Today, at 5:00 p.m., I grabbed my things, packed my bag, put on my jacket, and walked out of class. Of course, you already know this. It's not because I wasn't interested in what we were doing or because I don't respect you - because I am, and I do.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't concentrate. I wasn't there - mentally, anyway.
Take deep breaths, count to ten, drink some water, try to concentrate. Take deep breaths, count to ten, drink some water, try to concentrate. I have been playing this over and over in my head since I sat down.
There are so many people in class, I feel like I'm trapped. I need to get out. I can't have an absence. I need a good grade in this class.
All of this makes it worse.
Take deep breaths, count to ten, drink some water, try to concentrate.
You may never understand what I mean when I say anxiety attack, and I pray to God that you never have to know what that's like. As a professor, I can understand why "having an anxiety attack" can't be an excuse. Too many people use that term lightly.
I do not.
I can still remember the night of my first anxiety attack. I was young, 7:00 p.m. bedtime young. My family and I had just finished watching "Little People Big World," and my Dad read me a bedtime story, shut off the lights, and went downstairs.
The minute he walked down the stairs, it felt like there was cinder block on my chest. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move. My brain was telling me to move and I couldn't. When I finally got up I realized I was crying, uncontrollably. I walked down to the basement and told my parents I couldn't sleep. I didn't know how to describe what I was feeling - it was all new to me.
It's not a joke to me and it's not a term I use lightly. I can usually suck it up and continue to live my life, but there are times that it's not that easy. I can't always control it as much as I want to.
I want teachers and professors everywhere to understand that for some people, like myself, mental health days are necessary. The only difference between my anxiety and the flu is others can't "catch anxiety." It's an illness. A disorder.
Not everyone will experience the feeling of anxiety, like most experience the flu, but it's just as serious and is as big of a deal.
I want to be able to email you and tell you the truth when it comes to my walking out of class. I want to tell you that I have anxiety disorder without worrying that I'll have an unexcused absence that will lower my grade.
I don't have a doctors note for you and I have no proof that I'm not making it up, so I know that it's a difficult thing for you to do.
So in that case, I'm changing this letter.
Dear Society in General,
Please stop using "anxiety attack" so lightly. I promise you it's not something you ever want to experience. Also, just try and take mental health, in general, more seriously. It's very real, and very scary.
18% of the American Population.