I remember sitting in my high school English class with a teacher as miserable as the day is long. I dreaded going to that class every single day, which sucked, because English was, and is, my favorite subject. I find literature intriguing. I find writing beautiful. But this class sucked all of the passion right out of me, all due to the misery and unhappiness oozing from this woman at the front of the class.
One day, I was looking down at my copy of Macbeth, counting down the seconds until the bell rang and I could run down two hallways to my next class and begin breathing again. My friend sat across from me, also dragging her eyes slowly across the text on her worn out copy. She peered up at me with tired eyes, sighed, and went back to her book. So did I. Not a word was exchanged.
“Hey,” I heard a nasty growl. The both of us jumped in our seats and turned towards our teacher. The room was so eerily silent, you could hear a pin drop. “Are you talking in my classroom?”
Everyone looked directly at us, and my teacher’s stare was burning straight through me. I heard quiet laughs and snickers around me. I swallowed over lump in my throat, felt heat rush over me, and then everything went blank. I remember running to the bathroom and sobbing hysterically into the sleeve of my sweater.
I couldn’t focus. Thoughts came in flashes. My head pounded. I choked through sobs and started to hyperventilate. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t talking. Why did she think that? Does she hate me? Is she going to lower my grade? Why were the other people in my class laughing? Were they talking about me? What were they saying? Why were they snickering? Do they think I’m crazy for running out of there? For crying? They’re making fun of me now. Everybody is going to be making fun of me. They’re all going to hate me. Nobody is going to talk to me. I can’t stay at this school. Why is this happening to me? Why, why, why?
My first ever panic attack…at least – the first I can accurately remember and describe. Scary, debilitating, terrifying, horrific. I felt like I was going to fall onto the bathroom floor and not be able to get up.
A panic attack can go from 0 to 100 quicker than you know.
In an instant. Just like that.
But it feels like it’s lasting minutes. Hours. Days.
And it’s one of the most terrible things to experience.
Panic attacks can be different for everyone. Some are more debilitating than others. Some are over quickly. Some don’t seem to go away for a long time. For me, mine last anywhere from a minute to ten minutes. I’ve never experienced anything longer than that, and I am grateful. Even just thirty seconds of hyperventilating can cause so much more stress and anxiety than you think.
Mine normally start with negative, pessimistic, unpleasant thoughts. I can’t even focus on just one. They rush into my head and don’t stop for me to comprehend any of them. It’s so quick, I then begin to shake. Then the heavy breathing starts, the tears, and I can’t seem to stop myself. It feels like it won’t ever stop. It feels like a thunderstorm that won’t let up, like the gray clouds are going to get bigger and darker and the rain is going to pound down even harder.
Most of the time, anxiety is unfounded, irrational fear. That’s the worst part about it. I know it’s irrational, and I know that sometimes I can’t explain it to others, and I know that’s frustrating. And the fact that sometimes, we just can’t stop our minds from running rampant, and we’re losing control of our thoughts…that’s undeniably terrifying.
But it will all be okay.
“Let whatever you do today be enough.”
“Anxiety can feel as huge as the big, blue sea, but remember that the sea is made up of smaller waves.”
~ Kellie Jo Hollie
“Don’t let your difficulties fill you with anxiety. After all, it is only in the darkest nights that stars shine more brightly.”
“Slow breathing is like an anchor in the midst of an emotional storm: the anchor won’t make the storm go away, but it will hold you steady until it passes.”
~ Russ Harris
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Stop trying to calm the storm. Calm yourself. The storm will pass.”
“When you’re feeling anxious, remember that you’re still you. You are not your anxiety.”
~ Deanne Repich
“Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can.”