1. I’m probably going to have a panic attack.
2. Nope, I’m definitely going to have a panic attack.
3. I’m going to vomit here in front of everyone. I know it.
4. What’s wrong with me?
5. What if someone threw it out?
6. Is this room running out of oxygen?
7. Oh! There’s the panic.
8. Keep breathing. Keep breathing.
9. Pretend you’re okay.
10. Smile. Smile. Laugh. Okay. Smile.
11. How could I do this to myself?
12. I can’t do anything right, can I?
13. Am I still breathing?
14. Where can I get water? Can I ask someone to get me water?
15. There’s the nausea…
16. I really need to keep a bottle of water in my bag for emergencies.
17. Code red! This is an emergency!
18. Why is my chest so heavy?
19. Am I still breathing?
20. Smile. Breathe. Smile. It’s okay.
21. No. It’s not okay.
22. I’m definitely going to die here.
23. And it’s all my fault.
24. This air is too thick to breathe. Why is this air so thick?
25. I’m better than this.
26. I said breathe! Breathe!
Today, I misplaced ubiquitous water bottle. It is black, stainless steel, and holds 26 ounces of beautiful, wonderful, sanity-saving water. I had it at one point, then my first meeting of the day started and I could not find it.
Water is my primary coping mechanism. I carry water with me everywhere. Car trips, movie theaters, long walks, short runs. I always have water. I have been in running groups where some people say they never carry water on runs of three miles or less, and I could never fathom such a decision.
I take water for three mile drives to restaurants for dinner. I need water with me at all times.
I am a fish. I dry out quickly.
I need water.
Today, I misplaced my water bottle. I could not find it anywhere. I stood in my meeting hating myself for being stupid enough to not have made sure I had it before I began. I considered the fact that my meetings were back to back this morning. That was the first and two more would happen before I had a chance to find where I had left my water. I panicked.
I felt my face flush. My shoulders felt heavy. Breathing became harder. My mind raced.
I needed water and fast. And I needed it before anyone else at the meeting knew what was happening.
At one point, I caught a break and figured out a solution. I asked a colleague to check for my water where I thought I had left it.
“Please. It’s how I maintain the appearance that I am a capable person.”
She could not find it. She is a wonderful soul. She brought me a bottle of water from elsewhere, and I felt confident that I would survive.
I did. I made it through all three meetings this morning, only occasionally wondering where I left my water bottle.
When it comes to triggers and coping mechanisms, I have figured out much about what works for me. I cope by talking about it. I cope by being brave. I cope with water.
Figuring these things out are pivotal parts of the mental health journey. What fifteen year old me did not know is that a water bottle could change my life.
I am not saying that water can change everyone’s life if they battle anxiety, but there must be something that can help them. And knowing that something, their water, is amazing and necessary and soul-saving?
I did find my water bottle after that third meeting. It turns out that I had left it in the cup holder in my car, spout open, as it almost always is. And finally, I felt true relief.
So, dear reader, I must ask, what is your water? Have you found something that can help calm you by merely existing?
I hope that you have.