I can still remember it as if it were yesterday. I was at JFK airport waiting for a connecting flight to go home. The flight was delayed for a few hours. Finally after a long wait, an announcement was made that flight 221 to Boston will begin boarding in 30 minutes. At that moment something unfamiliar happened.
My chest became tight, breathing became harder, hands started shaking, and tears started to form. I felt like someone had choke the life out of me. I didn’t know what this weird feeling was or how it started. I thought I was having a heart attack but then I realized it was anxiety kicking in.
I quickly breathe in and out, trying to calm myself down. But each time a row was called to board, I inhaled faster and faster. I could feel my heart getting heavier each time. It was pumping so fast, I literally thought it was going to burst. The thought of going home made me cried uncontrollably. Thoughts of home were running through my head making my chest tighter and my breath shorter. I started to panicked. I kept thinking I don’t want to board this plane, please don’t make me.
I knew I had to calm myself down or I would attract unwanted attention. Too scared to get up, I reached over for my notebook and started to write down my thoughts. I wrote everything I felt. As the page filled with words, my anxiety slowly went away. I was able to get a hold of myself and come to the conclusion that I was going home to people who love and supported me. Being able to write my feelings down helped me mastered the courage to get up and board the plane.
Just when I thought my anxiety was gone, it came right back as soon as I sat on the plane and buckled my belt. The rattling of the plane, the delay due to the rain was making my heart beat faster than ever. I started to cry and my chest was tight again. I was trapped on the plane and thought the airplane was caving in on me. The thought of not being able to get off the plane terrified me.
I tried to close my eyes to get a hold of my breath but my heart was beating too fast for my control. I felt like I was suffocating and no air was able to come in. Then I remember the brown paper bag and quickly reached for it. I tucked my head down, breathed in and out, in and out, until I felt my heart pumping regularly again. Breathing with the bag helped me stay calm and allowed me to refocus. Every time I felt anxious, I used the bag to breathe until we landed.
That was a very scary moment for me and thinking about it still gives me the chills. I usually consider myself a strong person and never dealt with anxiety until then. It was traumatizing for me because for the first time I couldn’t control my thoughts or my breathing. I didn’t like the feeling at all. I felt defeated. My anxiety occurred because I was afraid to go back to Boston, a place that seem new to me at that particular moment. Not knowing what will happen next also scared me causing me to be more anxious. Something about the thought of going home trigger my first anxiety attack.
I still can’t believe I went nuts especially since I handle my feelings pretty well. Never have I felt so trapped or afraid in my life to the point where I didn’t want to go back to my own home. Crazy just thinking about it again. But I am glad I can now recognize the feeling which helps to prevent another attack.
Anxiety can occurred unexpectedly and to anyone especially since we are wired to have a few to keep us safe. But for some people it can be a lot worst and occur sporadically for all different reasons. Please remember you are not alone. It’s completely fine to have anxiety. As human we all have different ways of coping with our emotions and feelings. Writing seems to works best for me. And truth be told I still keep a brown paper bag close to me in case I have another anxiety attack.
What I learn is that you cannot let the anxiety control your life. Some ways to deal with it are talking to a professional, acknowledging the disorder, therapy/breathing/meditation practices, thinking more positive, valuing yourself and doing things you love to keep you busy.
My anxiety attack taught me it’s okay to have a meltdown, it’s okay to be unsure of things. It’s okay to feel what I feel. I just have to acknowledge the feeling when it happens. I learned to accept the fact that I can’t always control everything and it’s okay to make mistakes. I just have to remember to try harder next time. I also learned to appreciate the little things such as a notebook and pen.