the food. I came back to my normal state of mind and decided it was time to go back to the table. However, as soon as I sat down, the heavy breathing and the rush of adrenaline were back. I was quite ashamed, but I had no other choice than to tell my friends I wasn’t feeling very well and I wanted to go back home. I had barely eaten but it didn’t matter, all I was thinking about was to get out of this place.
My apartment was located less than 5 minutes away from the restaurant, walking. One of my friends was living in the same direction, so we started to make our way towards it. After a few steps, I couldn’t walk anymore. Again, I felt like I was about to pass out. I was overwhelmed by everything around me. I wanted to get home, but it felt so far away in my mind. I was picturing the way I had to walk through, and it seemed like an impossible mountain to climb.
I went inside a mall to get some air conditioning. I sat down and the freshness of the air made me feel better. The adrenaline rush eased out. But I was stuck there. I couldn’t walk any more. I couldn’t stand up. I was petrified. At that point, my friend decided to take me back home with a cab. The five minutes we had to wait outside for it felt like an eternity.
For weeks, I still believed that what happened that evening had been caused by some sort of food poisoning. I didn’t realise for even second that food poisoning couldn’t feel that way. I didn’t realise it was panic. This panic that was just about to ground me for months.