"I'm having an anxiety attack."
It was my first one in what seemed like months. I could barely keep from crying as I blurted those words out while on the phone with my mom.
"Take long, deep breaths. Focus on your breathing. You need to breathe," she said, knowing I'd pass out if I kept hyperventilating.
I was racing back to the Donald Tucker Civic Center for an FSU basketball game, after being informed that my purse was too big. The game was about to start and my boyfriend had been saving me a seat alongside his friends, and I had to walk three blocks by myself in the cold.
I was already stressed about having to drive to the Civic Center by myself, since I had never been. I couldn't find parking anywhere close enough, so I trudged along in the 40 degree weather, miserable and cold. Upon arrival, I was informed that my purse was "too big" and I wouldn't be allowed inside.
Suddenly, it felt like everyone was looking at me, whispering to each other, pointing out that I wouldn't be able to go into the game. It felt like I had a giant neon sign above my head that said "Mock Me."
It really wasn't a big deal. Looking back at it, I overreacted. I called my boyfriend, cussing and on the verge of tears, telling him that I was done, I was going home, and I spat out "have fun with your friends" as if this was all his fault.
After I had called my mom and she had talked me through my anxiety attack, I texted my boyfriend and immediately apologized. "I'm so sorry baby, I was just freaking out. I'm really sorry, I promise I'm not mad at you."
Dating with anxiety is not an easy feat to accomplish. Just when you think you've got a handle on things, one minor inconvenience sends you into a frenzy, feeling like everything is your fault and everyone is bothered by your presence. Anxiety isn't always watching paperwork pile up on your desk and deadlines approaching. It's walking into a crowded restaurant and not being able to hold your head up and look around at people.
For the longest time, I always thought my boyfriend would get bored of hanging out with me for long periods of time. We went for a hike with my dog on a nice Sunday afternoon, and upon our return home, he said he was going to hang out with his friends and watch some football. I broke down, sobbing, begging for him not to leave me.
It could all be separation anxiety, which I first experienced as a child, visiting my father's house on weekends while I cried and pleaded to see my mother. It wasn't anything against my father; I was just so used to always being with my mother, that without her, I couldn't function.
Now, I don't like to be alone. I like alone time where I can clean and write and gather my thoughts, but after a few hours, it feels like no one wants to talk to me, or to hang out with me, and everyone acts like I don't exist. So I begin to panic, and stress that this is how it ends for me- all alone, with nothing and no one.
Anxiety, for me, is this constant, overwhelming feeling in the back of my head, that everything is a lie and everything is far worse than it seems. It makes me have irrational fears, like being late to anything, or that everyone is staring at me and can see my fear of being alone.
It's almost embarrassing to have an anxiety attack while in a relationship. It's like a back-handed slap to the face of the person you're with, saying that you don't feel safe or comfortable with them, which isn't necessarily true. When my boyfriend asks me to meet him somewhere after work, I can feel knots in my chest because I know I'll have to look for him when I get there. I know that people are going to look at me and realize I'm lost, and talk about me under their breaths.
He's tried to talk me through it, often trying to make light of it with some jokes, but he doesn't understand that this isn't something I can click on and off. Anytime we have to go into a crowded place, I always make him go in first, so I can keep my gaze low and not have to look anyone in the face.
For Halloween, I wore a bandana around my nose and mouth, which surprisingly gave me confidence, and allowed me to lead the way through the crowd at a party, with my head held high, making sure to make eye contact with everyone. It was like I could hide my anxiety and fears behind that piece of cloth, even though there was no reason to cower in a corner with my head covered.
I know many people that have got a grip on their anxiety, and they've found a way to keep it level and not freak out every time something goes wrong. I've used the grounding technique, where you look around and name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste, and it's helped me through some of my more mild anxiety attacks.
Anxiety is so much more than just a term for "freaking out" that people throw around. It's something I've had since I was a kid, and I'll need to learn to overcome it before it consumes me.