When Having a Public Panic Attack Restored My Faith in People


Yesterday, something happened that’s never happened to me before.

I had a public panic attack.

I was at a bar with a couple of friends when, all of the sudden, I burst out crying (which later turned into sobbing). I felt a tight pressure in my chest, my face felt warm and I was breathing quickly. My brain was thinking, “Oh my God! There are people around! Stop it!” But there was nothing I could do.

My friends, who I’ve met since moving to Lansing, Michigan, had to witness this — a side of me only a handful of people have seen in my entire life. I kept repeating how I was an awful person and how I hated myself and that I didn’t deserve for them to be so nice to me. Although they were complimenting me, my anxiety was stronger than their words and I wouldn’t believe them.

Yet, they stuck by me and didn’t judge. And I didn’t notice a single person at the bar look at me like I was a “crazy” person, either.

When I went outside for some fresh air and, more or less, started hyperventilating on the sidewalk, nearly everyone who walked past me asked if they could help. One stranger even went in to the bar and brought me a cup of water.

My friend Frank helped me regain control of my breathing by instructing me to slowly breathe in and out. He told me to focus on my feet instead of focusing on thoughts that would add to my panic (which definitely helped calm me down), and he and my friend, Kate, gave me a big hug to show me I wasn’t alone. Afterward, Kate brought me to her apartment, made me hot chocolate and assured me that she would always be there for me.

My mom, without knowing what was going on, texted me “I love you” during my panic attack (definitely proof there’s an unspoken mother/daughter connection). And, when she felt like something was wrong, she called me immediately.

Last night restored my faith in humanity, and I want to say thank you to Kate, Frank, my mom and the strangers who offered to help. You don’t know how much that meant to me.

I share this story because I know a lot of people are afraid to let others see their mental illness. But if you let people in they may surprise you. Last night showed me that, maybe, people are finally becoming more accepting of mental illness, and that, more often than not, others will help you and not judge you.

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