My grandparents bought me a leather-bound lined journal when I was very young. I decided to stow it in my closet right after receiving it because I didn’t want to waste the pages on stupid doodles or to-do lists. And just as with most things that go into the closet, the journal was henceforth sucked into an abyss of disorganization.
I cleaned out my closet this summer and rediscovered the blank journal concealed by a massive pile of elementary school yearbooks. I leafed through its empty pages, feeling its leathery, uncreased spine.
I was ecstatic to have stumbled upon it. I was actually in need of a new journal since I’d completely filled out the one I’d been writing in last year. I brought it to school this fall and have been writing in it almost every night (if you’ve ever passed by the Wren lobby after midnight, you can vouch for me).
Before this weekend, my journal had never been anywhere besides in an Italian bookstore, a Californian closet or a dorm room shelf. Nor has it ever been read — aloud or otherwise — by anyone other than me. But there’s a first for everything, I guess.
I pour my soul into my entries, which means they can get very personal very fast. But last Sunday, I didn’t care about hiding what I’d written that night. I just really needed to be with someone after one of the scariest moments of my life. So, I shared my most recent journal entry with a friend last week. Aloud. In a public place. Crying.
On average, one in five people will experience at least one panic attack in their lifetime. I had my first one that night.
This isn’t “panic” in the colloquial sense. When I say I experienced a panic attack, I am not using the term lightly. This was surely a heightened autonomic nervous system response to a perceived threat.
FYI: No, you don’t have to have a panic disorder to experience a panic attack. Also FYI: No, I do not have a panic disorder. But I know what I felt and how my body responded.
I rushed back to my dorm, thinking that journaling would help me simmer down. Instead, it made everything worse. Since that backfired, I decided to text a few friends on campus to talk to. It turns out not a lot of people are awake enough to answer a text at two in the morning, but someone did text me back.
I immediately walked to her dorm with my journal in hand. I read my stream of consciousness entry to her. All I wanted was to get her up to speed with what had just happened (while trying to decode my chicken scratch writing, while trying to formulate sentences to convey how I felt, while crying, while trying to calm myself down with deep breathing exercises).
You know as well as I do that the chaos of school never stops. Just like everybody else, I had to wake up the next day for classes and keep trudging on. Had you not read this, you would never have known what my night was like. I ask you to keep that in mind today, because someone you see might’ve just gone through hell the night before.