Marketing Manager, WhiteFlag
I was looking forward to Saturday for quite some time now. Rivalry football games, a weekend out with friends to decompress from the chaotic work week, and beautiful fall weather — it was going to be a weekend full of great memories. Or so I thought.
I thought I had experienced anxiety attacks in my past. What I thought was an anxiety attack, did not even come close to what transpired on Saturday night.
A heat wave took shape all over my body. An invisible elephant on my chest seemed so prominent. So much so that I thought everyone could see it, too. I sat in silence, nervously tapping my leg under the bar while my hands were so slippery of sweat that I couldn’t even hold onto my water cup. I was fidgeting with my fingers, running them through my hair to distract me from what was happening. The inside of my lip was being bit; inflicting pain without even realizing it.
What was transpiring? Surely I couldn’t explain it. Not even to my best friend sitting right next to me.
It felt like everyone behind me was getting closer and closer. Everything was caving in. It felt like strangers were literally on top of me; in reality they were at least 3 feet away, simply just waiting their turn to order their drink. My body felt like it was 300 degrees. The fake smile I had imprinted on my face seemed like at any given moment, a scream of despair was going to be let out.
Yet, it never happened.
Abruptly, with no explanation, I went to the bathroom, splashed some water on my face when no one was looking, and I left. No goodbye to my best friend or anyone else we were with–nothing.
My throat felt enclosed. Walking to an area that wasn’t full of people, I felt like the entire city that was out that night was staring at me. I had to remind myself to walk one foot in front of the other. My knees felt like they could buckle at any time. I wasn’t stumbling from intoxication, I was trembling from anxiety. With tears full in my eyes, the world felt like it was going to fall on top of me.
Frantically, I called my best friend who lives 700 miles away. Without being able to catch my breath to explain what the hell was going on, she gave me a sense of peace. A sense of comfort. A sense of home. She just knew. Me, the friend that never cries in front of people, or never lets emotions overtake her, was the one that was now breaking down.
“Breathe. Just take a moment. Breathe.”
Following her lead, listening to her breathing with me, and with her instructions, I finally was able to calm down.
What seemed to be hours of chaos, turned out to be 30 minutes of havoc that my body didn’t know how to handle.
30 minutes–so I thought.
I called an Uber and quickly got home. What was about to happen when I got home was something that hasn’t happened to me in about 15 years: something I thought I had under control and put behind me. Something I never thought I’d do again.
Boy, was I wrong.
When I got home the anxiety attack came back. Instantaneously. My home, where I have always said brought me comfort, security, and an atmosphere that I take pride in, wasn’t even helping. The anxiety followed me through the door. It came with me to my bedroom while I changed clothes, and accompanied me to the bathroom.
With tears now streaming down my face that was now full of an “anxiety rash," I sat down on my bathroom floor.
I couldn’t cope with this anxiety attack. I wasn’t able to manage my intrusive thoughts or control the tears like I usually can. Rubbing my anxiety ring, holding onto my bracelets, rocking back and forth, curled up in a ball on the floor — nothing was helping. Nothing was working.
There was only one way I could distract myself. Only one way that I could guarantee to not have me feel this dreadful anxiety attack.
What was the way?
I sat on my bathroom floor and coped. I coped in a way that would physically distract me from the mental dejection.
Eight evenly made cuts now overpowered my arm. With each cut, more tears emerged. Just one more, I thought, would make me calmer. Just one more, would help me manage this internal attack. Externally, attacking myself was bound to help. I was so certain.
Yet, I was so wrong.
I went to bed so fucking mad at myself. Disappointed in the woman I thought I had worked so hard to become: someone who always seemed to have her anxiety and depression under control. Someone who put self-harming in the past. I let myself down. I let the people who put me on a pedestal, down. I’m supposed to be the face of overcoming the obstacles. I’m supposed to be the strong one. I’m supposed to be one that helps others… not the one who needs the help.
Now, the next day, the physical wounds still hadn’t healed. But more importantly, the internal wounds were so far from being healed.
The scars will heal. But will I? Will I continue to take steps back?
I felt like I took a million steps back. In reality, though, I only took one. Each day moving forward, self-harm free, is another step in the direction of healing.
I need to know, and truly understand that today, and each day after that night, is not that traumatic Saturday. It’s a new day of growth.
What I thought was a survival skill that I put into practice on that Saturday night, turned out to be a turning point into a new survival skill set that I was going to put into fruition.
I now know that my thoughts and feelings do not make me faulty–they make me human.
I now know that I will continue to be a work in progress.
I now know that I am still here for a reason — even when those reasons seem to be malfunctioning.
I now know that what it has been, is not what will be.
I now know that it’s OK to have more “downs” than “ups."
The cuts have now healed, and the scars have now surfaced; but they won’t define me.
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