Personal Column: Breathe


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A psychologist listening to a tired brain lying on the couch.

I had my first therapy session at the beginning of 8th grade. I vividly remember walking into a house-like office, with my parents trailing behind. I sat down on a plump sofa, bouncing my legs and waiting impatiently to get called while my dad filled out paperwork. I didn’t understand why I was here, why my body would become overwhelmingly aware of all my senses for brief moments, and why I would forget to breathe in class when my thoughts would spiral during tests and assessments. 

Finally, my new therapist called my name. I stood up, and grudgingly walked to the door, turning away from my mom’s encouraging smile. The room was like a typical home office; there was a deep blue couch aligned by the window. On the couch’s side, there was a large black dog sleeping. 

She told me to sit anywhere.

I sat on the floor, leaning against the couch, unsure of what to say or do. Talking was never for me, anyway.

She also sat on the floor, across from me, the coffee table in the center. 

After a few introductory questions, and my vague answers, she asked me what was going on.

I wasn’t sure what to say. I remember feeling ashamed and frustrated at myself. I didn’t understand my emotions or even what I was experiencing. I wanted to go home, back to the comfort and safety of my quiet bedroom. After what felt like five minutes of trying to describe my emotions, I settled for “I’m nervous” 


That singular word made me feel embarrassed. Everyone gets nervous- it’s normal. Everyone’s heart rate rapidly fluctuates at the sight of a classroom full of people. Everyone sweats and shakes profusely for no apparent reason. Don’t they? 

Do you feel anxious?

Anxiety is a state of excessive uneasiness and worry. Apparently not everyone experiences it to an extreme.

I guess.

She asked me more questions, about myself, friends, and family. After our time was up, I hurriedly walked out the door, feeling ashamed and exposed, begged my parents to never make me go again, and went home.

 My next session was the following week. It wasn’t any less awkward, but I slowly learned to get more comfortable while continuing weekly sessions for the next few months. I was still hesitant to attend, but with a few deep breaths, I got slightly better. I stopped confining myself to just my bubble, room, and thoughts, reminding myself to breathe in moments I thought I couldn’t.

Breathe in, breathe out

 Eventually, the pandemic hit. Schools and businesses closed, including my therapist. I stopped seeing her after a couple of virtual sessions, and found myself starting to isolate my feelings again. After being so used to staying home all day and having no in person social interaction, my anxiety spiraled and soon I struggled with leaving the house to go to the grocery store, and eventually in person school sophomore year. I started having multiple panic attacks over things I would now consider minor. 

I remember my mom asking me to run inside to a store to do a quick return.

I can’t. 

You’ll be fine, It’s 2 minutes.

Just need to breathe. 

Just breathing stopped helping me, and I couldn’t control my body from profusely sweating, shaking, and hyperventilating. I started seeing a new therapist, as well as a psychiatrist, who helped regulate and manage the chemicals in my brain and internal anxiety symptoms through medication. 

Getting help isn’t easy. At first, it’s embarrassing. I was ashamed and frustrated with myself, for being surrounded by people who were independent, people who never asked for help or even seemed to need it. Therapy didn’t make me less independent, I think it made me more. 

Today, I walk into school. My heart is in rhythm, my body is still, and my mind is stable.

Breathe through. Breathe deep. Breathe out.