Whenever I think back to that day in November 2015, I can feel the panic I experienced at the time. It was a Tuesday. I was 15 and sitting on my bed, trying to find a way out. I eventually managed to breathe again and exhaled in relief. I took four deep breaths before another wave of anxiety crashed into me and it started all over again.
I don’t really remember that it was a Tuesday, to be honest, but it doesn’t matter because every day in November 2015 was like that. I could barely breathe, and could not leave my bed, let alone my room. Just the thought of getting out of bed, and placing one foot in front of the other was so frightening that I tried to avoid thinking about it. My thoughts circled endlessly around the panic attack I was currently in and the one that was already waiting around the corner. Of course, it was a hopeless state, a situation that felt like it would never end. But, you already guessed it, it ended. One day I left my bed, my room, and my parent’s house to walk into a hospital. To get the treatment I needed. Over the course of long years of therapy, I got better. Leaving my bed was not a problem anymore.
But yesterday my emotions took hold again.
I couldn’t breathe, my chest tightened, my shaky hands became sweaty, and my heart was racing so fast it drowned out any other noise in the room. Just like every other panic attack—this one passed. I survived it and I am still here. But following the panic, the anger came. Anger directed toward myself.
How is it possible after all these years that my emotions still have the power to hurt me like that? Why didn’t I see the signs? Why couldn’t I use one of the skills I learned in therapy?
There I was, racing downhill into self-destructive thoughts I hadn’t been in the company of in over a year. Suddenly, the old unhealthy coping mechanisms felt like good options again. And the thought of relapsing into these old habits made me even angrier. Soon, I was spiraling into a second panic attack.
It took me a while to think straight again, to calm down, and sort through my thoughts and emotions. Eventually, the anger turned into a feeling of pride. The emotions and physical sensations might have resembled those from 2015—the desperation and overwhelm, the tight chest and the labored breathing—but the situation wasn’t the same. I wasn’t sitting on my bed anymore. I didn’t have a panic attack because I thought about leaving the house. This time, the panic attack hit because of an upcoming move to a new country. For a moment, everything felt like too much. And within that overwhelm, I was so hard on myself, I belittled my fear of leaving my home country behind. A thing almost everyone would be a little scared to do.
It was then that I realized having a panic attack is not necessarily a sign of an impending breakdown or a step back in recovery. This panic attack showed me the progress I have made over the last few years. At the age of 15, just the thought of leaving my bed was too much. And now, at the age of 22, the thought of moving to another country is sometimes too much too. That’s OK. That’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of a huge improvement in my mental state. It’s a sign of progress. And in a way, I am thankful for the panic attack I had yesterday because it made me aware of how far I’ve come.
You are not your thoughts. Anxiety is not who you are—you deserve to know peace. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].