I am sitting in a meeting when it hits me. I feel the chill weave up my spine, spreading north of my neck and wrapping around my temples. My hands start to tremble.
I am saying something. The words must still make sense because the people around the conference table are still nodding and scribbling rather than looking at me curiously. I keep talking but the words sound garbled to me, far off and muffled like my head is wrapped in cotton.
I stop talking, but soon have to part my mouth again so that I can breathe because now my heart is racing and its making it difficult. Slowly but surely my chest starts to feel weighted, heavy, like something is crushing me.
I excuse myself, rushing for the nearest bathroom stall and launching myself inside it so clumsily that I earn a bruised hip for my effort. I’m nauseous by now, doubled over at the waist, willing myself to breath, trying to center myself.
I know I’m being ridiculous, that this feeling, this anxiety, is not actually prompted by any outside triggers, just the internal pressures I put on myself. I feel foolish. I can’t stop doing this to me.
I feel like any minute now they’re going to figure out I’m a fraud, that I don’t belong, that they made a mistake. Every second I expect someone to out me, that I am not smart, that I am not capable. Then all the good I thought I was building will be tossed out like I have been anticipating it being, and I will be back to scrapping, surviving, alone.
I finally catch my breath, the warring sides of my mind reaching a stalemate. I know how hard I’ve worked. I know how good I am.
I remain unconvinced.