when it happens again

Touching the Light / Myung Kim Sook / 1997

I’m thinking of days I have
where every mistake
feels like a monumental,
unfixable fuck-up.

and I feel my chest constrict
and my legs go numb
and my shoulders stiffen
and it’s quite uncomfortable and alarming.

my thoughts race with shame and disappointment in self,
and my labored, shallow breath loses me.

and all I can think is:
it’s happening again.
this is a panic attack,
but reason stands by and there’s nothing I can do.

it has me by the throat,
jaw clenched and heart trapped
within my sunken ribs.

all of my body’s alarms are sounding.
defenses in place,
in gear for flight, fright, freeze.

except that the parts of me cannot agree
on which particular affect they prefer,
so I slip into fragmentation.

my pelvis to my toes say:
freeze, cut it off, be numb.

my upper half, much feistier,
contracts her muscles and balls her fists
prepared to defend with force,
as if she’s forgotten,
that just as always
and once again,
the fight is against
our mind.

and our mind, right now,
is loud, loathsome, and relentless.

and she can’t be soothed until she’s done her worst.

and by this time,
I’ve already retreated
to the bathroom floor.
arms draped over porcelain,
hands clutching
the seat of the toilet,
wishing I had cleaned it before embracing it
like lifelines of a ship sailing turbulent seas.

but that thought doesn’t linger.
I’ve got greater concerns;
like how I can’t breathe,
or see through tears,
or unclench my fists,
or speak a single syllable

as I choke on toxic thoughts
and spit venom from deep within my lungs.

after retching like a seasick traveler,
I sink into the beige bathmat,
of which I hate the color.

I settle into this tufted ten dollar rug
that catches post-shower droplets and today, tears,
feeling quelled by its soft texture.
although I wish I had washed it,
but, ah, here I am again, sentient,
only for a moment and then-

another thought distortion
brings me out of my body.

I haven’t mentioned it yet,
but somewhere between the beginning of gasping (for air)
and fleeing to the bathroom,
my consciousness floats above me
and I observe myself in this panicked state
from outside my body
attempting every method I’ve learned to get back in

some higher part of me (but not the highest),
looks down at my crumbled body
in utter disbelief and pity
“how did you end up here again?”

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