Everyone has risen to their feet. Dark figures all around. Applauding the amazing performance. But the curtains have closed and all that remains are claps of thunder. It’s loud. Chaotic. Sharp. Each clap hits me like a bullet, amplified with quantity. My stomach tightens. So loud. All around me. Surrounding me. Trapping me.
I just try to sink into the floor. So many people. So many. Too many. Flight or fight instincts kick in, beating me. I want – no, I need – to get away. Away from the thundering noise, away from the enclosing figures. Disappear to somewhere, anywhere else.
My head hurts. So much pain. Hurts so much. And there are so many people. So many. I can’t break down, not here. Desperate social anxiety won’t let me. Not where everyone can see. But my head hurts, is in so much pain. I need a release. Desperately. But there’s nothing I can do. There’s so much hurt.
People are leaving. That’s good. My people are leaving. I follow. My survival instincts tell me to keep my back to the wall, so I do. It’s so difficult to breathe. I’m so close to other people. It’s so crowded. It’s suffocating. Simultaneously I want to hide and run far far away. But I can’t do either. I can’t do anything. Especially breathing. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
I desperately grip at the railing beside the stairs as I descend, hoping the cool surface will help to ground me. It doesn’t. Panic just grips harder onto me. Because there are so many people. So many. Nothing can help.
My eyes are leaking at this point, the panic pushing past the anxiety. I’m overwhelmed and desperate, not thinking clearly. There’s just so many people. So loud. And I can’t breathe. And my head still hurts so much.
Breaking out of the theater, the frigid air hits me. I barely feel it. I’m vaguely aware of my family with me, trying to help, but I’m so far gone. All I know is that I need to get away. A flash of yellow. Crossing a street. I make it as far as I can before I let go of everything.
There are tears streaming down my face. My breathing is quick and failing. I’m shaking, but not from the cold. Releasing the stream of tears helps with the pain, but I can’t find a way to get control over my breathing. Trying to concentrate on breathing is just making it worse. Because I can’t. I can’t breathe.
My breathing is just continually quickening but no air is even being received by my frantic lungs. I’m drowning in panic, choking on tears, throat closing. I can’t speak.
Screaming underwater, unable to make a sound. I’m begging for help silently through ragged breaths, all while pushing away my family. My brain doesn’t work. Can’t. I can’t think.
Turning, turning, turning in circles looking for rescue. Thoughts spinning, spinning, spinning in circles. Spiraling faster and faster. It’s hopeless. I can’t stop it.
I throw my head around, trying to shake the unending panic. It doesn’t help. Nothing works. Help doesn’t work. Help can’t help. I can’t get help.
Can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t.
I can’t deal with this. It’s so much, hurts so much. Panicking, shaking, sobbing, hurt consuming me. My own mind betraying me, hurting me. Seeing people and just perceiving danger and hurt. Tainting what should be an amazing experience with hurt. Creating helplessness, hopelessness, and forever fearfulness.
With uncontrolled panic, there is no running, no hiding, no rationalizing: There is only hurt.