I used to think a hot bath could cure anything. Whether I was sick, cold, frustrated, stressed out, hurt, or angry, a bath would surely fix it. Something about sinking down into the warm water and breathing in the lavendar scented steam made everything ugly in life fade away. At the end I would let the water out, and any pain or discomfort in my life chased the water down the drain…until one day it didn’t.
I have avoided writing about this subject for a while now. I once read a writing prompt that said writers should write about the thing they are scared of writing…my palms are literally starting to sweat and I’m heartbeat away from hitting backspace until all the words disappear, but here I go….
I woke up out of a dead sleep one night about a month after I was married. I remember we had just watched The Butterfly Effect, then gone on to bed as usual. However, when I woke up something was off. I was breathing in and out far beyond heavily and could feel my hands drawing in against my will. I was frozen in fear and thought I was going to die. I was as scared as I would have been if a burglar had been staring me in the face. I finally managed to get up out of the bed, and could feel my body moving slowly towards the bathroom. I felt like everything was in slow motion and that I was looking at my surroundings through the bottom of a mason jar. Everything was foggy and terrifying. I turned on the sink faucet and splashed some water on my face, trying to calm myself down. I was shocked; I had no idea where the hysteria was coming from. My mind went all kinds of places, racing to each of them. Was I losing my mind? Did I have some sort of sixth sense beckoning me to warn of some sort of impending doom? Was I dying? Whatever it was, rationalization didn’t help.
I ran a tub full of water and slipped in not unlike any other time I felt out of sync. I thought the warmth would help, but my hands continued to tingle and draw in. The fact that I couldn’t straighten them made everything worse. The harder I tried, the more frantic I became. My husband woke up when he heard the running water and sleepily walked into the bathroom where I was melting down.
“Lorna, what are you doing? It’s the middle of the night,” he asked me inquisitively.
“I don’t know, but I’m scared to death,” I sobbed.
At that point I just started screaming and crying, knowing for sure I would end up in a straight jacket. Kimsey grabbed me by the shoulders, looking into my terrorized eyes begging me to tell him what was wrong, but I couldn’t answer.
This continued nightly for two to three weeks before I acknowledged the fact I was suffering from Panic attacks. I eventually wouldn’t even go back to our apartment because every time I did, I would panic again. My husband would take me to my father’s house and stay with me there because I wouldn’t go home. I was coo coo for coco puffs.
I wasn’t upset about being married, which appeared to be the obvious culprit to those outside the situation. Truth be told, Kimsey was probably the only thing that saved me. He gave a me a reason to eventually get it together. He was a 20-year-old newly wed with a wife battling an anxiety disorder he didn’t understand, and he didn’t bolt for the door. I will always be grateful for that. He believed I could pull it together again and didn’t stop telling me that. He was my strength. He practically lived my life for me. At the time I honestly thought nothing would be ok ever again. However my parents, husband, and God rallied around me, refusing to let me live out the rest of my life trembling from a corner of the room for no reason. They refused to let me give up on myself.
For a long time I didn’t trust myself. I was scared my mind would defy itself again and go into full panic mode at any moment. I didn’t know, and to this day do not know what caused the panic, so I thought it was just waiting to come back when I least expected. I wouldn’t drive; I wouldn’t be alone. I had no faith in my own strength anymore because this had happened to me…but in the end I didn’t give up. One day I decided I was finished. Overcoming panic attacks was the hardest battle I ever had to fight, but I fought and I won. Now, anytime I underestimate my own strength I remember that battle, and I actually wear my victory with a badge of honor. I’m not ashamed to share this because I have overcome. I’m a survivor at heart, and that’s nothing to be ashamed about. I hope every person suffering from anxiety knows there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is so much more difficult to face panic than to run from it, but it’s worth it. It takes staring the most frightening part of your being in the face and spitting at it, knowing at first it will lash back. It takes humility. It takes courage. It takes faith….and I did it. I’ll never forget that time in my life. It still makes my hair stand up a little when I revisit the gravity of it all, but now I know, and know without a shadow of a doubt that strong blood flows through my veins. I fought hard, and I won. I can’t even give my bathtub a little piece of the credit for that one.
If there is anyone out there reading this who is suffering from panic, I promise you, it can end. Whether you need to get professional help, take a happy pills for a little bit, or confide in a family or church member, please do it. Though it doesn’t feel like it, YOU are still in the driver’s seat. YOU can fight, and YOU can win. YOU are the reason I have spoken out.