Photo by Alivia Latimer featuring Kaylin Burke
“Yeah, I used to get panic attacks myself.” My ease surprises me. I’m relaxed, not like the calm before a storm when havoc is about to wreak. Just calm. No storm.
“What is getting a panic attack like?”
“You can’t feel your hands. Actually, you can’t feel anything. Can’t breathe, like someone is choking you. Constantly on the verge of passing out.” Still nothing. No fear, not even a single thread of nerves. I am completely, wholly in my element.
We spend the night sitting next to her fireplace. She keeps unintentionally making jokes that I find hilarious. She drinks hot chocolate, I sip on apple cider. We toss around a stuffed animal as we ask each other silly questions. If we were items in a grocery store, what would we be? I would be a vegan cookie, undesirable at first but once you take a bite, you’re glad you did. She’s a lime, unexpectedly pungent. We talk about dating deal-breakers: politics, religion, intelligence. I light a match for the first time. We laugh as I hastily blow out the flame that starts to burn my finger.
I drive back home at 11:30 p.m. The panic attack confession is lost in all the stupid jokes and life musings. Like it should be.
Recovery is an unforgiving battle of relapses. It is feeling the stigma of mental illness even though your friends are all accepting. Shaky hands at the mention of anxiety. But once you see that sliver of hope, you fight with your beaten will to love the world again. To smile and mean it.
I have not felt that panic in my throat for years. I find a new way to love the world constantly, like I’ve been reborn into a haven where everything is a bright yellow; the color of sunflowers, of fire, of hope. I have become the bouquet your mother gives you after your dance recital. I burn in your fireplace on a winter morning. I embody what I used to need, desperately, like how the earth needs the sun. I am that sun.
Let me shine for you.