“I don’t know what to do,” he said. His face in his hands, he turned away from the moment. He tried to think about anything else. He tried to breathe. He tried to focus. But he felt like he was drowning.
“Breathe, breathe, breathe,” she encouraged him. But he was already trying. Something deep inside him wouldn’t let him not breathe, so instead he was focusing on the fact that he was breathing, and that he couldn’t control it—
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”
She took his hands and squeezed. “There’s nothing you can do but be yourself,” she said. “That’s all you can do right now. Just focus on being. Focus on being here, with me.”
He couldn’t look at her eyes, so he looked at his hands, held in hers. “There’s too much…I can’t.”
“One thing at a time,” she said. “First things first. Let’s sit you down and get you some water, okay? That’s your one task right now. Let’s drink some water.”
She led him to the couch, and he sat down. She let go of his hands to go get some water. He looked down at the raggedy carpet and wondered if he was being too much. He wondered if she thought he was overreacting. Was he overreacting? What was he doing? Why was he freaking out? Why couldn’t he react normally? Why couldn’t he process things normally? Why couldn’t he be normal? Why does he have to do this? Why does he have to be so dramatic? Why can’t he be a fucking man?
“Breathe.” She came over to him and pulled his hands, which had migrated back to his face. “Breathe. I know there’s a lot on your mind right now. But your only job now is to drink this water.” She handed him a glass filled with water and ice.
He took the glass in his hands, which felt shaky and clammy. He took a small, hesitant sip. They sat still and in silence for a moment while he tried to sip as much water as he could stomach.
“Do you know why people drink water when they’re upset?” she asked him. He shook his head.
“Because after you drink the water, it forces you to inhale. Drinking makes you breathe. And breathing is what really helps you.”
She let him take a few more sips, then she took the glass from him carefully. “How do you feel?”
He couldn’t look at her eyes, still. “Okay,” he said, not knowing what to say, and staring at the floor.
“Good.” She got up and placed the glass of water on the counter, and then came back and held his hands again.
“Do you know what that was?” she asked, and he shook his head.
“That was a panic attack.”
He looked up at her, but not at her eyes. “A panic attack?”
She nodded. “But it’s all over now, and you’re still here. You’re okay. You’re safe.”
His throat felt swollen. He swallowed, and finally took a deep breath. He looked into her eyes.