‘Fear’ or ‘between the lines’

10 October 2017

- By Lena Mingzhu Weiberlenn 

This time was a sentence. Sometimes it’s just thoughts, maybe a word or an action and everything around me falls into the background and the chaos takes over. Rational thoughts are being overwritten; my heart thinks I’m running for my life and tells the rest of my body the same. Or is my life being threatened?

But I’m still just sitting here talking to this person in front of me.

Where is the danger?

Behind me?


What if I’m the danger?

I feel dizzy now and my vision is blurred. I feel hot but I’m shaking – has anybody noticed?

I’m so thirsty.

Maybe I can try to say something.

No, my mind is racing.

I tell myself that the threat is gone.

Obviously, it’s not. I’m freaking out, I’m paralysed.

I was just having a nice conversation with someone. What did he say again? I know exactly what he said.

Act normal, I tell myself. How do I calm down? Act normal. 

I can’t breathe; I can’t form a coherent thought; I can’t remember. All I know is that I am scared and that I have to get out of here. How long have I been sitting here like this? It feels like it’s been an hour but he still hasn’t noticed so it must have only been a few seconds.

“I’m gonna go catch some air.”

The cold breeze will help, surely.

I can barely hold myself together, am I crying? It feels like I’m crying but there are no tears.

I’m back on my seat. Try to act cool; try to seem like you’re fine. You’re not fine.

He noticed now.

“I just need some water.”

He gets me water, I am so grateful but I still can’t breathe. I’m clinging to the cup; hopefully I don’t break it.

Am I trying to break it?

“Oh, you really aren’t fine. You’re having a panic attack.” 

Wow… He’s right. How did he recognise and I didn’t?

Maybe now that I know what’s happening, I can try to calm down. 

He asks me whether I want to talk about it, leads me outside and walks with me as I struggle to breathe and just listens.

My body is shaking relentlessly and I accidentally spill the water across the sidewalk and on myself.

Calm down. Breathe. Talk.

My words come out through jagged breaths of air and it takes me an eternity to finish just one sentence. He is waiting patiently, walking right beside me. Not behind me, not in front me. The night breeze makes me shiver but it’s different than the trembling, it sobers me up. Barely at all, but it does.

Whenever my pauses are too long or my voice fails me, he takes over and fills the silence with calming words.

How does he know exactly what to do and say? That has never happened before.

Normally, nobody notices or

Doesn’t know what to do (and I couldn’t blame them) or

Tells me not to overreact.

But the way we talk about it now gives a clear message.

We both know exactly what it’s like to go through this and he’s talking from experience.


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