The first time I had a panic attack, I thought it was asthma. I was in a church full of friends, singing, and suddenly, I couldn’t breathe right. I wound up sitting on a bench in the bathroom, and the white tiled walls felt smaller. It’s the most afraid I’ve ever felt.
Three friends ended up taking me to the hospital, which I don’t remember. When I was released around midnight, I had a bag full of pamphlets, a hospital bracelet, and somehow, only one shoe.
Most people I grew up with didn’t think about anxiety as a medical condition. My faith background seemed to hold the unspoken belief that anxiety was something I chose. Most conversations implied that anxiety was about how I “didn’t trust God enough,” or how if I just prayed harder, everything would go away. I was taught that anxiety was about what I personally lacked, not about medicine or chemistry or hard seasons of life.
After my panic attack, I knew I owed a few people an explanation of something I didn’t even fully understand. When we got back to the house that night, a good friend stood outside. He had no idea what had happened, and I didn’t know what to tell him. I was unsure how to start, and I remember feeling incredibly nervous.
He asked me where I’d been that night. I leaned against the balcony and took a long look at the horizon. It was beautiful and honest, and I wanted to be like it. So I dove in.
“I went to the hospital.”
“Why? Are you sick?”
“No.” (Wait, was I sick?) “Yes.”
I wanted to tell him I’d had an asthma attack, but I knew that wasn’t the truth. I knew I wanted friendships that were authentic and honest, friendships that could take in big questions without many answers and still be OK. I thought, perhaps, this could be one of them.
“Kind of both,” I remember finally saying. “It’s been a long night.”
“Well.” My friend’s voice was quiet and honest. “I’m listening.”
I opened my mouth and was surprised at how strong my voice sounded. I told him everything. How I’d gone from totally fine to completely unraveled in about five minutes. How my hands shook, and my heart raced, and fear descended like a big black cloud. He got up and stood next to me, just there, listening. I even mentioned I’d lost one of my shoes.
He stayed quiet until I was done, and then he said it.
“I think you’re really brave.”
Me? Brave? This was the opposite of what I expected. But listening and grace—that was just what I needed.
Then, with a smile I couldn’t interpret, he bent down and took off one of his shoes. I just stood there in disbelief, my words still raw in the back of my throat. And then I understood exactly what he meant: He was meeting me where I was. We were the same.
It turned out that the first person I told about my panic attack was the most understanding, and it gave me hope. Hope that people can surprise you, understanding can exist, and heavy things can lift. My hope is that you would, one of these days, feel as light as I did when I spoke up. I hope you know you are not your panic, or your fears, or your illnesses. You are bigger than all of these things combined. I hope you find somebody who helps you see that. I hope you have conversations that are honest, no matter how hard (and I hope the conversations get less hard). I hope people surprise you with listening hearts and with goodness.
I think you are brave. And I hope you believe that.
That story really gave me hope that there are good people out there that listen and try to understand.
This made my day 😀
This text made me cry so hardly. I was reading this while sitting in a train and suddenly my eyes were filled with tears and they rolled down my face like waterfalls and I just couldn’t help myself but cried and thought about this one sentence: “You’re not your panic, or your fears or your illnesses.” Because I always saw myself this way. I’m the trouble maker, the freak, the psychopath. But is this what I am or am I just a girl who struggles with herself, but at last just a girl who dreams of exploring the world and being completely free from everything? The thought that you can’t just shake off the dark side fears me as hell. You have to deal with it. And maybe accept it. And this might be the right moment to stop reducing yourself on the dark part but see yourself as a whole person who’s definitely worth loving just as much as anyone else.
And while I wrote this text, a nice elderly lady walked by and asked if I need help and I just smiled, wiped my tears away and said: “No. I just discovered what I am.”
“So, what are you?” she asked and glanced at me with a certain kind of curiosity.
Jódanis, I don’t know you but I’m so glad to read this part of your story. You ARE incredibly brave, and I hope you don’t forget that. I’m glad you could connect with her words and come to understand that about yourself. Good for you!!!
Love to you.
LOVE LOVE LOVED THIS! SO BEAUTIFUL! 🙂
Such a beautiful story & encouraging words. Thank you for sharing!
This could literally be me. This sounds like my story, but without the understanding, at least at first. Thank you for sharing. I really needed this tonight.
‘We brave’ . The words sink in and they are true. The last few years my anxiety has gotton worse and worse but I found that letting someone know and having people understand is very relieving.
Every person has a glitch ours just happens to be anxiety*
This story gave me hope that I can face my anxiety, with bravery and honesty. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Xx
I needed this post so much. The day I read it was one of the worst anxious days I have had in a very long time. It was exactly the boost I needed to remind myself of who I know I am. I am not my anxiety. I’ve spent most of my life dealing with anxiety, though I didn’t know it until a few years ago when my anxiety decided to add some depression to the mix and I ended up in therapy. People told me over and over again as I dealt with the problems in my life including anxiety, depression, and a suicidal addict of a brother that I was strong and brave and all of those things we hear all the time. I never believed them. Only now after my year and a half of therapy and when my anxiety and depression are under control do I see the truth in what they said. We are all so brave to get up and try to be a part of the world every day. It is that bravery that makes us what and who we are, it is not the things that we suffer from. If we let them those things will shape us to be extraordinary people, and that is my hope and my prayer for myself, my brother, and all of us.
This was an incredible post- I hope that one day I will find that feeling in me to speak up more. Kinda funny that I am writing it on here but, some days I feel like the hope has dwindled and I need some new inspiration in my life. People know I have anxiety and these weird mood swings but, I still feel like they do not fully understand it anymore and the walls just keep closing in on me, so I am glad that I can at least come to this website and find people that are dealing with the same stuff who fully understand. “I knew I wanted friendships that were authentic and honest, friendships that could take in big questions without many answers and still be OK.” This part stuck out to me the most and I am so glad you wrote it, thank you. I am still trying to find my way and those authentic feelings and relationships but, at least this is a step towards something hopefully bigger then I have ever expected.
Today was the night I decided to do something about my anxiety and be honest about it and stop feeling like it made me weak or afraid or something less courageous than I used to be. And I went to TWLOHA wondering if it could help me and it did. When I read, “you are not your panic, or your fears” I began to cry. Because while I always told myself that I haven’t really believed it. I’ve continued to insist to myself rhat my anxiety is not a problem, that it’ll go away, that it can be fixed I’m just too dumb to find its cause, rhat all the insecurities are real and the anxiety is just me knowing that, that there’s something deeply wrong with me that’ll never go back. I can do something. I can be brave and say this is what I feel and what I don’t want to feel anymore. And I think I will.
Thank you… I only just recently asked for help… I’ve been hiding my attacks for about 12 years now… It got so bad i almost took my life.. The depression and anxiety just keeps eating at me… But i asked for help… I had my first therapy session a few days ago… I hope it goes well. I will try and be brave.
I am brave…