“Just keep breathing."
I can do that. It's so simple. We do it without thinking about it. Breathe in, and breathe out.
Thoughts race in my head, each one trying to cross the finish line first. There's a disconnect from my voice and brain, leaving me tongue-tied. Seconds feel like minutes. Minutes feel like hours. I feel a pit in my stomach.
It's a maze with no way out. It's screaming in a crowded room, but no one can hear you. It's a puzzle that will never be solved. It's dancing with two left feet.
It makes the easy act of inhaling and exhaling feel as if you're about to climb Mount Everest. It changes the natural rhythm. The more you think about it, the harder it gets. Slow and steady changes to rapid and shallow.
Anxiety steals your air, and takes it away from you. It cripples you. It tries to control you. It overpowers you. It chews you up and spits you out.
Amongst all this chaos, it seems that my breath has left my body. It's taking a vacation. It booked a one-way ticket and isn't coming back. It packed its bags and is boarding the plane.
I guess this is goodbye, oxygen. You've been transformed to poison. I feel like I'm drowning. I'm gasping, but you seem to turn your head.
"Why not just calm down?" You may ask.
Asking someone to calm down who is going through a panic attack is comparable adding gasoline to a fire. It makes things worse, not better. You may as well put a small band-aid on a large, life-threatening wound.
Coming back to reality when your mind is in a million places at once is an obstacle in itself. Anxiety takes a hammer to you, and you're left picking up your remnants. You're forced to put yourself back together; piece by piece. Your foundation doesn't feel solid anymore. You feel unprotected.
Then, I just remind myself to keep breathing. “I am still here. I am alive, and I am well. Everything may not seem okay right now, but it will be," I reassure myself of these facts. I will be fine. I can overcome this. I am bigger than this.
I repeat phrases such as these until they are engrained in my mind. I'm trying to slay the anxiety dragon. I'm saving myself from my own madness. I'm keeping my head above water.
Once that is implemented, it seems that a weight has lifted from my chest. No one is crushing me anymore. I feel lighter than a feather. A resurgence of energy and light runs through me—the darkness is gone.
My breath has decided to miss its flight. It wants to come home. It runs back, full speed ahead. I inspire like I take my first ever breath. This feeling is one of relief.
I am exhausted and running low. I was almost empty, but made it just in time.
To those who have anxiety, panic attacks are nothing new. Those who don't have them do not know the half of it. It may seem like everything is fine on the outside, but there is a wildfire inside our minds. We're tearing ourselves apart, and we can't stop momentarily.
I wrote this to emulate what it feels like when your anxiety is out of your control. We need to make mental health a normal topic of conversation. It is time to shed light on what's important.
Also, I wrote this to inspire those who are fighting to keep fighting. You are worthy. You are loved. You can beat this. Your anxiety is not your identity.
Just keep breathing, and everything will be okay.