On Thursday, November 5th, 2015, I wrote a blog post called, “So, it has been a year.” This detailed some of the things that lead to my anxiety and some of the things that triggered it. Each year that October 30th passed, I put a little notch in my brain. Each year marked my ability to control my anxiety.
Battle: Being wholly honest with myself and the people I loved.
Battle: My last year of Korea.
Battle: The most difficult year of my academic life.
Battle: Three and a half years.
Every day a battle—a battle I was determined to win. It felt like I was winning. I was winning. The end of the war with anxiety sat on the horizon. Three and a half years.
However, this January, my sleep progressively worsened. I bit off more than I could chew. I had to give a presentation to my peers—people my age. I spend my life talking to children. Talking to adults is very, very different. I had ten thousand things racing through my mind to prepare.
Alysha and I got back from the store (buying snacks for my meeting the next morning). Alysha went inside while I moved my car from the street to the garage. I cut the angle too tight. My chest tightened. I screamed just to prove that I exist.
How will Alysha love me when I can’t even park a fucking car? How can I take care of a family? How can I be good enough? Why should I deserve happiness? I am not prepared to be a teacher. I am not qualified to teach the brilliant minds inside of my young people. How can I coach this passionate, vibrant team of Forensics kids when I hate feeling “looked at?”
I pulled a Y turn and parked the car in the garage. I stumbled inside and brushed by Alysha as she took out Gaia.
“Babe. Are you—?”
“I just need a minute.”
She walked out the door, respecting my wish.
My ribs closed in and my heart leapt out of the way. I breathed through the pain and remembered what Maizey Cakes used to tell me, her arms tightly binding me, willing me to feel safe. And, I felt calmer. I sent a wish of thanks through the winds. I hope she felt it.
Alysha returned with a quizzical look, “Do you wanna talk about it?”
“So, that is what my panic attacks look like. Let me fold laundry while I tell you about it.”
She had known that I used to have anxiety attacks, but I never really divulged more than that. I guess, I was still ashamed and stupidly thought I had won the war.
I began folding the clothes. I still hadn’t fully calmed down, but I needed to do something to distract my mind. I picked up a towel. Now, Alysha and I fold towels differently. To keep things ordered in our linen closet, I have adopted her way. I looked at the towel and held it portrait, then landscape. Folded it in thirds and unfolded it. For the second time in as many minutes, I lost control of my body and mind. Air neither entered nor escaped my lungs. My legs forgot how to work. My arms caught my body before the floor did. I gulped tears and coughed out pride. I was left with nothing but thoughts of iniquity and dread that I somehow deserved this. I panted, waiting for the world to end, for it to stop hurting, for something to happen, for peace.
Alysha stood up and walked to me. She wrapped her arms tightly around me. She held me. She didn’t tell me to relax. She didn’t tell me that it wasn’t real. She didn’t say anything. She held me and breathed deeply, helping my lungs remember how to inflate.
“It’s not about the towels,” I said.
“I know,” she said. “I’m here.”
I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.
She’s there, arms wrapped tightly ‘round me—
She is a kite string, and I am a kite
who sometimes forgets how to fly.
Stay strong, soldiers. The war is long. But each battle we fight, remember that it’s temporary. If we can live through this one, we’ll be here to fight another day. And every day after. We are an army. I have your back. You have mine. I don’t care if we’ve not spoken in days, months, or years. I will be there to fight for you when you forget how. Take peace, my friend. Take peace.
For another person’s take on anxiety attacks, please listen to Andrea Gibson’s “Ode to the Public Panic Attack.” This poem gave me the courage to share this post that has been on my heart for three months.