When Derpy had woken up again her chest felt better but she was still very confused about what had happen and why she'd fallen and when she was allowed to get up. There were wires stuck on her chest with sticky things and they went to a machine that made a lot of beeping and it seemed to get louder when Derpy looked at it and thought about it or worried about it without looking at it. She tried really hard not to worry about it. It worked okay.
Miss Derpy, the doctor had said when he showed up, which was surprising, out from under the draped cloth barrier that had surrounded Derpy's bed. I understand you've had a panic attack.
How do you understand it? I didn't know I had one.
Now now, it's just a figure of speech. What I mean to say is, I am lead to believe via this chart and reports that you collapsed during your mail delivery, suffering from chest-pains, light-headedness, and a general inability to keep focus on the world around you. Does any of that sound right?
I guess so, Derpy had said. I just thought that was normal.
Well, you'll be pleased to know that now that we've found out about this problem, we can do something to fix it. It seems your panic attack was caused by a previously undiagnosed asthma becoming aggravated and interracting with a series of recurring thoughts. Tell me, Derpy... have you ever had problems breathing before?
Derpy had scratched her head. When was breathing just hard, and when was it a problem?
I don't know, she had said.
Hmm, the doctor had said.
That's very interesting.
Derpy didn't know what was so interesting about it.
The doctor didn't say anything for a moment. He cleared his throat, and looked at his clipboard.
Sometimes when I'm flying really fast it feels like my eyes are gonna start spinning, Derpy offered, raising her shoulders meekly.
Do you find yourself short of breath in other, non-exercise-based scenarios?
When you're at home, relaxing, or doing nothing that would otherwise cause stress to your lungs?
Derpy thought back to the few nights every month she seemed to spend waking up, gasping, waiting for the invisible pillows on top of her to go away, please, and then holding herself upright and opening the window and huffing in as much fresh air as she could, and most of the time it worked. And when it didn't she just curled there, sucking air through a straw, waiting for the darkness to pass.
Um... I guess so. Sometimes, she said.
Hmm, the doctor pony said. He tapped his clipboard with a pen. That's very interesting.
Derpy didn't understand why it was so interesting.
Have you also had problems with persistent intrusive thoughts... hearing or thinking things you don't want to hear or think?
Derpy thought hard. A lot of things she heard and thought she didn't want to hear or think. Ponies saying mean things about each other. Ponies saying mean things about her. Ponies saying nice things about her, on account of it made her feel nervous and like maybe somepony was tricking her. She thought all the time about mistakes... did I mess this up again, did I get that right, if I do this on time will it mean I did a good job... and she didn't think she was special. From what she heard, everypony thought like that.
But did she like it?
Um, Derpy had said. I'm not sure.
You can be honest with me, Derpy. This meeting is confidential.
Outside the thin cloth curtain around the bed, a nurse whistled to herself as she bustled by with a tray full of loudly clanking metal.
I don't wanna go home with a bunch of new words for all my problems, Derpy said, staring down at her own chest, eyes focused on an invisible point.
But wouldn't a new word for a problem help you understand better, and help you tell other ponies what you might be dealing with?
Derpy thought hard again.
She did like the idea of being able to say exactly what was going on. She knew there were a lot of words, and picking the right ones was hard on account of how many there were. Ponies like Twilight Sparkle and Rarity were really good at picking their words. Derpy just stuck to the ones she knew, because every time she figured out a new one she would use it all day until everypony around her would groan each time she said it, and even then she could tell they weren't very happy she was learning a new word anyway, so it was better to stick to the old ones. Yep.
The doctor pony waited for a few moments, leaving Derpy in thought, before finally checking his watch, as though it were silently alarmed.
I'm afraid I have to attend to another patient. Based on our conversation here, I'd still like to recommend a prescriptive steroid-based inhaler, as well as an at-night medicational supplement to help deal with those more troublesome intrusive thoughts.
Derpy looked at the doctor and blinked. She tried hard not to scrunch up her face or cry.
That just means a little tube you'll carry around to use when it's hard to breathe, and some pills you take at night before bed to help you sleep and feel better the next day.
Oh. How did he know to...
Take care, Derpy. The doctor pony touched a hoof to her shoulder and smiled at her. Then he walked out from this side of the curtain, and became an outline on the other side. Then he disappeared.
Derpy didn't know why, but the doctor pony had reminded her of her father.