How To Survive An Anxiety Attack

Kevin Dooley
Kevin Dooley

I know how you’re feeling.

Sometimes, you’ll be standing in the grocery store line, or in the midst of polite conversation, when you find yourself unable to breathe around the heaviness that has taken up residency in your chest.

And suddenly, you are carried aloft by the weight of everything: of changing your mind every day, confused by the simultaneous, contradictory array of choice and lack thereof presented to you.

You question why you fought so hard to flee the comfortable domesticity of routine in search of something greater than yourself, in search of something to believe in. You ask yourself why you were so eager to exchange simplicity for complication in the vast, unsettling place you’ve found yourself inhibiting.

It’s not always like this. Some days your life is a fairy tale of unceasing wonder. You throw your face back to the stars wondering how you could ever doubt the path that has led you here but those days are few and the fearful, wakeful nights grow longer and more difficult.

Your fear is the voice that whisper insidiously in the deep, still darkness:

“You’re an imposter.”

“You’re a fraud.”

“You’ll never be good enough.”

“You’ll never belong.”

The only way to find peace is to remember.

Start by remembering who you were. Remember the child building forts of books and walls of words in the confines of dusty school libraries, hiding from playgrounds that seemed more like battlefields, because no matter how hard you tried to fit in there was always an inescapable target painted on your back that marked you as ‘different’.

Remember walking from the gates in your too-big, hand me down jacket with its ragged, gnawed up sleeves, a reservoir of tears at the back of your throat. Remember the biting claws of childhood cruelty closing in around your neck, the rage coiled tightly at the base of your spine. 
Remember how you promised yourself you’d never let them make you cry. Remember straightening your own slumped shoulders and deciding that it didn’t matter what they saw in you, all that mattered is what you saw in yourself.

Remember to keep your promise. Remember that you’ve never let them make you cry.

Now think of the person you are. Realize that you aren’t just a survivor but a warrior, hungry and unafraid, offering yourself freely to a world that gives you nothing and everything all at the same time. You’ve fought shining battles with yourself, with the hordes who told you you’d never amount to anything more, and you’ve won.

You and those like you: you’ve won.

Some of you have won with the unstoppable force of your beaten up, battle-scarred hands. Some of you have stood by the impenetrability of your naive and simple optimism. All of you have learned, along the way, that to fight is not to rage against the world, but to embrace it.

You have learned that the highest walls are those built of brittle, hardened bitterness and you don’t want to lock away the greatest and most vulnerable parts of yourself.

Realize that being afraid is an impossibility once you’ve shaped the steel of yourself. Remember the fear of falling is unnecessary when you’ve already traversed the narrow paths over the deepest of abysses.

You’re already safely on the other side. You just haven’t realized it yet.

Think of the person you wish to become. Promise yourself that even if you never matter to the world, you’ll always matter to yourself. Remember that it is your compassion and your ability to feel in the first place that helps you navigate the world, that you’ll live a life illuminated by the light of grace and seek beauty in the ugliest of places. Realize that the greatest weapon you have against the brutal bitterness is your undefeatable, inexhaustible sweetness.

Never lose sight of who you were, who you are and who you’re becoming. Remember all the times you thought you’d never make it through the pain and through the noise. Remember that you did.

You always have and you always will. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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