By Danielle Owen
I had my first panic attack when I was seven. I was watching a movie with my parents and brother when an invisible hand reached inside my chest, gripped my lungs, and wouldn’t let go. The air I hadn’t thought about breathing my entire life was suddenly all that mattered; I didn’t even know what oxygen was, but I desperately knew I needed it.
I was hyperventilating, hysterically crying and shaking uncontrollably as my hands went numb first, followed by my face and limbs. My muscles tensed up so severely it felt like I was ripping them to shreds when I moved. Everything my formerly rational little brain knew vanished completely, replaced only by thoughts of dying.
I can’t describe what it was like to truly believe I was dying before my 8th birthday.