The Closet

Whenever one is faced with a justifiable threat, that person experiences fight-or-flight symptoms. Say you’re walking along a path and you encounter a bear. My first instinct would be to flee.

Even when there’s no justifiable threat, I sometimes have the urge to run away. But sometimes there’s nowhere to run to.

Except for the closet.

I have holed myself up in a closet a few times. It’s not because I wanted to be in a small, enclosed space. It’s only because that was the only place I could escape to.

Both times I remember happened at college. The first time was at my freshman orientation. My mom was in a hotel nearby, but I couldn’t stay with her. I had to stay in the dorm. With another person sleeping in the room.

Growing up as an only child, I didn’t sleep with anyone else in the room. The only time I was in that situation was if I had or went to a slumber party, or I went on a camping trip with my dad.

So being in new surroundings with a stranger made it harder for me to fall asleep. The “What If” thoughts ran through my head, and I struggled with wanting to run away.

Instead, I went into the closet with a pillow, a blanket, and my headphones. I stayed up all night.

In the morning, the other girl’s mother came to pick her up and I remember her saying, “She’s been in the closet all night.” I felt ashamed, but I stayed in the closet until they left. I don’t remember if I told mom what I did, but I can picture that night vividly.

The second instance happened during my first few days in college. I wanted a private dorm room, but one wasn’t available yet, so I had a roommate. She was very nice and, other than adjusting to sleeping with another person in the room, I didn’t mind living with another person.

I was nervous about going to one of my classes. K and her boyfriend were hanging out in the room, and the urge to flee hit me so hard I didn’t know what to do. I said, “Excuse me” and went into the closet with my headphones. I’m sure K thought I was mental, but she never said a word and for that I am grateful.

I got a private room shortly after and didn’t have to resort to the closet again.

It may happen again, where I feel like I have to get away, but I’m hoping that I will be able to deal with my anxiety instead of hiding away.

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My First Panic Attack

Many people with panic disorder say that they remember their first panic attack. I don’t know that I remember my actual first, but the panic attack I remember happened when I was younger.

I believe I was around 11 or 12. I was walking with my mom and we were going to an amusement park. I gagged like I was going to throw up and my mom became upset. I told her, “Don’t worry, mom, this is what happens when I’m excited.”

I wonder when I lost that naivete. I don’t think it was much later after that when I was writing journal entries that I just wanted to be “normal.”

I’m not necessarily working on reclaiming that innocence; too much has happened in my life. But I am working on changing how I see anxiety. How it truly can be excitement, not just fear.

What is the memory of your first panic attack?