Palms sweating, heart racing, gasping for air as I clutched onto my seat, my mind raced, hoping that life wouldn’t leave my body right that moment. For the first time, for there were many more times to come, I looked into his eyes and said “I’m not feeling good”. How do I explain this, how do I tell you how it felt to feel as if that was my last breath, how do I utilize the right words to make you understand the insanity that was going on in my head, how do I tell you this story of falling into a deep, dark, bitter place.
That was my first experience of a panic attack, although I had no idea at the time. Fleeing the restaurant, my boyfriend rushed me to urgent care, then to the ER where we sat for hours on my 23rd birthday waiting to get examined. After getting tested for this and that, I was told how healthy I was and how this might have occurred due to stress. As everyone around me sighed a relief, I felt a whole new feeling breeze by, one that I will never forget. FEAR.
The fear of dying, the fear of people, the fear of crowded places, the fear of going out, the fear of being alone, the fear of not eating right, the fear of stomachaches, the fear of sweating, the fear of light, the fear of fear itself. I could go on forever listing all the things I began to worry and dread about from that day forward. I could tell you how utterly difficult it was to face each one and battle it over and over again as if I were a baby learning to roll over and crawl for the first time. I could write out every detail, of every time I’ve gotten a panic attack, but you still won’t ever fully understand.
A week later, I experienced an attack at work that lead me right back to the hospital where I received the same answers, but also the first time I started to get the looks of pity and sorry smiles. I cried that day. I cried to myself, in my hospital room, on my hospital bed as I knew something inside me has gone terribly wrong. I cried till there were no tears left. My mom came to get me and we sat together as I called my boss and quit my job. Then I was given a pill, a pill that gave me relief and put me out for the night.
I went home that evening, but little did I know that I wouldn’t be seeing outside of those walls for a long, long time. This is were I fell, in the arms of my loved ones, in the safety of my home, I went down a tunnel that had no light at the end. I lost touch with everything and everyone, I stopped going to school, I stopped driving, I became a vegetable. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sit and watch TV, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t exercise, I could scarcely fathom the thought of life itself. The battle has begun.
My parents searched high and low for help, I went to countless places and talked to countless people and doctors, only to feel as if my problems meant nothing to them. I was prescribed an anti-anxiety medication that sent me through HELL and back, to which I stopped and decided to fight this on my own. Soon after, my mom found a psychotherapist who I started sessions with. You see, it was tough at first, telling your story over and over again to people who could care less, reliving those moments, feeling those sensations, but when you find the right person to let it out to, you somehow feel a bit better. Being able to share so deeply about an aspect of your life and not have someone judge you, but instead understand, can do wonders.
Slowly but surely, I was getting better. It wasn’t and isn’t an easy road. I resented greatly and frequently. I was angry and bitter all the time. I always wondered what I could’ve done to prevent it, how it could’ve all played out differently, but I realized how important it was/is for me to stay in the present. I’m not 100% myself everyday, but who really is? I’m not completely well yet and I probably won’t ever be, but I am stronger. As much as I wish to be the person I was before this, I’ve become a better person because of it. I appreciate life in a whole new way. I value the little things, the big things, and treasure everything in between. I’m a person who is more aware of my surroundings, mindful about my habits, alert to the people around me and how my actions and words can affect them. Do I still have bad days? Heck yes I do, sometimes I have a bad week and sometimes I even have a bad month, but I continue to look forward. I try my best to only look back to see how far I’ve come. It’s been a little over a year since I was diagnosed with a panic disorder and agoraphobia, and this is my story.
I’m am eternally grateful for my parents who have picked me up every time I fell and have supported me and continue to do so, although understanding was hard for them. I’m also so thankful to have met my boyfriend An who is one of the most genuine, kind and caring people I’ve ever met. Thank you for being the bridge with my parents, doctors, professors and so much more when I wasn’t able to express myself and for trying your hardest to put yourself in my shoes. And lastly, thanks to my best friends Bella and Audrey for being here for me when I had no one else to turn to and for hanging out with me wherever I felt most comfortable. I love you all more than words can explain and I wouldn’t be where I am today without such an amazing support system.