The heat rises and tingles the back of my neck, sweat trickles in small drops down my back. Oh no, I think, not right now. My breathing gets heavier. Breathe I tell myself, relax, it’s going to be okay. My mind buzzes in a thousand different directions. My brain feels fried and I feel helpless. Are the walls closing in? I ask myself, trying to tell myself I am overthinking. I can’t stop. My eyes itch and begin to burn. Why now? I’m not even nervous. Sweat accumulates in my fisted up palms. I need to sit down, it will pass I tell myself. Seconds feel like minutes, minutes feel like hours. Yet, I stand there frozen, the world moving around me. It feels like I stand on the side of a highway, cars whizzing past me in a blur. Please don’t look at me, I silently plead as people walk by. I’m okay I tell myself. It’s becoming harder to breathe, my breaths become shorter and uneven. I squeeze my eyes and grip my hands together to steady them, I’m alright I tell myself. I go weeks without panic attacks, even months, but every once in a while. It’s a nonstop routine, especially in my most stressful weeks when I just want to curl up in a ball and hide in my room.
The table shakes as my fingers grip the edges like claws, my head throbs with every heartbeat. The lights flicker as the rain and wind pound the building. Wind howls outside, whistling like a train. My view narrows and a flash of black crosses in from of my eyes. Breathe, I tell myself. Chaos surrounds me, as I grip the table in Panera. Storm alerts buzz, my phone vibrates in my pocket. Trying to focus on voices, as my head spins I hear tornado warning and alert. My breath comes rapid and short. I grip the table harder. Tears finally claw through my eyes and race down my cheeks. My body shakes from the overpowering fear and I’ve lost control. Not again, I repeat to myself. I can’t be stuck in another tornado, not again! My mom and brother try to calm me.
“mm-mom”, I manage to stutter out.
“We’re fine, I promise”, giving me a quick glare as if she’s telling me to just stop.
“I-I’m scared mom I can’t help it”, I say clutching to the table what if we aren’t okay, the wind whizz’s around me faster than the wind outside. I place my head in between my knees.
“You’re fine”, Drew says. Yet, he doesn’t seem confident in his remarks, I can tell he’s nervous too.
“Mom, mom can we please leave? We need to leave mom”, I frantically beg.
“No, the weather is horrible and will only get worse, we need to stay here”, She says quickly glancing at me and turning her head back to the window. They don’t want me to make a scene, but I can’t control myself. My body shuts down from the rising panic as the thunder cracks outside. My palms are clammy, my mouth is as dry as the desert, my breathing slows and my hands begin to steady. Is it over? I question myself. Tears continue to stab the back of my eyes and the desire to cry is overpowering, but I try to resist it and be stronger.
My panic attacks are triggered by some of the smallest things, usually anything having to do with re-hurting my shoulder, stress, or when I’m in an uncomfortable situation. Sometimes I have no idea why they occur. Even though my panic attacks don’t come as frequently anymore, I’m still left with the problem of overthinking. Overthinking every little thing down to the last detail. The feeling and need to live up to people’s expectations. Is this outfit okay? Does this makeup make my face look too orange? Do people like me? I need to make a good reputation for myself. What if I’m not good enough to be in that practice? What if people don’t like me? What if I stutter or freeze up while I’m talking? Questions like these constantly cross through my mind, as they do for most teens. The feeling of needing to meet someone’s or something’s expectations. I’m a happy kid, I get most of what I ask for. I’m very lucky to have a great family to lean back on for support. But, sometimes my overthinking and panic steers people away from me. “Why are you so nervous? It’s not even a big deal. You’re okay, it doesn’t even matter.” My friends are good and bad, they usually try to help the best they can, but sometimes they just don’t understand.
Lately, the frequency of my panic attacks have diminished and I hope it stays that way. It seems that inevitably they will come again , so when they do I will continue to calm myself and control them the best I can.