I remember my first anxiety attack.
I was at home in Tyler, Texas for Christmas break; the trees were completely nude, and the ground was nearly the same color as the sky. Everything was greyer than I remembered it.
My mother is very observant. Approximately three minutes after I arrived home from the airport, she'd already decided that I needed to get the frames of my glasses fixed. Like me, they were bent from an entire semester's worth of stress and partying -- both activities that have led me to wake up the next morning with my round frames still clinging to my face.
The next week, as my sister, mother, and I made our way to the local family-owned eyewear shop, it happened.
The morning of my dissolution, I had been applying for jobs and acutely feeling that unconscious pressure families exert on one another: be successful, be successful, be successful. We were driving by the grey obelisks in the graveyard -- in our gunmetal-grey car, under the bare grey branches of bare grey trees -- when suddenly I couldn't breathe.
I looked over at my mother, who was somehow oblivious; at the time, it seemed impossible. I realize now that everything I felt was merely in my head: the breathlessness, the implacably rising sense of panic, the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness, the special loudness of my heartbeat, the ringing in my ears like I'd done one too many whippets. It's happened a few times since then, and I fully expect it to happen again in the future.
The thing is, my experience is hardly unique.
A week before my first episode, one of my best friends from high school chatted me online to complain about his panic attacks; last week, my friend R. broke down into tears while we spoke, telling me that she didn't know how she would make it through the rest of the year; two days ago, my friend L. came over for a whiskey nightcap, and told me about not being able to get out of bed in the morning, her moments of acute depersonalization, her extreme sensitivity to anything and everything. I've heard many, many more stories like these. Some people find temporary solutions in alcohol, others in drugs.
We drop like flies at this time of year. For freshmen and seniors alike, school is ending and everything is coming to a head; finals are just around the corner, while job and internship deadlines loom large. Giving other problems the attention they need is more difficult than ever.
Two years ago, a friend published an article in the Yale Herald (later republished by The Huffington Post) about her battle with depression; when I first met her, I had no idea what she was going through -- I didn't realize it until after I read her article.
And, as she points out, that's part of the problem. I'm no therapist, and though I'm glad that my friends trust me enough to confide in me, I can't give them the help they need. I can only recommend a trip to mental health services.
Spring is a time of renewal. Everything is blooming again, after a long, cold winter -- today, for the first time, I noticed the grey tree branches in the courtyard had given way to brilliant, blossoming pinks. In the last few days, bright-eyed high school seniors have been visiting my school for admit weekend. It's thrown everything into stark contrast: they're all so happy, they're all so fresh and new. They're the renewal of university life; after four years, you're all but forgotten, and then the cycle repeats, and they're forgotten after you. The key thing is, though, that things continue. Spring comes again, no matter how cold the winter is.
I want us to renew ourselves this season. I want us to pay attention to the problems that so often lurk beneath the surface and bring them aboveground. I want us to help others to help themselves. I want us to do this for the springtime. April doesn't have to be the cruelest month, not when it's so beautiful, so dappled with light and hope.
If you need help, I sincerely urge you to seek it out. You are not alone. Just remember that winter's grey chill doesn't last forever.