The on-call phone rang at 2:30am and I jerked awake, my heart racing and adrenaline pumping. Per usual, I had no idea what is on the other end. Anything from a stubbed toe to suicidal ideation. As one of the first few times of being on-call by myself, I was anything but calm.
In my strange state, I attempted to sound casual and alert.
"A student is currently having a panic attack that has lasted for about the last 15-20 minutes. An officer is present, but you are requested to continue supporting the student. It is in a hall."
"I'll be right over."
It was pouring rain and a literal and metaphorical cloud hung dark and low. Quietly I step into the room with the officer and the student. The OSS officer leaves shortly after I begin speaking with the student while she searches for breath and her eyes are frantic for a sense of calm. She indicates that she is concerned about waking her roommate up, so we shuffle down toward the study room to continue waiting for this unwelcome visitor to find its way along from her.
Never having faced a panic attic before, I do what first comes to mind, calmly asking questions of the student. Stressors, strained relationships, personal pressure, unrealistic expectations, transitioning from the safety of home.
After 20 more minutes the breathing becomes lighter. A welcome break for us both.
Then with the force of a dam breaking, another panic attack rises within her. I see her holding back tears and I offer all that I know to say gently and quietly.
"It's going to be okay. Deep breaths."
She clutches tightly to the blanket wrapped around her body and I hear her hushed voice.
"I see the rain against the window. I see the light in the hallway. I feel the blanket against my skin. I hear my breath and I hear the rain. I smell the air in this room."
She sees me empathetically observing her.
"My psychologist taught me this whenever I have a panic attack. It brings me to the present and helps me focus on what is here and now instead of my anxieties and worries."
I've since learned that this is a simple, yet very effective way to lean into calmness and quiet, even in the most anxious of moments.
Pulling my head out of the clouds, out of the past, out of the future, and refocusing it on the here and now; the present moment.
I was driving today and a song that I forgot about came onto my "2016 Goodness" playlist on Spotify. Almost immediately my eyes welled up and I was feeling for the first time in a long time.
Feelings rushed over me, engulfing me, and instead of attempting to push them away, I breathed and let them be.
I don't know where they came from, but I welcomed them as an old friend enthusiastically greets another they haven't seen in years.
It has felt like years since feelings have felt just this way. There has been so much numbing and ignoring and masking just to survive each day, that sometimes I wondered if I had forgotten to authentically feel.
If you know me, you know that there is no way that this is actually true; but there have been moments that scared and confused me to reach that place in my thoughts, wondering where my heart had gone, causing anxiousness to rise.
While listening to the song on repeat, I was reminded of the moment with the student, and the simple profundity of what she said, leading me to identify my personal lack of grounding the past few years.
In grounding, there is an acute awareness of the present moment. The sight, the breath, the movement, the sounds, the smells, the tastes.
Emotions and calmness co-existing in the madness of the heart and mind as I bring myself back to here and now.
It's good to see you old friend.
It's good to feel you.
Let's not let so much time pass; and in this moment, let's remain present together, for this moment is all that we have.
If you haven't watched the music video for the song, I encourage it, if you are looking for a gentle nudge to be present and to feel. It encompasses grounding through experiencing, adventuring, natural beauty, and relationship.