34 - State lines and 726.4 kilometres still won't save you.

32 6 3

Now.

I've spent hours in this very room over the past few months, but in that time I have paid very little attention to the aesthetic details beyond the ugly maroon-coloured armchair Karen always sat in and the cotton fibres that have been pulled from the forest green fabric covering my own. I figured a bunch of her clients had anxiously scratched away at it enough times that it had started to fray. I wonder whether I've ever done that in our sessions. Probably unlikely due to my well-established habit of tracing my necklace with my index finger when I get that way.

I just read aloud my long-winded and excessively wordy message to Camden, which made me realise that I write in a very similar way to how I speak — like an overgrown teenager who swears too much in regular conversation. I should probably work on that.

Karen wasn't saying anything. She just sat back with a smug look on her face that said, 'I did that. I got her to this point where she could say all this. How good am I?' Probably not untrue, Karen; but I'm keeping some of that smugness for myself this time.

She was expressing how proud she was of me and how far I'd come since I first walked into her office, but I stopped listening the second my eyes fell on the painting hanging on the wall behind her. I was surprised I hadn't noticed it before. After all, I've sat here in this same chair, looking at Karen sitting in hers placed right in front of it now, for hours and hours over the past few months. It was unlike me to be so unobservant, but I guess that just goes to show how dedicated I was to getting myself well again. My thoughts were more absorbing than art for once.

I may not have noticed before, but I was definitely looking at it now, and what I saw instantly banished all smugness held briefly beforehand and triggered in me the most intense anxiety attack I had felt since I first walked in this room.

My breath was caught in my throat, refusing to move any further into my body and my lungs were starving, chasing oxygen that just didn't exist in the world anymore. My ribs had turned into a vice, caving in around my heart, which was pumping furiously, trying its best to keep me alive in the midst of all the panic. I could barely feel it. It actually seemed like it wasn't there at all anymore, like someone had stabbed it with a great hook and pulled it deep into my stomach, making my entire body feel nauseated, like I might vomit all over the room any second. If I somehow managed not to vomit, I was just as likely to pass out from the oxygen-deprived brain fog that had overcome my head. I really didn't know what was more likely at that stage.

Fuck, I can't fucking breathe.

Fuck, it fucking hurts.

Fuck, just fucking make it stop, please.

Well, fuck. So much for working on my swearing.

I instinctively reached to my necklace, tracing the shape of the wood with my thumb while trying my best to regain some semblance of control over my own body. Come on, Sadie. You can do this.

I sat up taller to make sure my lungs weren't restricted by my naturally poor, slouchy posture, so they had more space to grow and expand. I attempted to fill them with strong, deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling in time with a thumb's rotation around the smooth outline of the larger pendant. I tried to count each breath, but my head was just so fuzzy that each time I forgot what number came after three and needed to start over. Instead I tried to focus on reading the titles of books on the shelf next to Karen until I realised that the titles of psychology-related books were a cruel joke. Who the fuck believes there is actually any power in vulnerability? 

I closed my eyes, barely aware that Karen had stopped talking and was watching me as I went through the motions, trying to end my panic. She didn't say anything but I knew she was observing me closely, even with my eyes closed. I was exaggerating each breath, inhaling through my nose deep into my lungs and exhaling out through my mouth. There was a coolness on my palms as my exhaling breath hit the sweaty moisture that had come about from my panic and consequent rise in temperature. I could smell the sweet perfume of the Lush product in my hair enveloping me with citrus and coconut, but there was also the smell of rain and damp earth seeping in from outside. Karen must have opened the window to let the fresh air in, but I didn't hear her do it. I concentrated on what else I could hear — rain drops on the roof of the building, a kookaburra cackling in the distance, a couple cars driving along the quiet street, a train on the tracks further down into the valley, a clock ticking, Karen breathing.

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