A panic attack always begins the same way. I lose all warmth in my extremities and I begin to shake. My lungs begin to heave as if they are screaming for relief and I can’t bring myself to inhale to obtain the air I so desperately need. While a lunch break, a university class or an episode of Law and Order SVU tends to last longer than these attacks, they are not to be underestimated as mine often brings about shockwaves for weeks.
Although it was not until what would have to of been my 123rd attack across a number of years that I realized there is more to me than my anxiety.
As I found myself in an unfamiliar place I began to notice my knuckles buckling, my lungs struggling and my thoughts turning as cold as the fingers I could feel but limitedly. As I was reminded of my friend’s close proximity to what I was sure would develop into another war I was to face, there was fervor in her remark, “Are you okay?” It was in her reverence in my deciding to battle the frontline of my mental illness alone that I knew I had to fight fervently if not for my sake but for her.
I drew my attention to what I could see, hear and feel. The walls were white and the fan was on, it’s clicking and churning of humidity helped fill the silence of my panic while the warmth my friend was emitting beside me all helped me grasp reality. It was in my reliance on my own senses that I was able to draw my panic to the surface where I could acknowledge it and subdue it rationally. My lungs began to slow in their attempt to grasp air, my fingers were beginning to regain their feeling and I felt as if I had won a battle that had beaten me countless times before. I was victorious and I wasn’t admitted to a hospital in order to feel serenity again.
I am a woman, a daughter, a classmate and a friend. I have a generalized anxiety disorder but I also have enduring resilience and strength. I can’t pack away my anxiety in a case and throw away the key, I wear it on my back and along my wrists like a sweater or a sleeve. Alas, I am a human being with a future and with dreams and this was the night I realized I can have anxiety and both those things.