Having people that you care about seeing you at your most exposed is one of the most difficult situations to cope with. Anxiety attacks can come crashing at you at the most unpredictable moments; they are terrifying and they leave you exhausted, emotional and so incredibly vulnerable.
On Sunday night, when my amazing day and evening were wrapping up, I stood in the kitchen with my hands covering my face because the lights suddenly became too bright to bear. My heart rate increased rapidly, I lost my bearings, I felt like I was choking on my own breath. My Mum and my boyfriend found me standing all alone hiding from the world. They asked me if I was ok, and I think I replied, “My heart is beating so fast, I’m having a panic attack.”
Mum was on the verge of calling an ambulance, Dad was busy trying to get me to toughen up, Matt calmly sat me down and I was just trying desperately to slow my breathing down and to focus. My one thought was, “breathe in for ten, breathe out for ten, and breathe”.
Matt, my brilliant boyfriend of two months, was over to get to know the family. He is probably the one who should have been stressing out over my Dad’s typical assault of “do you have a driver’s license” and “what are you going to do with your life?” Instead, he was the one looking after his girlfriend who switched so suddenly from a happy, bouncy girl to a panicked mess. The girlfriend who so pitifully sat on the floor crying embarrassed tears afterwards, and who barely had enough energy to come on the journey with him home.
That girl is not me. That adrenaline pumped, panic stricken girl is an element of my illness, not who I define myself as. This week has been tough, because my favourite person has seen me at my most vulnerable. He has seen this side of my illness that I have been shielding him from. It scared him. It is far too early in our relationship to have a moment like that. It has led to discussions about my illness that I was hoping never to have. It is hard for him, and other people I care about in my life, to comprehend the nature of my mental illness and the separation of my actual self to the person I can become due to an imbalance in my brain.
What has helped me in this situation has been trying to explain what happened in the most logical way I can. I was having a particularly difficult week with university. My stress and anxiety levels were higher than usual so therefore the cortisol levels in my brain were higher, preventing me from sleeping properly and altering logical thought. When my body and mind had a chance to relax, my brain was flooded with cortisol, my body was flooded with adrenaline and I entered ‘fight or flight mode’. I had a panic attack. It was scary for everyone, but it happened and now we move on.
That panic attack shook me to my core, it threw me, but I have to let it go.
I am so exceptionally grateful that I have people who care about me and support me. My parents have been very understanding of the decisions made after the panic attack and of my exhausted self. Matt looked after me in the moment, took the time to listen and to understand me afterwards and we can move on now. Hopefully to many fun filled, impromptu adventures. He’s a pretty damn amazing guy.
This has been a pretty heavy topic to write about. I get upset because I just want to get better, but I know it is a slow process to recovery. I am thankful that I have the support in my life that I need to get me through my journey, I just wish I could protect the people I care about from the flak.