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Writing This Gave Me a Panic Attack

By , Marietta, GA

I believe fear is the best teacher.  When you’re standing in the face of fear you are able to learn new things that you wouldn’t be able to learn without that emotion. Some of the experiences we go through are good, others are not, leaving us battered and scarred. I usually experience the latter. 

When I was in the 6th grade, I was not prepared for the days where I had to focus on my breathing and consciousness rather than my grades and homework. Some days I would come home from school and  I wouldn't understand anything. I was terrified of my smallness in the world. The universe was massive and I was tiny in comparison. I couldn’t process this concept, and it showed. It always started the same way. I sense my heartbeat speeding up, as if it’s going to burst out of my chest. Without placing my hand on a vein or my chest, I know my heart's going too fast. I can visualize it bulging out of my chest as it strikes against my body. At the same time, my chest feels tight but also huge; it’s like my ribs and lungs have expanded to capacity and are being forced to stay there—and the tension hurts. My lungs start straining against my forced breathing, trying to keep up with my heart's rapid rhythm. My throat feels as if it hasn't vocalized anything in years. Heart racing, palpitations, mind racing, complete and utter terror that I'm about to shut off. It’s like my fight-or-flight goes from 0 percent to 100 percent in a matter of seconds. I feel like I’ve lost my mind and lost control of my body. 

Most days, it felt like an chore to calm myself down. One day, however, I had a realization. As I looked at my work table, I saw a scaled down version of the Appalachian Mountains, but made out of homework. I knew I had a lot to do. I also knew I couldn't possibly finish it all. What I also knew was that the feeling of invisible hands choking me meant I was about to have a panic attack. When I looked over the homework again, I made a decision. I took the homework that wouldn't be graded and shoved in back into my collage of papers that my binder held. I would choose not to do them.  Even though it was a small step, the change in my mindset was huge. I sat myself down and told myself that I was my own biggest priority. I was important. Having panic attacks scared me. Paralyzed me, even. It felt like raw fear coursing through my body. I wanted them gone so badly that I would have given up an arm and a leg to be normal, but I missed the importance of them. They showed me that self- care was essential for myself, and that I should put my health above other's. Sometimes people call me a traitor, a narcissist, or egoistic. I deny nothing, because maybe I am. I know that I have to fill in for a person that would help me in my times of need. I know how much I can handle before I destroy myself, and that I am important.

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