Anatomy of a Panic Attack

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. A dear friend is moving across the country. It feels like I’m losing my entire support system. I’m not, not at all, but it feels like that. I don’t expect to see her again because she won’t come back here and I know I won’t be traveling there.

Work is always stressful and it gets even more so every day. My migraines are increasing in frequency, intensity, and duration.

To top it off, my right hand was mauled by a feral bit of fluff. At about 3:00 AM, a cute little tuxedo cat came to my sliding door. After chatting with my boy for a bit, Mr. Tux began to meow. Since cats only meow at humans, I thought he might be hurt and asking for help. I couldn’t see him through the screen door so I opened the screen for a better look. I put my right hand down to steady myself and Mr. Tux took that as a sign of aggression. Mr. Tux went from bit o’ fluff to Tasmanian Devil in .001 seconds. He launched himself at my right hand, bit me and scratched my arm. Luckily, the bite was long tears, not punctures. Pye shot past me in hot pursuit of Mr. Tux, gave him hell, and then returned home. Off to the hospital for me for a tetanus booster, three immunoglobulin injections, a tramadol injection, and the first of four rabies vaccines. I was sent home with a prescription for an antibiotic and warnings that if there’s any infection, I will need IV antibiotics. For several days I had what looked like a bluish-green lobster claw where my right hand should have been.

My hero — Mr. Pye

On top of all this — or because of all this — I’ve been experiencing panic attacks. I’m extremely jumpy. Coming home in the evening is a nighmare. I get out of the car and lock the door. The trek across the parking lot is just a couple of yards and takes about 15 seconds if I’m walking slowly, yet it seems like miles. My heart races and my hands start to shake. Adrenaline floods my system and I get a metallic taste in my mouth. I jump at every little sound for fear a feral cat will come running at me.

My little Miss Pumpkin loves to jump up on the bed and sleep with me. Her favorite spot is on a pillow nose-to-nose with me. I don’t see any sign of her until suddenly, she lands on my chest. I jump; my heart races; my breathing gets rapid and it’s hard to breathe; my hands shake and get a bit numb; I get chest pains, and I taste metal. Then I start to cry. That’s my normal response as the adrenaline ebbs.


If I’m lucky, the panic attack ends there. If not, we move to the next phase of doom and gloom, fatigue, and major depression. Most of the time I am able to fend off the secondary level, but not always. Phase one is trickier. It sneaks up on me like a thief in the night. Last evening, I was driving home from a very pleasant dinner. Suddenly, my hands started to shake. The rest swept over me like a tsunami wave. If I don’t get a handle on this by the time my fourth rabies vaccine is given, I’m going to have to talk to someone. These panic attacks surely cannot be just because of one little Mr. Tux feral kitty bite! Can they?

Photo by Cats Coming on

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