There are so many places to have a panic attack on a walk across campus.
Wide open space. Too many people around, too: prospective students trailing a tour guide, grounds workers whacking weeds. And me, teeth clenched, palms clammy, forcing my legs to keep moving forward.
I am trying not to feel ridiculous when I tell you that crossing that wide open space and getting the mail at work every day this week was far and away my greatest accomplishment this month. Maybe this year, even. I'm trying not to feel weird about that. I'm not succeeding.
But when I'm faced with the fear of a panic attack, what I'm really having to take on are my anxieties about what others think of me, my fear of confrontation, my deep-seated but slowly dissolving sense that I'm not worth receiving love, care, or attention from others, and especially not from myself. And when the panic attack comes, it literally feels like I'm dying. If you've never experienced it, undoubtedly you think I'm overreacting or waxing a bit much toward the melodramatic. Not so: my mind convinces me that I'm dying and that I need to get out, get away, get anywhere but there.
In terms of severity, my anxiety in the last two weeks has been the worst I've ever experienced. But! I feel absolutely fantastic. Emotionally exhausted, but so proud of myself for hanging on. And the craziest thing? I feel so very grateful that the universe presented me with this opportunity, this temporary job which forced me very much outside of my comfort zone, reintroduced the panic attack back into my life (instead of just the unending fear of one), and, most important, reminded me that there is life (literally and figuratively) after a panic attack.
I strode across campus today, all symptoms of anxiety intact. And I looked up at the trees, swaying to and fro in the hot wind, and I thanked the universe. I thanked God. To be honest, I wasn't really specific. To no one in particular, I said, simply, "Thank you." The breeze picked up suddenly and -- whish -- brushed against my face, my eyes fluttering from the unexpected force.
And I remembered that God is in the wind.