It starts in my stomach. I can feel it, churning, like I’ve done a thousand loops on a rollarcoaster. It moves into my throat. Walls closing in, I can’t breathe. My heart is beating fast and hard, I can’t slow it down. My hands start to shake, my head starts to fog. I lose control. I am scared. This is a panic attack.
I began having anxiety around the age of fourteen. It was mild, manageable, no big deal. Or so I thought. I was wrong. At fifteen, the panic attacks started, and by sixteen, I was a slave to my anxiety. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t breathe, I could barely sit through a class. I was a shell of a human, the person I used to be had been attacked by the anxiety and the anxiety won. I began to lose myself, I surrendered myself to the panic, I let fear take over. I felt my life slipping by, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I was stuck in a deep, dark hole.
I hit rock bottom. It was isolating. I was alone, surrounded by people, but alone. Few knew, and those who did, didn’t really understand. My family tried to help, they reached their hands down and did their best to pull me out of the hole, but I was too far down. The only way I was getting out was if I climbed out. I was seventeen when I came to that realization. I had to save myself.
I am nineteen now. I suppose the question you’re all asking is did I save myself? Yes, I did and I still do. Everyday is a battle, and everyday I continue to put one foot in front of the other and fight my way out of the hole. There are good days, easy day. These days present anxiety simply as a memory, something that has happened. And then there are bad days. These days aren’t devastating, they’re just not right. On these days, I feel wrong. I can feel my skin crawling, the vibrations in my bones, the pounding in my head. These days make the fight a little bit harder. There is one final kind of day, the horrific days. The vibrations turn into earthquakes, the room won’t stop spinning, the walls are closing in and all I hear is my thundering heartbeat. These days bring me to a standstill, and sometimes, knock me back a few steps. But it’s ok. Because a horrific day is simply that, a day. Twenty four hours. Dawn to dusk. After that, a new day begins, and with that is hope that it will be a good day, and putting one foot in front of the other will be possible. The shaking will stop, the walls will be stabilized, and my heart will slow. It will be alright.
Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Again. And again. Find calm thoughts, refuse to give in to the panic. Rest your mind, body and soul. Be still. Hear the sound of waves crashing against the shore, birds twittering in the forest, water running down stones in a stream. Feel cold air. Be present in the moment. Open clenched fists, release tense muscles. Take time, however much is necessary. There is no rush. The panic comes, but it will go.
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