Content Warning: A person experiences anxiety

By Isis Molina

I’m at the movie theater. I’m watching Justice League. I’m sitting between my niece and an empty seat. Everything is dark, but it’s okay. I’m eating Pocky sticks, and drinking an Icee.

And then the vacant seat to my left gets filled. A man. I can’t tell his age, because I refuse to tilt my head in his direction. All that my brain recognises is that a stranger is sitting right next to me, and something is wrong. Something must be wrong. The dark room is not safe anymore. There are many more strangers in the theatre. I become aware of them all. There’s danger. There’s not enough air in the room. The air is gone. There’s a pain in my left arm, shooting up and down. A tightness in my chest. I can’t breathe I can’t breathe I can’t breathe.

I try to remember what heart attack symptoms are. I don’t know what it should feel like, but I’m certain that’s what I’m feeling. I’m going to die at a movie theatre, in front of my niece and nephews, and no one will ever recover. They will see me die right in front of their eyes, and it’s going to scar them for life. I will ruin them, ruin them like my mom’s death ruined me. I will give them the anxiety I have, pass it down, like it’s a family inheritance. That’s what I got from my mom, that’s what my mom got from her dad. I don’t know when it all started. I don’t know how to make it stop.

I flee to the bathroom. I hide there in the stall. I breathe, breathe, breathe until the pain dwindles. I tell myself it’s all in my head. Except, what if it’s not? What if the entire world is wrong about me? What if I don’t have anxiety, and my symptoms all mean I’m really dying?

This is what I live with every day. Not even a trip to the movie theatre is a safe space for my head. Nothing feels safe anymore.

But I haven’t given up. I won’t. I need to move forward, even when I feel like I’m falling down a deep hole. Even when I’m so desperate for relief that my mind goes haywire. Even when I’m shaking. I will never stop meditating. I will never stop going to therapy. I will never give up.

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