For me, at this point, it usually begins with a trigger. Fighting with my family, losing something important, any number of things can be triggers. And what triggers me one day may not trigger me the next.
The anxiety rushes up inside of me and makes me sick. It's like an iron fist is squeezing my insides. When it gets to that point, I have 5, 10 minutes tops before I start crying. Anyone who attempts to talk to me during this stage will likely realize that I am holding it together by a very thin thread.
When the dam breaks, there's no stopping it. I cry. And cry. And cry. It becomes difficult to remember not being miserable or to imagine a time in the future when I will not be miserable. My impulse is to withdraw from people, cancel all plans. At the same time, i gravitate toward people who i am close to, people i trust completely. I tend to cling fiercely to the familiar. If you are someone I know very, very well, someone who knows the deepest, darkest parts of my soul, this is the time you will likely get an IM or phone call from me. I will still be crying. Despite that, I can probably carry on a semi-rational conversation, especially if I'm typing and don't have to voice words past the tears.
I will loathe myself for crying, for panicking, for everything. All my small flaws and insecurities will suddenly be magnified, larger than life, and threaten to consume me. My self esteem plummets. I struggle to remember anything good about myself.
The cycle of crying can go on for hours. It is like a faucet that cannot be turned off. Eventually there ceases to be any real reason for crying. If you ask why I am crying, I will likely reply "I don't know." Or "I hate myself." I will eventually stop, only to start again minutes later. It's not that I want to cry. It just happens.
This is usually the point where the rational part of my brain realizes that the cycle has to be broken. Before I was on meds, I was out of luck. Very few things, if anything, could break that cycle of crying and misery and loathing. Before, the cycle went on for days, weeks, months. I never went a week without crying. Now I have Xanax.
After I take the Xanax, it can take up to an hour for me to feel better. At some point, I stop crying. I feel drained and emotionally wrung out, like a sponge. It's like recovering from a bad bout of flu - weak and shaky.
Slowly, things begin to seem light again. It is easier to imagine having fun, being happy. There is usually a sort of aftertaste, a lingering twinge of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. But it's much less intense. When I think about what triggered me, it doesn't seem so important anymore.
Above all, I feel tired. It's hard for me know to cognitively process things. My emotional spoons are gone and I've been borrowing from my cognitive spoons. The episode has taken its toll. Now, I must sleep.