Parking Lot Panic by Bianca Liu

I found myself on the floor of a parking lot a few blocks from home. I had recently gotten an Apple Watch and was eager to reach those 10,000 steps. It happened fifteen minutes into my evening walk, my body couldn’t take it anymore and it stopped moving.  When I say “moving,” I mean voluntary movements. I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, but my body vibrated. The vibrations came from deep within. Deep within my throat. A place so hidden, I didn’t quite understand where they came from. The source of my body’s vibrations were sobs. Sobs filled with desperation, sadness, and defeat. I had lost control of my body, of my feelings. My body was sprawled on the floor, I was sitting on a line dividing the parking spaces, one leg in each space and all I could do was cry. My back hunched and I looked down at the asphalt. I didn’t feel like myself, I was someone else, not Bianca. I tried to focus on something, anything, and I just couldn’t. 

It was just after the suicides of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Suicide awareness had been everywhere and I knew the suicide hotline number. My hands shook as I dialed 1-800-273-8255, it took a few times but I began to hear the rings. I was finally connected and a recording answered. I was put on hold and after a few seconds, decided to hang up. As I watched traffic, I thought of how easy it would be to throw myself into it. I wouldn’t feel everything I felt. I wouldn’t obsess over meaningless details or have the same thought running through my mind for hours on end. All my struggles would go away. As I thought about how easy it would be to die, I pictured my daughter’s face. My sobs became less violent as I remembered her sweet cheeks, her hugs, and hearing “mami” over and over again. My daughter saved me that evening. Someone I had brought to this world and whose life I had to protect at all costs, was the one who saved me. She was my guardian angel that day, and to this day I know that if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here to tell this story. 

As my sobs began to disappear, I became more aware of my surroundings and my body. I began to move my body, I started with my feet; first the right one, then the left one. Soon after that, my body began to stop trembling, I began to breathe deep breaths. In. And out. I saw people walking passed me and I wondered what they thought; a 30-year-old on the ground of a parking lot, eyes closed and slowly breathing. In. And out. Once I stopped trembling entirely, I sat still and just looked. I sat. I saw cats. Cars in rush hour traffic. And a little bus picking up elders from the doctor. I admired these everyday sights and wondered what the drivers were thinking, how the elders felt and why the cats stared at me. I sat for another while, I don’t remember how long exactly. Then, I walked home. 

As I got ready for bed that night, I reflected on the day’s events. It started with cuddling my daughter as she napped, and ended with a massive panic attack that left me motionless. It’s interesting how a day can hold such extremes with mere hours separating the two events. That night, I wrote a list instead of my usual paragraph when I journalled. My first bullet point said “panic attack.” And my second bullet point said “help.” After the past few months, and the day I’d had, I knew my panic attacks wouldn’t go away on their own. I knew I needed to get help. I knew I needed therapy, and I considered taking medication as well. I couldn’t lead a life where I had more than one panic attack a day. I wanted to start driving again (which I hadn’t been able to do in more than 3 months). And, above all, I wanted to be a good mom. 

Throughout my mental health journey, I learned two things: (1) being selfless is a big part of being a mother; and (2) the most selfless thing a mother can do is take care of herself first.

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