Welcome to The Weekly Awkward! Every Monday, we’ll regale you with a tale of personal embarrassment to assure you that you’re not alone in your fabulous awkwardness. Solidarity, sister.
Have you ever had a panic attack so ridiculous that it haunts you? I have.
It was about six months ago. My boyfriend (a long-suffering Eastern European bloke named Adam) and I were playing a horror RPG together called Little Nightmares. (By ‘together’, I mean that he was playing it while I was supporting him from behind splayed fingers, because I literally cannot take the reins when it comes to playing anything creepy at all.)
Now usually, we don’t run into any problems with this setup. When my hands are in front of my face and not curled around a pair of controllers, it’s easier to remind myself that what’s on the TV is fake – so no matter how Lynchian the soundtrack or bizarre the characters, I *usually* escape psychological damage.
As the plot reached its crescendo, I noticed some… changes in my body.
My palms became sweaty (mom’s spaghetti), I couldn’t inhale properly and, above all, I was convinced that my heart was churning out a billion beats per minute. I tried to ignore it and think happy thoughts, but at this point my brain had jumped onto the panic bandwagon too, pitching helpful suggestions such as IS THIS DYING!? and OH MY GOD, YOU’RE DYING. So I couldn’t.
Eventually afraid that I might actually Be Dying, I decided to share.
“Adam. I feel weird.”
“I feel really weird. Like I’m having a heart attack, or something.”
“You’re not having a heart attack.”
“Are you sure?”
“Okay but… oh God. Oh God are you SURE? ARE YOU SURE ARE YOU SURE? ARE YOU SURE BECAUSE MY HEART IS BEATING REALLY FAST AND-”
He put his hand on my chest.
“Your heart rate is normal,” he said patiently. “Also, you don’t die of heart attacks from hearts beating too fast. Heart attacks are when your heart stops beating.”
“Just try and breathe normally.”
He smiled and faced the screen, believing the incident to be over (see: wishful thinking). For a while I did what he said, and focused on breathing to some success, before deciding it was time to have a bath and wash the incident off me (and maybe brush up on my biology). Leaving him on the couch questioning his life choices, I ran the tap, chucked a pink bath bomb under the faucet and sunk into the tub.
But my anxiety was not done – and relaxing? That was definitely not on the cards.
As steam rose off my skin from the piping hot water, my fictitiously fast-beating heart picked up pace again, reminding me that OH MY GOD I ACTUALLY WAS DYING, I WAS DEFINITELY DYING NOW, ADAM WAS WRONG AND HE WOULD BE TASKED WITH WRITING MY RIDICULOUS EULOGY. Naked and afraid*, I clambered out less than a minute after I’d climbed in, newly-disorientated from the heat of the tub.
Screeching like the fish man from The Shape Of Water – my skin the colour of plum tomatoes and covered only by a layer of glittering Lush bubbles – I stumbled back towards the lounge and collapsed onto the rug before my bemused beau, where I awaited my fate.
But Reader, I did not die. Duh.
No. I – an Adult Person – continued to wail and freak out until Adam had towelled me down, fetched me a glass of cold water and swaddled me in pyjamas and blankets like a wee babe. (Did I mention that he’s patient?)
Since then, we have not picked up Little Nightmares. And we don’t talk about the naked panic attack incident. As far as we’re aware, it never happened.
But the sweet, sweet memory? It’ll live inside my – regularly beating – heart forever.