Content warning: anxiety, panic
I aggressively reach for the handkerchief in my pocket to wipe the sweat that was becoming relevant on my forehead. I’m breathless, unaware of what to say next as I face my class, ready to present a historical background on Frida Kahlo. I’ve practiced and practiced in front of my stuffed animals, but all I can think of is the type of impression I will make, worried about what others might think. As I begin to speak, the sounds of my heartbeat become louder and louder, blocking all thoughts in my mind. The squeak in my voice becomes the alarm I need to return back to Earth.
I am clearing my throat only to be struck with the diagnosis of dry mouth. I begin to shake as soon as my peers pierce me with their focused eyes, the type of rapid feelings I am currently experiencing unknown to them. The silence is loud. My own thoughts become louder. They eat me alive as I continue to finish the end of my presentation slides. What if people begin to laugh? What if people gossip about me? I begin to think of multiple scenarios of how this presentation could be deemed the most talked about news in history.
As I look back at my peers, my friend gives me a smile and a thumbs-up that reassures me everything is fine. That I am doing well. I begin to breathe through my nose as I had been reminded that I am not alone. I continued to breathe while reading my presentation notes. There are a few hiccups that remind me of my anxiety and sheer panic, but I continue to look at my friend who gestures at me to breathe. This keeps me calm and relaxed during the remainder of my presentation. At the end, everyone claps and I smile, thankful to have survived.