Nobody Sees

Laura liked to think she was honest with herself; it was everyone else she lied to.

Today was one of those days where she was forced to hide what she was really feeling. On the outside, she was perfectly calm, going about her day as usual. But, on the inside, it was a different story.

It was unfortunately, a familiar sensation. Her heart would race until it would skip a beat, then begin racing again. She had pain in her chest, and she felt like she couldn’t breathe. She felt chills running through her body.

It wasn’t a heart attack, though. She knew that from the time she had visited the ER because of this. She would just have to let it pass.

“Mandy, do you think you can have the report ready by the end of the day?” John just stood there and stared at her. Sometimes it was hard to believe that nobody could notice that she was completely falling apart.

She just nodded, and John walked away. After a few more minutes, her heart rate began to slow and she could breathe again. She looked around her. It was just a usual day in the office. She often couldn’t figure out what the triggers could be for the panic attacks. They just happened.

Allison walked up to her desk. Why was nobody leaving her alone today? Laura sighed and looked up.

“Are you okay?”

Laura froze. Had somebody figured out her secret? She knew that nobody would have any sympathy for her if they found out about her anxiety, and in fact, she was worried that some would think less of her. There had been a series of layoffs the past few months, and she didn’t want her job to be the next to go.

“I’m fine. Why?” She didn’t mean for her tone to sound quite so sharp.

Allison shrugged. “You look a little pale.”

“Well, I have a bit of a headache.” Laura’s head felt perfectly fine now, but she had gotten used to making up excuses when anybody noticed there might be something off.

“That’s too bad. I hope you feel better.”

Laura tried to smile. “Thanks.”

Allison was always friendly to her, but Laura was weary of making friends with anybody from the office. Of course, even her friends didn’t know about her panic attacks. She had always been too embarrassed to talk about them.

The rest of the morning went by without incident, but as Laura was getting ready for lunch, Allison walked back up to her. “I was wondering if you might want to go to lunch.”

“Oh, I’m not sure I really feel up to it.”

Allison’s face fell, and Laura started to feel bad for turning Allison down. Laura had worked at the company for about five years, and Allison had only started a few months ago. It was a tough atmosphere to start in with all the layoffs, too, and as far as Laura could tell, she was having trouble making friends.

“Oh, no problem,” Allison said, starting to walk away.

“Wait.” Allison turned back around. “I suppose we could go to lunch.”

A smile spread across Allison’s face. Laura couldn’t believe how happy just going out to lunch with a coworker was making her.

Ten minutes later, they were sitting at the corner sandwich shop. Allison had ordered a chicken salad sandwich, and Laura was starting in on a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

They both focused on eating for a few minutes. Then, Allison abruptly got up and walked over to the bathroom. Laura thought that it was strange that Allison hadn’t said anything, but she figured she would wait until she got back from the bathroom to make sure she was okay.

After Allison had been gone for a few minutes, Laura decided to check on her to make sure she wasn’t sick. Laura walked into the bathroom.

“Allison? Are you okay?”

Allison walked out of the stall looking a bit pale. “Yeah, sorry, it was just a panic attack. I get those sometimes.”

Laura’s jaw dropped. Although she technically knew that plenty of other people got panic attacks, she had never met anyone who did, or at least who admitted they had them.

“I have panic attacks sometimes, too,” Laura said surprising herself.

“Really?”

Laura nodded. “I had one earlier today, in fact. I didn’t really have a headache.”

She couldn’t believe how good it felt to finally admit to somebody that she suffered panic attacks.

“Well, maybe we can help each other get through them.”

Laura smiled. She had a feeling she would be breaking her rule about not making friends with coworkers.

Showing Up

I’ve just been reading about the importance of just showing up to write each day. I once bought a poster that said “The procrastination support group meeting has been postponed.” I’ve had a problem with procrastinating for as long as I can remember. I recently made a plan to get up and write in the morning, and I did it for a couple of days, but then I started hitting the snooze button instead and just figured I would write in the evening. However, once I got home from work and my commute, I somehow never sit down to write. And then it’s time for bed.

So, I will try it again tomorrow. I have scheduled writing as an event on my phone, and I will set my alarm earlier. I will actually get up on time, and I will show up to write. Then, I will write about how I wrote this week (or how I didn’t write, but I’m going to write, so I won’t need to write about how I didn’t write, right?). So, here’s to a good week of writing!

Appointment

“So, why did you decide to come here, John?” Dr. Connor asked in a monotone voice.

John was stretched out on the couch. He tried to decide how much to say. This was his first time visiting a psychiatrist, and he felt rather uncomfortable. “Well, I’ve just really been struggling since my divorce.”

“How so?”

“I don’t know…I just can’t seem to move on,” John said. “I keep wondering if there was a way to save our marriage. And my ex-wife is making things so difficult with our kids.”

“Yes, I hate my ex-wife, too.”

John sat up. “I don’t hate my ex-wife.”

“Well, I do,” Dr. Connor said, his voice now rising. “My ex-wife really screwed me over.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” John said, looking at the door. He wondered if he could get his money back. “But, I’m paying for this session, so shouldn’t we be talking about my problems?”

Dr. Connor ignored him. “She’s awful. I can’t believe she left me. She kept accusing me of cheating on her. Granted, I actually was cheating on her, but that’s beside the point.” He stood up and started pacing back and forth.” Now she has some new boyfriend. I think I’m going to go over there and pull all the flowers out of her stupid garden.”

“I think I should go,” John said, starting to move toward the door.

“Or maybe I’ll knock over her mailbox. Or I could egg her house. Or I could just leave horrible messages on her answering machine. Where are you going? Your appointment isn’t over for another 20 minutes.”

John had just been turning the doorknob. He turned back around. “I don’t think I’m the one who needs a psychiatrist.”

Author note: This was a dialogue exercise for a class.