Just Breathe

You may have noticed, especially in our more recent posts, that my co-author is somewhat more comfortable sharing personal stories than I am. I shy away from it not because my personal life is boring, but rather because I’ve had trouble putting myself “out there” with anything, unless I am talking to people I deeply care for and trust.

Since there aren’t so many people I have this very close and safe-feeling relationship with, these poor selected few tend to get long messages in crisis times, usually prefaced by something like “Sorry, I know you have a lot on your plate and I don’t want to bother you, but…”. If they’re close by I’ll generally just hope that they can tell something is wrong and ask about it. I then usually say that I don’t really want to talk about it, then end up talking about it for over an hour, while my poor friend is trying to say something that is different from the other fifteen times I’ve had a crisis about the exact same thing.

The problem with these mini-crises is that they tend to be about something utterly minor that builds up to a huge and scary construct in my head. It’s one of those days today. A small thing happened and my imagination has blown it out of proportion. (While I’m writing the word “small”, the panicky voice inside my head yells that it’s not that small at all… see what I mean?).

Sometimes when this happens, I get panic attacks – not severe ones, but strong enough to cause a physical reaction. I can feel my heartbeat picking up, I have trouble breathing steadily, I’m on the verge of crying (and sometimes I do cry), and more often than not, I’ll get tension headaches and shoulder or neck pains eventually. The physical reaction scares me, even though it’s nothing serious, but just the fact that something which happens purely in my mind can make my body react this way.

My usual reaction at this point is to curl up on my bed, pull the covers over my head and stay like this until my racing mind slows down. I tend to be a mess for the rest of the day, blow up at the slightest provocation or start crying uncontrollably when I drop a spoon hours later.

I don’t know what it is that I am so scared of.

Actually, that last sentence was a lie. I know exactly what I’m scared of, and why there are specific situations that trigger this panic. But like I said before, I’m hesitant about putting myself out there and I feel that this post is going out on enough of a limb without adding in my childhood stories. Suffice it to say, certain situations trigger my overactive imagination, situations which naturally occur in the life of a twenty-something with an uncertain future, a long-distance relationship, and career plans that are vague at best. These situations mostly revolve around uncertainty, and they aren’t quickly resolved, they need time – you can’t just create a career on a Wednesday night.

Right now is a bad time for a panic attack. I’m alone.

Having someone there to calm me down is incredibly helpful and often makes the worrying stop before it has time to become an actual panic. Having just me is a panic-amplifier. I’m a very analytical person, but the rational side of my brain has no chance if it doesn’t get outside support. So what else is there to do?

I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet who gets scared sometimes. I’m sure that most of you who read this have had a freak-out over a minor issue at some point in your life. Part of the reason I decided to write this was because I’m sure it will resonate with some of you.

The other part was that I was hoping by the end of it, I’d be less scared. It didn’t work this time. But over the course of the last few months, I’ve found some things that help me. Writing is one of them. Another is hot showers. Really long, hot showers are possibly one of the best methods of releasing stress (and I know, I feel bad about long showers, too, but I don’t do this all the time, just when I really need it). And last but not least… breathe. Long, slow, deep breaths. And remember, this too shall pass.

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