Reflecting on my first panic attack in fourth grade, I wrote about how I felt during the attack and pieced together what I could remember about my surroundings.
Gripping the vinyl picnic table with my cold hands, they turn white from the pressure. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, my head becoming heavy, and the muscles in my back tensing. My thoughts are an endless cycle of personal abuse, emptying rounds of self-hatred into my skull and bleeding from eyes and nostrils. My breaths are short and confined, like an iron plate has been set on my chest, with my conscious pushing his hands down harder and harder until I drown in my own emotions. I never understood why they hated me so much, but I knew it was my fault.
Watching others cut you with their words, digging deep into insecurities you didn’t know you had, feels like falling down the stairs expecting to hit the hard relief of the floor, but it never arrives. My own selfishness is what I presumed to be the problem, pushing other people away because I couldn’t trust them, but now I wonder if I was justified in my choices. I’ve learned no one is naturally empathetic; it is learned from our peers, and those who presume their blood is concentrated with other people’s emotions, only look down from their pedestal of sympathy.
I am selfish, entitled, and arrogant, putting myself first before others, and slashing their sentences with my own internal hatred. I will gossip and treat others poorly, only to reflect on my behaviors and regret my actions. I am nothing but mistakes stitched together by lessons I have learned, and a strong desire to fix those I have broken. I have been coerced to reveal my vulnerabilities, and manipulated others to do the same.
They have stared into my eyes, denied my identity, and boasted their delusions, filling my veins with acid and muscles with sand, but I keep my composure. I smile and don’t entice them, because I know they are polite and distant as birds, but claw out your eyes if provoked. Do I have a right to compare them to animals? Am I nothing more than a weaker bird with weaker delusions? Have I been trained to believe I am unique and special, but in reality we are the same?
Opening my eyes I feel the cold air pierce my pupils and the blue sky swallow my thoughts. My hands now hurt from the pressure, and I feel a hand on my back. She never asks me why I am upset, only looks at me with concern. She never asks me to explain and never tells me my reasons are subpar. Sometimes she doesn’t listen, but when she does, she takes in every syllable, pause, and stutter in my speech. They converse about my concerns and work without my knowledge to find a solution. I should be grateful for all I have, the house I live in, the counters I sit on, the blankets I pile under, but does my privilege justify my spiral of self-hatred? Is it punishment for the things god has given me or is it another lesson I must learn from?
She walks me to the baskets of tickets, and I get to break them apart across their perforated lines and sit in silence. The warm stone floors and dark wood trim have absorbed my panic and drained my mind, releasing me from the torture of my conscious.
Although they write in their notebooks, draw on their screens, and hand me pills and pages of paper, sometimes I feel like they aren’t listening, no matter how hard I scream.