An Open Letter To My Panic Attacks

For awhile I have kept this in. Kept this to myself in fear of rejection, disbelief and most of all: apathy. So, here it goes.

For a little over a year, I have been suffering from various panic and anxiety attacks. On two occasions, the panic attacks became so severe that I went to the hospital for chest pains, and I was stranded in DT San Diego at night.

That..was a lot to say. And it hurts to reread it. But it’s my reality. 
How this happened, well there’s a lot of factors throughout the past year. Most of it, is overcoming many instances that have made me feel very unsafe. All of it, is dealing with it on my own, keeping it away from my family, my friends, my partner and everyone else around me.

There were a long of circumstances that occurred in year. A loss of a parent, a breakup that made me lose an extended support system, being followed home, catcalled and groped — all these things culminated to a place mentally & emotionally that’s darker than The Dark Side. 
This year, I have felt alone and scared even life looked like it was going back to where it should be. I was reunited with my current partner, my photography was becoming more than just a habit, and I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I need to find another job.

What hasn’t gone away however, is looking over my shoulder even during broad daylight. Having to constantly keep my head down when I’m walking past men, in fear of they would say or do. Being afraid to leave the house by 8pm, or being fearful of taking Lyft/Uber rides for photoshoots.

Fear grips a lot of people. Fear makes you believe that your issues can’t be fixed. That no one will believe you, or if they do, they will belittle it. It is fear that makes me want to keep my worries from my family and my loved ones, because I need to uphold this image of being independent and safe.

Fear makes you suicidal, believing that the panic and anxiety is bigger than you can handle, and your mental issues warrant death.

Why am I saying all this, after more than a year, you may ask. After the last severe attack, I was reminded of a friend who is going through a similar journey. The past two months of her life have been a whirlwind of opening up emotional wounds, but I’ve seen her grow to this amazing and emotionally strong person..with a great support system that cheers her on.

Support, and the whole idea behind it, is very scary for me. As a person, I am terrified with the idea of genuine support. I am probably scared of opening up more than open water — and open water is scary after watching Castaway.

But what I am doing, is an emotional cleanse. An emotional Declaration of Independence, freeing myself from my own self-imposed prison. The biggest peeling off of a band-aid in my entire life. I am declaring that my flaws are a part of me, but not all of me. That I deserve a space in this world, and I deserve peace of mind. That I deserve…healing.

Some have said that I should leave San Diego, have a change of scenery. But I love this city, and I know deep down that despite everything that’s been happening to me, I can’t bring myself to leave this place. I truly believe I’m not done here. It’s the place that helped me bounce back from a death of a loved one, a breakup, where my photography is taking root, and I truly believe it is the place that will help me heal my inner terrors.

My hope, is that from this point forward, I will be more open about my issues, going beyond answering “how are you” questions with “I’m tired” to people willing to ask. My hope is to be more open and transparent with my loved ones, because I don’t want to hide what I feel anymore in order to protect them from myself.

My hope is that for the people out there like me, whose support system isn’t in the same city or even the same neighborhood as you, that’s it’s okay. I know that I can still live a full and independent life, I just need to live a life that’s independent and emotionally strong not just for my loved ones, but for me.

If you have read this far, thank you from the bottom of my healing soul. I don’t expect responses, but what I do hope, dear reader is that I will be treated with empathy and understanding.