“I am not my panic”

Panic disorder is a mental disorder categorized by seemingly uncontrollable panic attacks. For me, anxiety manifests in small issues that I let blow up and spin out of control. A mix up of plans, a hard homework, or an upcoming test can reduce me to tears and uncontrollable panic. Sheer, blind panic, as if an upcoming test will determine my life fate. In hindsight, it seems very silly and over reactive. But in the moment, it feels like there is nothing I can do to control myself. I am overcome with tears, shakes, rapid breathing, and a feeling of complete loss of control. Nothing gets done and the whole affair can potentially make me too exhausted to function for the rest of the day. One of the worst parts? I can’t tell anyone. No one can know. On the outside I am super functional. I got to a good school, I’m athletic, I have interesting hobbies and pastimes, and I’m kind to other people. I like to sing, run, rock climb, and hike. I have good friends. There is nothing wrong with me. I’m the perfect student, daughter, and friend. I’m in control. So know one can know that sometimes the control just slips away and I’m buried under crushing anxiety. Because that would be admitting defeat. It would be admitting that I let my control go. And it would be admitting that I am out of control. Dysfunctional. Damaged. Imperfect.

And then it hits me in intermittent moments. Perfection is a lie, a faulty human desire we all yearn for out of the misguided desire for something that doesn’t exist. People I idolize turn into perfection. Someone I believe is beautiful, smart, successful, and perfect drives me to think that being like him or her will make me more perfect. And anxiety disorder is imperfect, so I can’t admit that. That is a secret that I keep deep down in the recesses of my heart, and blow off when it happens. It’s no big deal, don’t worry about it, its nothing. I’m put together, in control, functional…perfect, just like you. I can blow it off all I want, but it is still there, making me forever trying to be more perfect. Little things turn into big things, and I fall apart. Why can’t I be perfect, why can’t I deal, why do I cry and shake and freak out? Why aren’t I perfect?

When I saw the faces of this project, I saw people that also seem put together and perfect. Girls I look up to, girls I think are pretty and perfect and in control are in the pictures with black writing on their bodies doing the same thing I am; admitting imperfection. And al of those faces put together are proof that perfection is a lie. People I could never admit imperfection to out of fear of being seen as less perfect are there admitting their own failings. I have a panic disorder, I blow things out of proportion, I freak out, I can’t deal, I’m dysfunctional and crazy and imperfect. Just like everyone else in the world. I can now own up to my imperfections, because everyone has them. And they do not define me. I am not my panic.