A few days ago I was lying on my bed, talking on the phone with my friend Jessie. I was telling her the grim details of the horrific flight I had on my way home from BlogHer. I haven't said too much about my homeward flight, because every time I think about it I end up hyperventilating under my duvet, and one fewer trauma to relive would be nice. All I can say about it now, without the flashbacks driving me to peel the skin from my face, is there was some turbulence. And by "some," I mean "a lot," and by "turbulence," I mean "death was a near certainty." Except it wasn't. So that was a relief.
At any rate, I apparently felt well enough while talking with Jessie to really let loose on the whole ordeal, including the panic attack that kicked into high gear as all the conscious passengers were gripping our armrests and praying fervently. I didn't realize, while I was talking, that Henry was in the next room. So there I was recounting the hours of dry-heaving into an air-sickness bag as my tears soaked my copy of O , when my boy strolled in and asked, "What's a panic attack?" I was still on the phone, so I screeched, "You hush up while Mommy has her Me Time!" Actually I stared at him, wondering how much he had heard, and then I told him we'd talk after I hung up.
Then he asked me thirty more times in rapid succession. Making it really hard to say goodbye to my friend. I still did it, though, because I am able to both talk and wave dismissively at a child. I am a professional.
Again he demanded to know what a panic attack was, and was I really going to die on that plane? The second part was easy, because I definitely did not die on that plane, so obviously those thoughts had more to do with my panic than with the brain-rattling shaking I hyperventilated my way through. "But what's panic?" Henry wanted to know. I contemplated telling him it was a fun new video game I was playing on the plane, but instead I went for the boring, awful truth. I tried to explain, but it sounds pretty silly, all the fear-over-nothing and adrenaline and nausea and so forth. I hope he never has to find out firsthand what a panic attack is. It doesn’t look good for him, given his family history, but a girl can dream.
"Are you having a panic attack now?" he wanted to know, which was silly because I wasn't on a plane convinced that I was going to die at any minute. Except, whoops, I was having a panic attack, actually; I've been gripped by stupid low-grade panic since I got back. There's something so embarrassing and ridiculous about being this panicked all the time. How do you express that feeling to someone else? How little sense does it make that I feel like each step I take is the last one before I hurtle off a cliff?
"Nope," I said, "Come lie down on the bed with me." Which he did. And we laid there for a while. He stared at my face while I looked out the window, attempting to approximate some kind of contented expression.
"You had a bad look on your face," he said to me. "Are you having a panic attack?"
"Not at all," I said. It's really hard to lie to him. Damn it all.
"I'll be okay," I told him. Which felt like the truth.