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Shh! Don’t Talk About Anxiety.

Why is it so difficult to talk about my panic attacks? The same reason it's so important to.

Everything is wrong. Nothing feels real.

You’re still in front of me asking if everything is okay, but you might as well be a hologram. Or maybe it’s me? I hear you, but there is nothing you can say to stop this. 

Cars are still driving by but they aren’t moving the way they’re supposed to. I can’t explain how or why but it’s just wrong. I mean, part of me knows it probably isn’t any different than a minute ago. Which means there’s something wrong with me. I’m going crazy. 

I see my fists clenched and I hear myself hyperventilating, but those hands aren’t connected to my mind and I have no control over those breaths.  

My body is quickly going numb- I can’t feel my cheeks, my mouth, my hands, my arms…

Why is it so difficult to talk about anxiety?

…Because you’ll think I’m crazy. 

I think I’m going crazy when this happens- so why wouldn’t you?

And how do you talk about something you hardly understand yourself? It’s happening to me, but I’m not sure why. How do I verbalize what it feels like to be unexpectedly consumed by a black hole? 

You know, it’s the first time I’ve ever described a panic attack like that: “a black hole”. But that’s exactly what it feels like. Like losing all sense of time and space as I’m used to it.

…Because as I’m writing this my mind is reeling, thinking “how can I even make people understand that calling it a black hole isn’t being hyperbolic”.

…Because I’m describing this the best way I can, but I feel like I’m not describing it at all. 

And at every moment I’m all too aware of how much it makes me sound like a crazy person.

Why is it so terrifying to talk about my panic attacks? 

…Because of that word. 

Crazy. 

There is a stigma in our society against being labeled “a crazy person”.

I mean, I get why we label them and why they scare us. Crazy People are unpredictable.

If I don’t have control of my own mind, who the hell does? These moments are terrifying and paralyzing and they aren’t me.

I don’t know where these panic attacks come from. I don’t know why I still think I’m dying or legit losing my mind every time they happen. They’ve been happening for so long now that I’m quite aware I am not, in fact, going to die. 

I’ve gotten panic attacks since I was seven. Seven. I remember every single detail from the first time it happened: from the movie we were watching, to the pattern on the blanket my mom wrapped me in as I sat violently shaking on the bathroom counter.

What don’t I remember?

Any underlying anxiety I had going on in my life. 

But I’m twenty-eight now. And still not aware of any underlying anxiety in my present life.

Yet, on a beautiful Indian Summer day yesterday, the panic crept into my chest and exploded while I was sitting outside enjoying lunch at my favorite restaurant.

Why is it so important to talk about this stuff?

…Because I grew up feeling completely alone in what was happening to me, sheepishly explaining to only my very best friends that they could give me a paper bag “if it happened”.

…Because it is that aloneness that is the problem. Over 43 million adults in America experience some sort of mental illness every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

I’m far from alone. We all are. We’re humans. We want to relate to one another. We want to know there are other people that have felt heartbreak, grief, anxiety… 

Don’t get it twisted- this still isn’t easy for me to talk about. It has taken the majority of my lifetime to accept it. But honestly? Accepting it has done more for me than Xanax ever could because it’s no longer a hidden, shameful, secret part of myself. It’s no longer something I feel embarrassed of, ashamed about, terrified of people finding out about on TOP of the negative symptoms the anxiety disorder carries in its arsenal.  

…Because I may be crazy, but it’s no more because I have an anxiety disorder than it is because I put ketchup on my eggs or love a good bridge to throw myself off (attached to something, of course).

There is a blessing in everything. Silver linings are the Universe’s confetti and my panic disorder has given me a light into the hidden, dark world of mental illness. 

I have a saying: Always Default to Love. 

Besides making me sound all positive and Yoda-like, it really just means that you never know what somebody is going through. So isn’t it nicer to trust in people’s goodness? Isn’t it better to assume that whatever they’re doing “wrong” might not be a malicious attempt to annoy you or cause a scene? 

Maybe we can start giving people the benefit of the doubt and forgiving things that immediately makes us think “Woah, check out that crazy person”.

We choose how to respond to the world around us, but we’re also all impacted by how others choose to respond. Do you believe that responding to any kind of illness with fear could be better for you, them, or the world? 

Let’s suffocate hate with love. Respond to the things that scare you with just a smidge more forgiveness and compassion. 

And then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to talk about anxiety.

…Because you wouldn’t be so god-damn worried about people thinking you’re crazy.

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