Note: I wrote the following a few months ago, after suffering from yet another debilitating anxiety attack. The day after my attack, I made myself write down everything I could remember about it- every feeling, every thought, every reaction…
…and then I buried it deep in the abyss of my computer files.
(Does running from my problems count as cardio?)
Anyway, sometimes life is easy and amazing and fulfilling. And sometimes it really fucking sucks. It’s easy to throw a filter on our lives and pretend that we’re okay. It’s much harder to rip off the façade and expose our struggles and imperfections to the world.
And with that, welcome aboard the Hot Mess Express.
There is still an indescribable weight pressing unrelentingly on my chest. In through your nose, out through your mouth. I’m trying to, but I still feel like I’m suffocating, so I take three deep gasping breaths and my head immediately starts spinning again.
Fuck. Start over.
In through your nose, out through your mouth.
It’s been thirty minutes now and it’s taking longer than usual to restore my pseudo-functional homeostasis. I am mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically…just…exhausted. I don’t have anything left. Which is, perhaps, what led to this latest attack in the first place. I am too many things to too many people and my body and brain have had enough. They demand my full and undivided attention. And so, they got it.
My anxiety attacks.
If you’ve never experienced an anxiety attack, get on your knees and thank God…No, really, do it.
They are called “attacks” for a reason. They are, by nature, an all-out civil war between the body and the brain. Neither side fights fair. Neither side knows when to quit. Both sides fight to the death. I lose.
I felt it coming earlier in the day, like a snake slithering through the grass, silently stalking its prey. I felt the familiar tinge of uneasiness while I watched Sunday football. I noticed the increasing desire for silence and solitude as I sat at the dinner table. I could feel the hairs on the back of neck getting hotter and hotter. I could feel the weight of the world hovering, then resting, then pressing, then crushing my chest.
Please no. Please no. Breathe. In through your nose. Out through your mouth. BREATHE. It’ll pass.
Mind racing. Heart pounding. Civil war.
Breathe. In through your nose. Out throu-
Once the tears start, I’ve lost control. The floodgates have been flung open and now I’m drowning on dry land. The room is spinning. I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE. But I can’t make too much noise because someone might hear me and my façade of contentment will be shattered. The only decipherable thought that I have: “I have to get out of here.”
Out of my house. Out of my head. Out of this downward spiral.
I need out.
I don’t remember leaving my house. I only vaguely remember pulling over because I was crying so hard that I got dizzy and I couldn’t see the road anymore. I remember calling my best friend but I don’t remember what I said to her. I only remember parts of the forty minute drive to her house. I feel like I’m outside of my body, hovering above the ground as I watch myself unravel piece by piece. It’s unsettling. Overwhelming. Terrifying.
And just when it feels like I really might drown this time, I reach my best friend and she hugs me and she has no idea that that hug snatches me back to myself. I didn’t drown this time. She wraps her arms around me and pushes the seams back together so I don’t completely fall apart. I’ve made it over the hump. The tingling in my body begins to subside. The weight slowly starts to lift off my chest. The trembling slows. I can breathe. In through your nose. Out through your mouth.
I’ve had anxiety for years and I fear that it’ll be a lifelong battle. But I know that I’m not alone. None of us are. Anxiety is real and debilitating and scary…and universal. My battle is my own but I’m not the only one fighting. Mental health is hard to talk about, but talking about it – and writing about it – helps me cope.
Talking. Writing. Breathing.
In through your nose. Out through your mouth.