It’s lunch time and I’m hungry. I am in the kitchen making lunch for the girls. No matter how hungry I am I always get their meals first. I ask my daughters what they would like to eat today. I don’t know why I bother because it’s always the same. Briar likes peanut butter on her sandwiches, and carrot sticks for her side of choice. Xanthe prefers the cheap imitation Nutella, and cucumber. They both have thick slices of cheese, raisins, and water. I find it incredibly boring.
I feel a bit wobbly as I grab the spreads and loaf of bread from the pantry. It’s the lack of food and all the fast movements that’re getting to me. I tend to get a bit shaky when I haven’t eaten for a while. I tend to get a bit grumpy too. I’m beginning to feel grumpy now.
I make an L shape with my left hand, and use it to hold the first slice of bread still as I smother it in peanut butter. I make my children’s sandwiches the way I like them; I don’t skimp on the spread. My right hand folds the bread in half and pushes the sides together. They stick. It’s time to cut the sandwich in half.
My hand shakes as I force the knife through the bread. I feel clumsy. I collect the sandwiches in my hand, and drop them on to the waiting plate. My movements are jerky and awkward. I’m trying to get these lunches made as quickly as I can, but my jittery hands are making the simple task difficult, and as I reach for the next slice of bread, I remember…
I’m in Flannagan’s and I’m standing at the bar. There is a handle of Lion Red in front of me, untouched. It’s been sitting there for about five minutes now, but I have yet to take a sip. I can’t. I don’t know how I’m going to get it to my lips.
I know that as soon as I’ve had a mouthful or two everything will be fine. I know that from experience, but I’m still afraid. I’m afraid of lifting the beer off the bar. I know my hands are going to shake. Nobody knows, but this happens to me every time. I have to wait for my friends to head away from the bar before I can taste that first mouthful. I don’t want my friends to see.
My heart is pounding. My legs feel weak, and I start to worry that I might fall to the floor in a heap. I just have to have one sip. I just have to get started. Then it will be fine.
My hands are shaking. My knees are wobbly. My whole body is beginning to jerk uncontrollably. I feel like everyone in the room is watching me. I just want to drink my beer.
I try to act as if everything is normal. I tell myself that no one can see the shakes. I thrust my right hand out blindly, grab the mug of beer, and bring it to my face. My head starts shaking now too. This is the worst part. I’m going to spill the beer all down me. I’m going to make a fool of myself. Everyone thinks I am mental.
My drink is at my lips now. I’m so close. I open my mouth slightly, place my mouth around the edge of the glass. My head is bobbing so wildly that my teeth clang against the rim, but I can’t pull out now. I manage to tip the beer slightly, and a small amount of bitter, frothy liquid enters my mouth and runs over my tongue. I swallow. I’ve done it.
I start to feel a bit better, but I’m still not quite right. I slam my beer back down on the counter. I exhale slowly. Eventually my heart beat begins to settle down. My next sip is going to be a lot easier.
These panic attacks were the worst. At the time I had no idea what was happening, and because I never told anyone I only realised what they were a couple of years ago. I wonder if anybody ever did notice...