The bell rang at 2:30pm and Maya quickly grabbed her books and headed to her locker. After sliding her homework into her bag, she slammed the door shut and headed for room 333. Mrs. Thompson was walking around the room, praying for God to use her to help Maya. She didn’t realize Maya was there, overhearing her prayer. After another minute, Maya made a noise and Mrs. Thompson looked up.
“Hi Maya. Is your mom on her way to pick you up?”
“No”, Maya replied, “I texted her to ask if I could stay after a while to talk with you and she said yes, if that’s okay with you, of course.”
“I would love that. I have about an hour before I head home. How was the rest of your school day?” “It went really well, actually”, said Maya. “No more panic attacks, so that’s a plus.” “I’m so glad to hear that” said Mrs. Thompson. “Let’s take a walk outside.”
Mrs. Thompson led Maya out into the hallway and to the doors immediately to her left. Stepping outside immediately flooded the two of them with a refreshing dose of fresh air and a soft breeze.
Walking over to the bench between the oak trees, Maya began asking lots of questions.
“How do you know so much about panic attacks?”
“What causes them?”
“Will they keep happening?”
“How do I make them stop?”
“Am I going to die?”
Putting her hand gently on Maya’s shoulder, Mrs. Thompson responded calmly “Let’s slow down and take this one question at a time. Let me start by answering your first question.”
Maya listened intently as Mrs. Thompson shared with her about her own struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, and how they lasted for 4 years. How they were debilitating, scary, and often left her wondering the same things Maya just asked. Mrs. Thompson also shared all of the research she’d done during that time to learn more about anxiety, panic, stress, and mental health in general.
“One day soon, I will share with you more of my story”, Mrs. Thompson told Maya, “but for now, let’s see if I can help by shedding some light on what you experienced, and then we can begin the process of figuring out what caused it.” Maya nodded and sat back to listen.
“Panic attacks can be caused by a number of things, but most of the time, they happen when someone is dealing with a lot of stress, anxiety, or depression. People who have experienced a traumatic event in life can also start having panic attacks.”
Maya’s eyes immediately looked at the ground as tears welled up and began running down her face. Mrs. Thompson wrapped her in a hug and whispered a prayer over her. They sat together in silence for several minutes.
“Mrs. Thompson?” Maya finally looked up with a sad but hopeful gaze.
“I need to get home, but can I stay after school again tomorrow and talk with you?”
“Of course you can, dear, as long as it’s okay with your mom.”
Maya wiped her tears, hugged Mrs. Thompson, and got up to leave.
As she opened the door leading into the school, she turned back and told Mrs. Thompson “Thank you again for helping me today, and for sharing part of your story with me. It helps to know someone else understands.”
“You’re very welcome, Maya. I’m glad I could help. Many people have walked this road and came out okay on the other end. You’ll get there, too. It’s just part of your journey.”
With that, Maya smiled and walked into the school to head to the front doors where her mom was waiting.