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Telling it like it is. By this p...

Posted Oct 22 2008 6:16pm

Telling it like it is.
By this point, plenty of depression sufferers have published accounts of what it's like to live with their illness; William Styron's Darkness Visible, Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon, and Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind all come to mind. But I haven't come across very many first-person accounts of what it's like to suffer from panic disorder -- just a couple, in fact.

One, "Prone to Panic," by David Levine, begins:

If I had to choose the defining moment of my life, it would be a Sunday morning in May 1972, when I woke up afraid that I was dying. I was 19, and my life has not been the same since...

I woke up that Sunday morning and felt an impending sense of doom. The feeling was very powerful, yet I was in no pain, and was not disoriented. At first I thought I was dreaming, but the feeling that I was going to die did not go away. It became stronger and stronger.
Sounds pretty familiar.

The other, "Apprehension, or size 6 knee-length empire-waist strapless in burnt sienna silk shantung with pomegranate bow band," by Emily Meg Weinstein, is less reportorial, more self-consciously literary, in tone. It's a first-person account of battling through a panic attack in New York City. Here's a little taste:
You go down the subway stairs and wait for the train. You sit on the bench, quivering with the terrible secret of your madness. Is this what it's like for the mentally ill, of which you are temporarily one, all the time? Do they sit on the subway bench and feel not alienated or cynical or smug or late or angry or left out or bummed out but simply in a constant state of apprehending the horror of life and its impending end and all the time that lies between now and then in this state of awareness of that end? How terrible for them. You would feel empathy for them if you were not so currently worried about becoming one of them.
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