Before you begin, press play to help enhance your reading experience.
(Music works best on desktop, but if you're on your mobile, just open up the song on your favorite music streaming app)
You’re in the middle of a crowd in Times Square with your friend. You’re talking, laughing and shopping - having an all around good time. Then, all of a sudden you become aware of how many people are around you. Someone bumps your shoulder as you’re counting people around you. You’re taken aback and now you’re aware of your heartbeat and breathing. You count your breaths as your heart rate increases.
Beat, beat, beat, five.
Your breathing is getting shorter and quicker. You look down at your chest and visualize your beating heart.
Someone bumps into your other shoulder and suddenly you remember you’re in the middle of a giant crowd again.
You whip your head up fast, look left, look right.
You’ve lost your friend.
You frantically scan the area and you can’t find her anywhere. You look down at your chest again to see your heart pumping faster than it ever has before.
You whip your head up once again, but this time the crowd around you isn’t bustling by, they’re moving in slow motion around you. It’s as though your heart is pumping faster than the speed of light and now you’re in this new dimension which surpasses real time.
You’re all alone.
You’re frightened, scared, alone, and need to get the hell out of there.
You look through the frozen crowd to spot your nearest escape. Zero in on it. Tunnel vision. Block everything out except the sound of your heart and have your sights set on the exit.
You tear your way through the sea of people and finally reach a clear space and take a deep exhale-you didn’t realize you were holding your breath.
As you exhale, people start appearing around you and the world catches up to you as you enter real time. You regain your breath and consciousness as you take in the world around you and realize you’re safe. You’re alive.
Your friend finds you outside, panting, with a wild look on your face. They ask you, “What happened? Where did you go? Are you OK???”
While panting, you reply,
“ I, I think I just had a panic attack.”
Picking up where I left off in the last blog, I had successfully flown to Virginia, and miraculously enough without having to take a Lorazepam. Yay!
I made it to the east coast in one piece and I was finally with Destini and her lovely mother.
Sidenote: I’m not sure if I ever told them, but their personalities and the fact that the first thing they did when I arrived was take me to watch the sunset on the docks and cook me homemade lasagna, made me feel so comfortable, calm and at ease. It was the perfect way to start the vacation and I am so blessed they welcomed me with the warmest arms. It helped set the mood for our trip.
OK, so back to the trip…
First Stop: Washington D.C.
D.C. was a crowded, hustling and bustling place full of lots to see, lots of walking and so much rich history. There was certainly a lot going on and I had a few moments where I was feeling overwhelmed, but mostly, I enjoyed my time there.
Second Stop: Baltimore, Maryland
We spent the night in Baltimore, and it was nice, until my mind filled with thousands of fears about going to the Big Apple the following morning. I tend to have moments where I get stuck in my head and my thoughts evolve, twist and transform into fears. So that night, I got into that frame of mind. I could sense myself starting to panic and get emotional, so I waited for Destini to go to the bathroom and I ducked into an empty stairwell in the hotel to call my parents.
So, if you read my first blog, then you know that my parents are pretty much my anchor when it comes to my anxiety and mental health. They hold it down for me 24/7, 365. I would be completely lost without them, so in my times of anxiousness and worry, I call them to cry and just let out my fears and troubles. This time was no different. I cried a bit and my parents talked to me and distracted me until I calmed down and eased my nerves.
About an hour later, I went back to the room to find that Destini was pretty worried about me. Of course, when you’re an emotional wreck and you’re trying to hold it together and then someone asks you if you’re OK, you completely fall apart and cry. It was pretty much one of those moments. I completely lost it when Destini asked me if I was alright, but that just led to us having a much-needed heart to heart moment which really helped me calm my nerves and get in the right frame of mind for our drive to NY.
Third Stop: New york city
I made it to New York City without having an anxiety attack. I was feeling pretty good and proud of myself, but my anxiousness was always there. Compare it to when you leave your house for a week-long vacation, but you’re not quite sure if you locked the front door or turned off the stove. It’s like that nagging feeling that’s always in the back of your mind throughout your entire vacation and throughout my time in New York, my anxiety was that nagging feeling.
I was, however, able to enjoy my trip, explore and do most of the things that I wanted to do, which I’m very grateful for. I had a few minor moments of being overwhelmed, but for the most part, I was okay. I was able to enjoy roaming the city, go to Rockefeller Square and The Museum of Natural History, stroll through Central Park, check out the World Trade Center and so much more.
It wasn’t until the last full day in New York that I really felt my anxiety take a turn for the worst.
The day started off well. My friends and I were finally going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) and I was stoked to live out my Gossip Girl dreams. The museum itself was GRAND and overwhelming, but I was so amazed by all the beautiful art that I pushed away any feelings of anxiousness to the side until it was time to leave.
As soon as I stepped out of the museum, all of my anxious feelings came back, and let’s just say, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to relax at the hotel. I was finally starting to feel better around 7:00 PM, so Destini and I decided to walk to Times Square and buy last minute souvenirs and some dinner.
This was probably a mistake on my part... Just as an FYI and for future reference, if you’ve been feeling anxious throughout the day, try to avoid super crowded, loud, brightly lit, and overwhelming tourist attractions...
On the walk over to Times Square, I told Destini, “ just so you know, I’m feeling pretty anxious right now.” It’s like I foreshadowed my own downfall because next thing you know, we’re in a crowded gift shop in Times Square and I’m trying to distract myself from having a full blown anxiety attack by picking out souvenirs for my parents.
I finally chose the perfect gift and got in the long line, praying the line would move faster, so I could leave this crowded store and get some air. About a minute into the line my panic attack sets in. My heart was racing and I took off towards the exit. I ended up bumping into Destini along the way and gave her my souvenirs, and rushingly asked if she could buy these for me while I ran outside for air.
*This is where the intro of this blog comes into play*
At that moment in the store, it felt like my mind was completely clouding and closing in on itself. I felt weak. My hands were shaking and my heart was beating uncontrollably fast. I just kept thinking, “I gotta find an exit before I pass out. I can’t faint in this crowd, that would be so embarrassing. How would an ambulance even get to me? Oh god, that would be so bad!! People are going to think I’m crazy. Ahhhh! Where is the exit?! I just need to get out of here and I’ll be fine. Just need some air. Just need some space. That’s all. Just have to escape and get out of here!”
I finally made it through the crowded store and outside, into the seemingly less crowded Times Square. I took short, quick breaths to try and calm down. I paced back and forth and tried to distract myself from my feelings of anxiety and panic by reading all of the bright signs around me. I closed my eyes and used a meditative breathing technique to catch my breath. (Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 more seconds).
My breathing finally got to an acceptable rate when I spotted Destini exiting the gift shop, looking for me. I apologized to her and let her know that I needed to go back to the hotel. I was calming down but I didn’t know if I had another attack coming along and I would rather be safe than sorry. I called an Uber to pick us up at the edge of Times Square.
Sidenote: It’s kind of strange, but even in my most traumatizing and anxious moments, I still tried to be extremely conscious of where I am and try to be grateful of that moment in my life. So, after the worst of my anxiety attack was over, I was reminded that this was my last time being in Times Square until who knows when, and I wanted to soak up that moment. So, I took a deep breath in, soaking up all of the New York air, and took a 360 view of the city, before snapping one last picture before I got into the Uber. I wasn’t going to let anxiety steal this moment for me.
We ended up finding our Uber amongst the chaos of Times Square and got back to the hotel so I could finally get a peace of mind and some rest before our long day of travel. When I woke up the next day, I felt like I had a hangover. My mind and body were both physically and mentally exhausted and sore from a full day of anxiety, but with the help of some good road trip tunes (mostly Cardi B’s latest album and SZA) and fast food, I was feeling better and it was time to start the trip back to Virginia and back to California, sweet, sweet, California.
I made it home in one piece, and with that, I conclude the Empire State of Mindfulness. Thank you for taking the time to read this story! I hope you enjoyed it, or that it at least made you feel some type of way. Please let me know your thoughts on the story, and share with me any stories of your own. Also, stay tuned for the upcoming blogs, like my reflection on my anxiety thus far and remedies I use to get through anxious moments, which will be debuting in the coming weeks. As always, I welcome you and your stories here, and look forward to continuing this journey of mental health with you. Take care.