This happened to me earlier this week in my US History class, but I wanted to share this first because it was very motivational for me. I hope it can be for you, as well.
So as it is November and college classes only last for one semester, my class is almost over and we are wrapping up our projects, papers, and tests. For this class, we had to give a ten-minute presentation about the research project we had been working on since the beginning of the semester. We were told to prepare a powerpoint slideshow as well as only using minimal notes. We were also informed to dress professionally.
Our class is early in the morning, at the HORRIBLE hour of 8:00, so our class is one of the first of the day, and outside our classroom is a little area of tables for students to meet and study. I normally wait in that area with other students who arrive early, and we generally engage in complaining about how tired we are and moaning about how much work we have to do for all of our combined classes. You know, typical college student stuff.
There were four of us around one table, chatting, when one girl, who I hadn’t ever paid much attention to, dropped all of the index cards she had been holding in her shaky hands. As she bent to pick them up, she stammered about how sorry she was and how nervous she was to present today. The other two girls at the table laughed it off and agreed that they were nervous, too.
I bent down to help her pick up the cards, and while I was helping her, I picked up on her body language. When we both climbed to our feet, I instinctively took her hands in mine, noticing that she was clammy and cold. I looked into her eyes, and my heart ached with sympathy when I saw, reflected back at me, all the fear and desperation that had plagued me constantly before I was put on medication. All of the hopelessness and embarrassment that had caused me to retreat into myself countless times.
The other girls were talking to her, asking things like “Why are you nervous?” and “Aren’t you prepared?” and the ever-popular “You don’t need to be nervous.” However, I could tell that I had her complete attention, which is what I needed at that moment. I spoke in a low voice, telling her to look only at me. I instructed her in an exercise I had learned from my childhood therapist. In through the nose… hold it for a few seconds… then breathe out. Breathing out all of the worry and fear. Nothing else mattered right now except breathing in… and out.
As she followed my instructions, with eyes closed, I could see an expression of relief spread across her face and her hands went limp in mine. I could practically see her mind stop racing as she focused on the one, simple task. I had her do that for a couple more minutes before our professor finally arrived and unlocked the classroom door, the sign for us to file into the room and find our seats.
I gave her hands a squeeze and told her that she was the expert on what she was presenting, and that no one else in the room mattered. No one else was even there. She just needed to give the presentation she would want to hear.
Visibly calmer now, we all entered the classroom and, one by one, gave our presentations. Hers wasn’t the best by a long shot, but she was able to give it without any signs of panic or anxiety. I saw the fact that she was able to give the presentation more important than the quality of her performance. After class, she thanked me profusely, telling me that before I had helped her, she hadn’t been able to breathe. She was so grateful for such a small thing as a strategy to deal with the panic attack, and I realized, she had never had that before. A method to relieve the constant worry, the constant apprehension.
My heart ached for her and I got her number and I have been in contact with her this week, trying to find out more about her attacks, and helping her to identify them as panic attacks. After class, when I was thinking about the encounter, I realized something. I would have never known what to do and how to help her if I hadn’t experienced the same symptoms enough to recognize them in others. I had always thought of unmedicated years of high school as one of my lowest points, but I realize now that if God had not allowed me to go through that time, I would have been useless to that girl. If God had not placed me in that class, I would have not realized how that dark time in my life created a way for me to minister and care for others going through the same thing.
Now, I feel rather thankful for that time in my life. Those nights spent studying until midnight, the times I didn’t want to be around the family because of how overwhelmed I was, and the times I woke up from nightmares, scenarios playing out my greatest worries that were echoing in my head.
I just wanted to say that when you feel like what you are struggling with is pointless and there is no way God can work it for your good, remember there is a greater plan in motion. And this plan, ultimately, is going to be awesome.
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Until next time!