I had my first panic attack my freshman year of high school, though I certainly didn’t have a name for it at the time. I was seeing Mission Impossible II with a couple of friends, and noticed that during the major action scenes, I couldn’t quit running my palms down the sides of my jeans. I was overwhelmed with an urge to get up and leave, but didn’t want to inconvenience my friends. I stepped outside for a second, caught my breath, and everything went back to normal. I finished the movie, and shrugged the whole thing off.
The following year, I was cast in a play at school, and sat down at a long table with the rest of the cast for a read-through. The second I flipped open the script, I got dizzy, but assumed it was just excitement. My best friend, sitting beside me, turned to me with a start – “Are you okay? All the color just drained out of your face.” I shut myself in our script library and waited for it to pass, embarrassed that I’d called so much attention to myself.
Years passed after that without incident, and I wrote those two things off as freak incidents – maybe an extension of being a bit sick or overtired. Throughout college, my body was a machine – I double-majored, acted in several shows a year, volunteered, partied, slept too little, drank (way) too much, and graduated with honors. Then I got a Master’s Degree in creative advertising – a portfolio program that required more dedication, longer hours, and a full-time unpaid internship to “establish myself in the profession.” Again, no problem.
Then, a couple of months before graduation, everything blew up.