Apr 11, 2018

I Can't Breathe

I breathed in, held it, and breathed out. Then sobbed uncontrollably again, which made me feel like I had lost a battle. I couldn’t even perform the necessary task to keep me alive. I couldn't breathe.

Written March 2, 2018:

Thirty minutes ago, I burst into a panic attack. My first in months. I sat at my desk, listening to music and talking to some friends. I began to think about how unhappy I’d felt over the last few months, only realizing I haven’t felt total happiness since I was nine years old. I looked at the wall directly in front of me and saw the photos splayed across it. They’re all of people I love, places I’ve been, or things I’ve drawn. I’d seen all of those photos about a million times, but when my eyes fell on one, I began to cry. I didn’t realize it in that moment, but my initial thought was, “Wow, I miss being that happy.” Fears ran through my mind and I soon realized that tears were falling down my face, so much so that I couldn’t clearly see the photos in front of me. I took off my glasses, realizing I couldn’t wipe my face as long as they were there. I soon understood that this had no point because the tears kept coming. I began to think of the last few months. I’d lost practically all motivation to do anything besides school. I didn’t paint. I didn’t play the piano nearly as often and only played the pieces I personally enjoy. I only did the reading I was required to do, even though there are so many books on my shelf that need to be read. Perhaps these setbacks were only situational and would soon end, but I was scared I had lost everything. I feared that circumstances had been a thief to my joy and the motivation that provided that sense of joy.

I sat there, continually crying, and tried to figure out why I was so distraught. If I could figure out why, surely I could stop it. Was I just scared for the future? Was I worried I wouldn’t do what I needed to do to survive? How could I do that when I don’t know what it is I need to do? Was I simply missing people? Was I fearing I wouldn’t see some of them for years? The crying didn’t cease and I panicked more. I messaged a good friend saying, “It really sucks when you’re happy but then have a mental break down.” He tried to cheer me up, but at that point I just needed him to cry with me. My instability in breathing increased and the tears still fell. I scrunched my eyes tight, wanting to block out all distractions and face what’s going on in my head, wincing at the pounding headache that joined the attack in my mind. Then came the shaking. Violent and uncontrollable, it swept over my body and I couldn’t prevent it. I soon realized I wasn’t just missing people and crying because of it. I was having a panic attack. I pounded my fist on the desk multiple times, wanting it to stop. I put my hands through my hair and looked at the ceiling, wanting to do something as long as it would just end. When you’re in the middle of something like this, you feel utterly helpless, like you’re going onto a battlefield with nothing but a twig to defend you. I was aware I needed to breathe deeply, but it felt as though all air left just as the capability to do anything escaped me. I did a Google search on how else to deal with it. What a surprise, “Breathe deeply,” is the first instruction. Nothing was going to help. I knew my sister was in the other room on the phone. I didn’t want to disturb her, but I knew she was the only one who could possibly help me. I got up and my chin began to chatter as if I were cold, but if anything I was overheated. My hands were turning back and forth, as if I were trying to turn an invisible doorknob. On my way to my sister, I passed a mirror. I took in my messy hair, red face, and utter hopelessness in my eyes. It was only a glance, but I saw all I needed to see. I looked at my sister, dreading that I was interrupting a conversation, and managed to get out, “I think I’m having a panic attack.” After saying, “I’m sorry, I gotta go,” she hung up the phone and asked me why it was happening. She was sitting on the floor, but I just stood there. I didn’t want to move. I stood there, with my fists clenched and eyes closed. I explained the situation in few words, but she understood. I ended with “I just want to be happy.” I sat down and simply cried. She rubbed my back, and that’s what I needed. I need people. She instructed me on breathing exercises, even though I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying. I breathed in, held it, and breathed out. Then sobbed uncontrollably again, which made me feel like I had lost a battle. I couldn’t even perform the necessary task to keep me alive. I couldn’t breathe. It felt as though so many different battles were occurring at the same time. I wanted my headache to end, but I knew it would only continue if I kept crying. I wanted to stop crying, but my head hurt, I missed people, I felt defeated, and I just couldn’t stop thinking. I wanted the shaking to stop, but it kept going because I just couldn’t sit still. But most of all, I just wanted to breathe. My sister told me to not focus on the attack, but how could you not? It was consuming my mind and was all I felt. I couldn’t just think of something else and maintain focus on it. My sister brought up a “friend” who had tried to help me the first time I had a panic attack. This made me angry, but then we started talking about that instance and how things were then. It helped to take my mind off of everything. I calmed down. I was still shaking and a few tears fell, but I was okay. It was over. I could breathe again. All that remained was the fear of the day that it would fall on me again.

Today, I feel a sense of shame for the things I thought. I wasn’t content and I sought out happiness in material things and people, and not in God, who gave me the blessing of those people and things. I let the fears control me instead of finding my peace in Christ. I know these truths, but I find it immensely difficult to live them. Those truths aren’t meant for when things are easy. You really start to recognize your need for them when you’re in situations like that. But I didn’t. I let the fear control me and it led to awful pain and it’s something I’ll remember for a long time. I sympathize with those who regularly have panic attacks. I’ve had about five and remember each clearly, so I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like on the regular. This isn’t a simple battle. I constantly fail to pick myself up in the morning or to be productive. I have good and productive days and then use that as an excuse to be lazy the next day. I look for excuses instead of legitimate reasons. The things that seem to plague me now are only temporary, but the way in which I choose to deal with it very well may be permanent. I don’t want to hurt myself, either mentally or physically, but these situations drive me to want to do that and I feel regret for ever thinking like that. I feel regret and shame for these things, and I can’t forgive myself. I don’t mean to sound shallow in what my fears were and how they led to such a drastic attack. I’m upset with myself that I let them control me when there are far worse things going on and bigger threats to peace that I should be addressing. In defense, however, I was having other worries that I am uncomfortable with acknowledging here, although I hope to one day, but not today.

Since that day, I’ve had major improvements and multiple setbacks. I’ve been more productive in keep things clean. I’ve painted just for fun four times throughout this week, which has been an insane encouragement. I’m finding enjoyment in the company I share with people. I still cry, I still get angry. I still fear the day I have another attack. I still feel regret over the thoughts I’ve had in the past and the fears that still linger, but ultimately my greatest accomplishment as of now is simply being able to breathe again.