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Why This Text From a Friend Calmed My Worst Panic Attack in Years

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I haven’t had a panic attack in probably about two years. At least, not one severe enough that I remember, anyways. I used to have terrible and frequent panic attacks when I started college. I had experienced them before that through middle and high school, but they were never that bad. However, the last couple of years especially, my depression has been the focus, while my anxiety has taken a back seat.

Until now.

I don’t know what it was about my last semester of college starting, but since the first day of classes, I have been having absolutely terrible anxiety. Which makes no sense since academics have never been a trigger; if anything, they’ve been a constant when everything else was falling apart. But I don’t know what my constant is anymore. Even when I’m just in my apartment with a couple of friends, I’ve felt the anxiety creeping up. It has steadily been getting worse and worse. And yesterday, it all crashed.

I went to a Bible study someone at my church was hosting for young adults. I’ve been going to the church for over three years, and still barely know anyone, so I figured this would be a good way to find and build community. I knew a couple of people at the study from school, but most of the faces were new. The study itself went well and I enjoyed hearing everyone’s different perspectives. However, as the study started to end and the mingling began, I felt so incredibly out of place.

And it’s not because of the people. I have never met such kind and genuine people — they are incredible. The problem is me. The problem is that my introverted self mixed with my anxious brain being in a room of extroverted people talking to each other is a disaster. As I looked around, everyone was having some sort of conversation with someone. Except me. And I had too much anxiety thinking about that and no energy to join in. I hate that I’m like this. And it was all I could think about. Thoughts were going a mile a minute in my head:

“Why do I have to be so introverted? Why does this have to be so hard? Why can’t this be easier? Why am I still struggling with this? Gosh, I look terrible. I’m so awkward. Why am I so awkward? Get yourself together. You’re fine. Oh God, someone is looking at me. They see I’m the only one not talking to someone. Please don’t come over, I don’t want a pity conversation. I’m so anxious. I want to leave. But it’s someone’s house and I can’t just leave. Go on your phone, that’s a distraction. No one else is on their phone though, I don’t want to be rude. Ugh, why can’t I just be like everyone else?”

Eventually, I saw someone get up to leave and I followed her out. I got in my car and began to sob, letting it all out. When I got home, I watched “This Is Us” with my roommate, which gave me a chance to just cry for an hour without having to explain myself (if you watch “This Is Us,” you know what I mean). When it ended, I went into my room, closed the door, sunk down against my wall and began to shake.

The bubbling panic attack hit, and it hit hard. Gasping, shaking, terrified to reach out, crying — I was a mess. And I couldn’t stop. I texted a group of friends and asked them to pray, but almost two hours later, this was still going on. Eventually, I texted a friend who I knew would understand and said:

“I have not had this bad of a panic attack in over two years.”

He said, “Can I come pick you up to hang at my apartment?”

Slowly, the anxiety began to calm. Everything in my body was screaming, “No! Isolate yourself! Let absolutely no one in.” But I knew this wasn’t going to stop until I was physically in the presence of someone else. What a terrible paradox where the one thing you know will help is the one thing you’re most scared of doing. I apologized to him and said yes.

By the time he picked me up, I had stopped shaking and I had wiped my tears. I felt so much shame. I felt so scared of this happening again. But the panic attack had subsided. Just him willing to physically be there for me — and pick me up, because I was in no condition to drive or walk anywhere — meant the world. It was exactly what I needed.

I don’t know if this is the start to another season of heightened anxiety and panic attacks or not. I sure hope it’s the latter, but I really don’t know. What I do know, though, is I have amazing friends and support. And I could not be more thankful.

Photo by Kev Costello on Unsplash

Originally published: January 30, 2020
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