The first time I had a panic attack, I thought it was just asthma. I was at church surrounded by friends, singing, and suddenly, I couldn't breathe right. I wound up sitting on a bench in the bathroom, watching the white tiled room shrink. It's the most afraid I've ever felt.
Two mates ended up taking me to the hospital, which I don't remember. When I was released around midnight, I had a bag full of brochures, a hospital bracelet, and somehow, only one shoe.
The people in that church whom I looked to didn't think about anxiety as a medical condition. There was this unspoken belief that anxiety was something people chose. Most conversations implied that anxiety was about how I didn't trust God enough, or how if I just prayed harder, everything would go away. I was taught that anxiety was about what I personally lacked, not about medicine or chemistry or hard seasons of life.
After my panic attack, I knew I owed a few people an explanation of something I didn't even fully understand. When we got back to the house that night, a good friend stood outside. He had no idea what had happened, and I didn't know how or what I should have told him. I was unsure how to start, and I remember feeling incredibly nervous.
He asked me where I'd been that night. I leaned against the wall of my bedroom and stared out the window, catching a glimpse of the horizon. It was beautiful and honest, and I wanted to be like it. So I dove in.
I went to the hospital.
Why? Are you sick?
No. (Wait, was I sick?) Yes.
I wanted to tell him I'd had an asthma attack, but I knew that wasn't the truth. I knew I wanted friendships that were authentic and honest, friendships that could take in big questions without many answers and still be OK. I thought, perhaps, this could be one of them.
Kind of both, I remember finally saying. It's just been a long night.
Well. My friend's voice was quiet and honest. I'm listening.
I opened my mouth and was surprised at how strong my voice sounded. I told him everything. How I'd gone from totally fine to completely unraveled in about five seconds. How my hands shook, my palms clammy. How my heart raced, and fear descended like a big black cloud. He got up and stood next to me, just there, listening. I even mentioned I'd lost one of my shoes.
He stayed quiet until I was done, and then he said it.
I think you're really brave.
Me? Brave? This was the opposite of what I expected. But listening and grace - that was just what I needed.
Then, with a smile I couldn't interpret, he bent down and took off one of his shoes. I just stood there in disbelief, my words still raw in the back of my throat. And then I understood exactly what he meant: He was meeting me where I was. We were the same.
Today is world suicide prevention day and whilst this is not directly related to suicide, it's just a glimpse of a moment in the life of one who struggles with the black dog. ( depression and anxiety). Please never ever be afraid to call out for help. Know that's it's okay to not be okay. Any if you are on cb and are walking these roads, know that you are not alone and there are so manypeople on here who are willing to walk it with you.