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Why I Am Not Ashamed of My Panic Attacks

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When living with anxiety, a day can go from a walk in the park to being on a high-speed rollercoaster in a matter of seconds. This oscillation from a pretty calm and tranquil existence to adrenalin pumped, white-knuckle ride of hell happens multiple times a day for me. I’ll share a common example. I can be in school (I’m a teacher) and having a great day with the kids. They are calm, chill and absolutely adorable. Come lunchtime, I could receive a text message asking me to go out on Saturday with a few new friends and acquaintances.

Here’s when I need to “buckle up.” My fingers automatically respond with the ever enthusiastic, “Yeah, sure!” My head starts to spin. My hands shake. My heart races. I’m breathing way too quickly. There’s a pounding in my ears. I start to gag, as if trying to vomit up my anxiety. My bottom lip shakes. I need to stop. I need to sit or lie down.

I try to walk to the restroom, but find myself running. I lock myself in the cubicle, sit on the seat and rock. I’m covering my mouth because I’m terrified that I might actually scream. Please tell me no one saw me? I hope none of the kids caught a glimpse of me, they’d be so confused. Come on, ride it out… ride it out. I’m clawing at the walls. I feel like I’m falling despite already now sitting on the floor. Breathe. Breathe. Ground yourself.

Dude, you’re in the restroom. You’re on the floor… in the restroom. That’s a whole heap of gross.

Just like that, the panic slips away. The realization of what a grown woman has just done in response to a text message makes me feel incredibly stupid. I skulk back to my classroom, feeling pretty sheepish and I’m sure many people can relate to that feeling.

I know I should not feel embarrassed of how I react. I know it’s not me — it’s my anxiety getting in a twist over what to most people is nothing. However, I am not most people. That was not just a text message. That was a change in plans. That was no longer sitting at home with my cats and a cup of tea. That is going outside, putting my war paint on and sticking a smile on my face. It’s making small talk when I have nothing to say. It’s ignoring the panic rising in my throat and trying to drown it down with beer. It’s praying I won’t have panic attack in front of people I hardly know because I’d embarrass myself and the person I am with. It’s my own mountain to climb.

If I can understand this, then why judge myself for my body’s natural response? I didn’t wake up one day and decide an anxious life was the one for me. I’m naturally like this. Anxiety made no judgment when it chose me as its vessel, so why am I judging myself for carrying it? I’m no longer going to skulk back to my classroom in shame after a panic attack. I will hold my head up high. I won’t be ashamed of the fact I had a panic attack, I will be proud of the fact I got through it. I am not alone, none of us are. We can all help each other to realize we have nothing to be ashamed of. We can do this. We are strong. We are mighty.

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Thinkstock photo via berdsigns.

Originally published: June 6, 2017
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