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Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee
I distinctly remember a time when I was in school. A time I got my first bad panic attack in a public place. I was in 5th year. It was one of those days where the holidays were approaching so the teachers put on movies for the class to watch. There were several classrooms along the corridor.
A teacher decided that it would be a good idea to place all the SPHE classes together in the one room to watch a movie. The movie was School Of Rock. As Jack Black appeared on the screen, the other girls began to laugh. Sweets were passed around the room as everyone sampled the haribos and the mini chocolate bars.
I placed my hand into the bag and took out a sugery circular green sweet. The lights were turned off and the room was in darkness apart from the screen infront of us. The whole class were bunched together practically squashed but nobody seemed to care,only me.
I was trying to talk to the girl next to me as a method of distraction while the anxiety started to build up inside of me. I couldn’t think straight. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I looked around the room. Everyone was glued to the screen . I was getting more and more fearful of what could happen in this moment. I had stomach butterflies and I was sitting so close to the people next to me that I couldn’t move.
I have to get of here. Get me out. I asked the girl next to me could she please move her chair aside. I got up and walked straight out of the classroom. Everyone stared. I walked briskly into the nearby bathroom. I was breathing heavily. I was trying to control my breathing. I took a few deep breaths. Breathe 1.2.3 . Breathe 1.2.3.
Then I started crying, hard. What just happened? Did I get a reaction to the sweet? Did I eat too much sugar yesterday? No, I just have claustrophobia. I can’t even get into an elevator and I guess the way everyone was bunched together combined with the darkroom triggered the panic attack.
I went up to the secretary’s office. She saw me crying and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine. I called my dad. He said he would come down to collect me. Before I could leave I had to go back and get my school bag. I walked back into the room. I told the teacher I wasin’t feeling well and I was going home. She looked kind of annoyed but I didn’t care, I was just after having a panic attack.
I went home where dad sat me down and made me a cup of tea. He asked me what had happened and I explained how I was feeling in the room. It was too stuffy,too warm,too claustrophobic. I couldn’t handle it and panicked.
That was a while back now but I still think of how proud I am of myself. I got up and walked out of that room without looking at anyone,without asking for permission because I was having a difficult time and I needed to figure it out,on my own. I realise now that I helped myself more than the teacher or anyone else in the room could.While it was a terrifying moment for me, I am delighted with how I managed it on my own.