Anatomy of my Panic Attack and Dog-Answered Prayer

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Depression lies. Anxiety lies. PTSD lies. I experience academic-writing ptsd-like anxiety attacks because of that man, but I am strong and I will beat them.

The fear, doubt like that of a valkyrie’s projection, the hyper-neurotic-fast breathing, blinding terror narrowing perception to a small space around my head—I have to get out of it, into my body, do things I know will cheer me. I look at my manicure: green sparkles. I get out of my robe and into my clothes. They match. I am vivid color—green—growth. Life.

A shift in perception. The blinders now off, but pulse still racing. I must get control of my breath . . . take my power back. Throw the panther of panic off my shoulders, un-dig its treacherous claws. Name the fear: my old advisor. Face the fear: I can write. He tried to destroy my confidence, but he was never my mentor.

My mentor was a Holocaust historian from Brooklyn, who marched with Dr. King and led student protests at Columbia. My mentor was a high school English teacher who didn’t let me get away with any shit, ever. My mentor was a college professor who was a poet who taught me that words are weapons, beauties, gifts. My mentor was my father, the writer.

I lift my hair of the back of my neck. It is hot, my neck, and my hand is cool. I focus on the sensation of touch; I come back into awareness of my body. More of the fear-fog dissipates, like a dementor being beaten back by the sheer power of the will to love.

Inhale. Deep, slow. Feel the air expand in my lungs, catch myself clinging to the top of the inhale. I am holding my breath. Let it out, I command myself, in my head. I dwell in the bottom exhale for a moment. A glimpse of nothingness—death, even—as the yogi sages say.

Spirit. Serenity prayer. I close my eyes and choke on the first word. Again. Listen to my voice. Corporeal reality into sound.

Vibration. The hum of the universe. Om.

I can manage an Om.

Om gum ganapatayei namaha.

A knock at the door.

My puppy runs in, hiding from his bath. He touches his forehead to mine when I bend down to get him. He hides under the bed. I giggle.

“You cannot hide from your fears, my love. They will always find you later.”

I hear my own advice.

Prayer answered: I write.

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