Sometimes, though not too often, Pam got panic attacks. They weren’t a big deal in the scheme of things, she’d lived with anxiety for most of her life, and panic attacks was just something she had to deal with sometimes because of that. They weren’t too much of an issue to her anymore (After the fact, obviously, during the fact they were very much a big deal).
As much as she didn’t find her panic attacks a massive deal, other people did. Namely Roy. He’d always found her anxiety weird and annoying, like it was an inconvenience to him. He rarely helped her through panic attacks or episodes when her anxiety blurred the line into depression, and he was extremely judgemental. As much as she hates to say it, he did nothing but make her worse.
No one at work knew of her anxiety either, only Micheal because he had to, and she planned to keep it that way. The thought of people knowing made her feel a little sick, she didn’t want to be treated differently because of it. She hadn’t even told Jim, which said something (Though at the rate things were going, she doubted she’d ever get the chance to tell him anyway)
When she started to get panicky at work, when she felt the early signs of a panic attack coming on, she’d quickly excuse herself to the bathroom or the stairwell to deal with it on her own. This system usually worked for her, she always knew when something was going to go wrong, but in this particular intense, the warning signs just weren’t there.
The onslaught was sudden, it hit her like a freight train. One minute she was fine, next she was hyperventilating and her hands were starting to tingle violently, a sure sign she was already in panic mode.
“Oh gosh,” She whispered to herself, “No, no, no, no.” Her eyes darted around the suddenly stuffy office, trying to map her best escape route. The bathroom wasn’t an option, she didn’t want to run through the office past everyone to get there, so she decided on the stairwell.
She ran out the door as fat, hot tears started a stream down her face, passing a very confused Phyllis who was coming back from meeting up with Bob.
“Pam?” She heard her say, but Pam didn’t stop. Her chest felt like it was on fire, her breaths coming quick and harsh. She rushed down the stairs and sat on the middle landing, curling into a ball in the corner and put her head on her knees.
She coughed and spluttered, trying to regain control of her breathing, but all the exercises she knew and usually relied on didn’t seem to be working. Everything felt worse than usual, her chest was tighter, the tingling spreading through her limbs and jaw was worse, the tears rolling down her face were faster. Everything was bigger, she hadn’t had one this bad in years.
“Pam? Are you alright?” Phyllis’s voice broke through the fog in her brain, and Pam looked up to see her kneeling in front of her.
She nodded frantically. “I’m fine,” She squeaked through her gasps and sobs.
“Well, I don’t think that’s the truth,” Her voice was kind and calming, “Take a deep breath, you’ll be alright.”
“I can’t!” Pam cried, “I can’t breathe!”
Phyllis looked alarmed, unsure of what to do, “Okay, okay. Do you want me to go get Roy?”
Pam’s eyes widened, her panic increasing. “No! No, please don’t get Roy! He’ll just judge me and make fun of me and… he doesn’t care. Just, please don’t tell Roy!”
“Okay, alright, what about Jim? Do you want me to get Jim?” She asked.
Pam went still for a moment, unsure of what to say. Jim would probably help, he was an amazing comfort and was still her best friend, even if it didn’t feel like it these days, but on the other hand, if Phyllis went and got him, he’d find out, giving him yet another reason to be weird around her. That, and there was a very high chance he wouldn’t care anyway.
Without realizing, she nodded, her head returning to its position on her knees.
“Okay, I’ll go get Jim. Will you be alright if I leave you here for a few minutes?” Pam nodded again.
Phyllis went up the stairs and into the office, spotting Jim in his usual spot, thankfully alone. “Hey Jim,” She said, keeping her voice quiet as she approached his desk.
“Hi, Phyllis, what’s up?” He didn’t take his eyes off the computer but smiled nonetheless.
“There’s something wrong with Pam, very wrong,” Jim stopped typing, his smile dropping instantly, “She’s on the stairs, I think she might be having a panic attack.”
Jim nodded, absorbing the information, worry swirling in his stomach. “Okay, yeah. Thank you for telling me,” He got up in an instant, ignoring the eyes of Karen and everyone else, and dashed out the room.
He threw the doors to the stairwell open, and he could practically feel his heart break at the sight of Pam curled up in and trembling, gasping, sobbing ball. “Oh Pam,” He whispered, running down the steps to her.
“Jim!” She cried, looking up again.
“Yeah, it’s me. I’m right here. You’re gonna be alright, just, uhh, take a deep breath. It’s in for seven, hold for four and out for eight, right? Just remember that.” He pried her hands away from her arms, placing them on his chest. “Just follow me, In,” He inhaled deeply, smiling when he saw Pam attempt the same, “Hold,” He pulled faces at her as they held their breaths, trying to make her laugh or at least smile, “And out.” They exhaled.
They repeated the process until Pam’s breathing returned to normal, and Jim took a sigh of relief. “Can I… do you want a hug?” He asked, opening his arms up to her.
She nodded quickly, all but throwing herself into his arms and inhaling his familiar scent, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt. God, she missed his hugs.
“You’re okay now,” He whispered into her hair.
“Yeah, I am,” She sighed, pulling away and wiping the rest of the tears off her face before grabbing his hand, needing to be close to him in some way, “I guess you wanna know what that was all about, right?”
“Only if you want to tell me,” He said, squeezing her hand.
Pam smiled sadly. “I’ve had anxiety since I was little, my parents worked out my shyness was a little more than just shyness and I was diagnosed, and for a few years everything was fine and it had hardly any repercussions. Then in middle school, some stuff happened and I started getting panic attacks, and they were really, really bad. They were almost every day for a few years, which wasn’t great, but then I got put on medication at the start of high school, which calmed that down. I now only get panic attacks when something bad happens or when I get too overwhelmed or something. I don’t know what happened then, I can usually tell when they’re coming, but that was just random…” She trailed off, looking down at her lap.
“Oh, Pam,” Jim said, wiping his face, “I didn’t know, you should’ve told me.”
Pam shook her head. “I thought you’d see me differently or treat me weirdly if you knew,” She admitted, and Jim’s heart broke all over again.
“Pam, I would never, ever treat you differently over something like this, it doesn’t define you. You’re my best friend, nothing, especially this, can ever change that, but I want to help you. If you ever need me, I’ll be right there. Just send a message or call or we can even make up a secret signal if you’d like. Regardless, I’ll help. Now you’re never alone, okay?”
Pam nodded, tears welling up in her eyes at his kind words. “Thank you, Jim,” She sniffled, leaning her head on his shoulder.
“Of course,” He promised, sticking out his pinkie on his free hand with a cheeky smile. Pam shook her head, laughing quietly, but shook pinkies with him regardless. She let herself smile for a few moments before her face dropped again and she sat up fully.
“Can we keep this between us? I don’t want anyone else to know,” She asked.
Jim nodded instantly. “Yeah, totally. That can be part of the pinkie promise, which, by the way, are legally binding so…”
Pam smiled, returning her head to his shoulder. “Seriously though, thank you, Jim. For everything,“ She said.
Jim looked down at her with soft eyes. “Anything for you.”
They remained sitting in the stairwell for at least another twenty minutes, just soaking in the presence of each other after months of being separated, knowing that, even though both still wanted more, they finally had their best friend back.