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Monday, Dec. 9, 2013
You don't have to fight alonePosted Wednesday, January 9, 2013, at 3:11 PM
I had a sudden realization this weekend -- that I don't always have to be the strong person. It's OK to tell someone if you are struggling. Especially those who care about you.
Just because society places a stigma on an issue or you hear too many people over dramatizing a problem that is totally real, doesn't mean you have to pretend the issue isn't there.
Saturday I was about 10 hours into a 14-hour shift at my second job, and was in the middle of consuming my umpteenth caffeinated beverage when it all of a sudden felt like I had something sitting on my chest.
In the back of my mind I knew the problem was lack of sleep and too much caffeine, so I tried to breathe slowly as I realized I was experiencing the onset of an anxiety attack. The steady breaths didn't even effect the fear in my mind as waves of anxiety began coursing through me.
Tears were swelling behind my eyelids as I tried to focus on my current task, but in the fast food business there is never just a single task.
My backline screen was filling up with sandwiches that needed to be prepared, and I felt like I was going to lose it.
I sent my sister a frantic text message between orders beeping up on my screen, and was lucky to have her rush to my aid with medication.
But, that period of time until she could make it to town just continued to get worse. For some reason, I fought hard to keep my current state of mind a secret from my co-workers -- some of whom I had known since I was 17.
It was impossible to focus on building a sandwich when my breathing was heavy and my mind could only think about imminent danger.
My brain was in a whirlwind, as I tried to convince myself the panic wasn't real, but my body fought back with even stronger urges of fear.
I became frustrated with myself because I couldn't get my mind and my body on the same page. I was safe. There was no danger, except a potentially angry manager due to the continuous beep of a drive through timer warning of too-slow assembly times.
I spent more than a half an hour in this state of panic, fighting within myself and still trying to maintain my professional demeanor.
I tried to force a smile, then my medicine kicked in. I felt like a different person, and my genuinely happy persona returned. It felt good to smile again. The half-hour struggle felt like an eternity in my head.
Once I felt better and my head was clearer I told my co-worker what had happened.
"Why didn't you just tell me?" she asked, and I could tell she was concerned.
It took me a moment to respond because I had to think about why I had tried so hard to hide my problem.
"I guess I didn't want you to think I was being dramatic," was the only legitimate reason of which I could think.
I learned a little about myself in that moment. I never realized I cared so much what people thought of me, even people I had known for years. Even more than the fear coursing through my body, I feared they would judge me for something I couldn't help.
I sometimes forget I don't have to fight this battle in my head alone because I am surrounded by the most incredible people in the world -- family, friends and the best co-workers anyone could ask for.
It's OK to ask for help, even if you just need someone to talk you through a tough moment. No one will ever know or understand your struggles if you don't open up.
Sabrina is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 847-4487.
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