I thought it was over.
I had escaped high school, and I was going to leave my depression and anxiety behind me. By the summer after graduation, I was already feeling so much better. The next year of college had its fair share of stressors, but I was able to handle them all in a relatively normal way. Every time I dealt with a situation, I looked back on how I would have handled it four years ago, and I was so, so proud of my progress.
Then it happened again.
I am not sure whether I have actually experienced a panic attack before. My parents decided that going to a therapist and talking about my problems would bring shame to my family, so everything was self-diagnosed. I was used to hyperventilating, to clawing at my skin and clothes in order to try to break free from myself, but still, maybe it was all in my head.
But this time, I felt a sense of suspicion bordering on paranoia slowly sneaking up on me. It built for hours until I went into the bathroom and found my toothbrush in the sink and a drawing of a girl with crazy hair in the fog on the mirror, and I became convinced that my brother was trying to kill me. I burst into the next room and tried to quietly and logically explain exactly that. Shockingly, it didn’t go well.
My parents began to scream at me for everything from trying to ruin their marriage to driving them to never come home again. There are many terrible ways to react to someone having a panic attack, and building on the panic is one of them.
As usual, I couldn’t breathe, I started clawing, and my heart went wild, but I did things I’d never done before. I’d go from quietly crying to screaming at the top of my lungs to rocking myself while covering my ears and humming to shutting down and speaking like a complete sociopath, and none of it felt like an act or a show, as my parents would like to insist. It all felt like exactly what needed to be done in the situation. It felt like I was losing control.
My year of recovery was the most precious thing in the world. It feels so good to escape. I was slowly trying to move away from talking about mental illness, a cause I used to believe so passionately in, because I was convinced that I would never feel that way again and that focusing on it too much would cause me to revert back. But as my puffy eyes and snot-stained face can attest, it’s not something that will leave and never come back. It leaves traces in places you’d never expect. And I think that’s okay.
If you’d told me two years ago about the way I would be functioning, processing, living today, I’d burst into tears. I know that I am so incredibly fortunate to be in recovery, and many of you have it far worse than I do. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I hope you’ll keep fighting. I’ll be fighting along with you.
The author wishes to remain anonymous.