My breaths are coming in gulps as I feel my heart racing. I know what this is but intellectually that doesn't make it any easier. Fight or flight. Only there is no tangible beast from which to flee or stand my ground and fight. These are beasts of the mind. Three years of dealing with existential blow after blow after blow and not a single panic attack. Why the hell are they coming now? Why does the sun rise in the east might be an easier question.
The basic medical model of treating these is that one is under too much stress. No shit. Since my life experiences are not about to fade into the background anytime soon, the medical model pretty much starts and ends right there for me. Step back into history a bit before we had good medications, and there are relevant theories about psychological disturbances. Carl Jung focused on the imagery surrounding the experience and sought to learn from the disturbance.
Jung: What was the most distressful feeling during the experience?
Me: Feeling like I could not breathe. With each inward breath, the tightness of my chest would not let it in.
Jung: So you had trouble inspiring?
Me: Yes. It took an effort of force to drive the breath in. The expirations were short and quick. But the inspirations were long and labored.
Jung: I can't do it all for you......
Me: Ah. Inspiration. Or, lack thereof. So I'm back to Hamlet, again, am I? Slings and arrows, take up arms, cast off these mortal coils. I thought I'd moved past that.
Jung: Apparently not. That, or there are new slings and arrows. Since you're not listening to your subconscious, consider the panic attack a not so gentle tapping on your door from your psyche. You would do well to open the door as the next sound of some one gently rapping, rapping at your chamber door may not be so gentle.