When a Panic Attack Strikes

panic attack cinema anxiety social nausea

I’d finished another day at work. It had been busy, but not hectic. Nothing really memorable happened that day, it all went by in a blur as I was thinking about my evening plans.

I was going to the cinema with my mum, like we do most Thursdays. Baby Driver, my suggestion, a film I had been excited to see since I saw the trailer two months before.

I love going to the cinema, it’s always been one of my favourite things to go out for, probably one of the only ‘going out’ activities I’ll participate in. You don’t have to do anything except sit back and enjoy a film. And I love films, I could get lost in one of my favourites, they’re a form of escapism for me, and in a reality where I constantly fight with myself, I hang on to fiction.

We’d met for a coffee beforehand and mostly just talked about work, a bit of a catch up as although we live together we rarely stop in our busy lives to sit down and talk. We strolled into the cinema 5 minutes before show time, and mum suggested we get some sweets, and to be honest even when I was a kid I never really got sweets at the cinema so I thought “fuck it”, and went ahead and filled a bag, being cautious not to add too much because food at the cinema is SO expensive!

Taking our seats, mum had the aisle seat in row J, one row in front of the very back seats, and I took the seat next to her. We had a great view of the screen, because I always pre-book my tickets to make sure I’m not positioned right at the front and I don’t have to crane my neck to see what’s going on.

The lights dim just as the ads finish, and the trailers begin. I start tapping my mums arm like a maniac because I love watching the trailers, I can get so hyped up for another film and know what to come back for and see next. I was practically bouncing up and down in my seat when the trailer for Spider-Man was on. That was out the following week! I know what I’ll be coming back for!

Baby Driver gets off to a good start, it’s an interesting idea with a mysterious protagonist and a fun soundtrack. I was getting really into it, I was really enjoying it – until my anxiety had to pull me away.

I suddenly realised how dark it was in there. How small the room was, how close I was sitting to a bunch of strangers. I noticed my heart rate speeding up, the intensity rose until I could feel my heart pounding in my chest like it was trying to escape. There were points in the film where I don’t recall any dialogue because all I could hear was my own panic drowning out the sound. I stopped enjoying the film, now I couldn’t wait for the credits to roll, I wanted to get out of here, I felt trapped. Then the nausea started. It was powerful, so overwhelming that I thought I’d throw up all over the seat in front of me, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else besides not being sick and trying to stay calm. “You’re just watching a film Zoe, you do this all the time”. And I was right, so what was different? Right now, I’m sitting in my room, the panic has finally melted away, and as I recall this panic attack, I still don’t know why it struck.

That’s what’s so terrible about anxiety, it can surprise you at any moment. There I was at the cinema, doing something that I love doing, that I’m comfortable doing, and that I’ve done a million times before, and my anxiety ripped all that away from me. I had a panic attack from about 10 minutes into the film right up until the final act, it was devastating. There were many times during the film that I contemplated just giving up and walking out, but I wanted to see this film, I didn’t want to miss any of it, and I was terrified of walking out of the screen while everyone watched me, thinking, “what’s her problem?”. I was there with my mum, I didn’t want to spoil her evening either. When I should have been enjoying a great film, I was trying mindfulness techniques, practicing breathing exercises, and whispering positive affirmations under my breath. In the end, I knew I just had to ride it out until it passed. It was such a shame too, because the film was brilliant when I could give it my full attention. I put my sweets away and rummaged in my bag for my water bottle, taking sips every time I felt my sickness rise from the pit of my stomach.

I was so ashamed to think that this is my life, that this is how I’ll always be; doomed to a life of sitting at home in the comfort of 4 familiar walls because going outside and participating in life with all the other normal people scares the shit out of me. I feel like a fraud.

When the film ended (And what a sweet relief that was), we walked out of the cinema and I opened up to my mum about how I was feeling. She listened, gave me a hug and I said, “I just lost control for a minute”

“We all do”

I fought the urge not to cry as the weight finally left my shoulders, as the last of the anxiety melted away, I felt new again, I felt as though I had been let out of a cage and I was stretching my legs for the first time. I was drained and all I wanted to do was lay in my comfortable bed and not be outside.

I must fight, I must always fight. I had a panic attack but I will not let it hold me back. I am coming back to see Spider-Man next week, and nothing will stop me, especially not my anxiety.

UPDATE: Spider-Man was brilliant! Screw Anxiety!

(This was written down in my journal back in July, in case you were confused by the films!)




15 thoughts on “When a Panic Attack Strikes

  1. This was a great read. I really needed this reminder that someone out there really, truly, fully understands how i feel. I’m the only one who is extremely open and vocal about my panic attacks at school (turns out muffling your screams is so not easy to hide, meh) and honest to god i love spreading awareness.


  2. Oh yeah, nobody messes with Spidey time 😂 Thank you, that means a lot. Also, how cute that you and your Mum have a night out to catch up, genuinely so nice that ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done on facing it head on and not giving in to it, which I know how hard that can be. I had a similar experience, funnily enough, when I went to Spider-Man. It was the first time I’d been to the cinema since my attacks started. I was with my son, so I took that B of an attack on a fight till the death. Also, there was no way in hell I was missing my man Spidey 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know how you feel. I’ve lost so many simple moments in my life (like even just enjoyed a TV programme or a bath) because of overwhelming panic attacks and anxiety which hit from nowhere. It’s so frustrating!

    I’ve found it does get better though if you can change your perspective on your anxiety. So instead of fighting it just let it happen, pass over you and disappear again. I’m able to do this now the majority of the time all the while knowing that my anxiety will pass and remaining calm.

    It sounds nuts to let your panic attacks just happen when you’re going through them but learning that technique has really helped me and allowed me to take control of my life. My anxiety rarely affects me in any significant way now.

    Hope that helps x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree, just accepting “Ok, you’re here to stay, do your thing and then go” Is easier than fighting it. I use so much of my energy fighting anxiety that when it’s over I’m drained and I get depressed. Thank you for the advice!

      Liked by 1 person

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