trigger warning: anxiety, panic attacks, depression.
It feels like everyday the world becomes scarier; new statistics get release, information is given and then contradicted, and more stress is laid upon my shoulders before I even get out of bed (thanks, iPhone!).
In the midst of this chaos, however, people are sharing their good. How magical that we till seek out acts of kindness to remind ourselves that there is more love than fear? ( If you’re wondering, yes, I did in fact watch John Krasinski’s Some Good News earlier today.)
Sharing stories is bringing us together even when we can’t be together. So, I thought that I’d share a story of my own. Of a not so good thing. Of fear. Because I think there are a lot of us who are struggling, who are striving to focus on the good but have brains and hearts that sometimes sink deep into the not so good. And I hope that by sharing my deep and dark, it allows you to feel a little less alone in your deep and dark. Maybe our fear and hurting looks similar.
So in the name of vulnerable storytelling, I’d like to share with you a panic attack I had recently.
Often times when I explain my anxiety I like to bring up chicken little as a way to understand my brain, the liar;
●I, Jasmine, can be looking at the sky and see that it’s blue. I see the clouds, I see the sun, and most importantly I see that it is intact. A complete picture.
●But my anxiety, looks at the up and all she can see is a sky that is not blue, not intact, but is in fact a sky that is falling, hurdling towards me.
● Even though I, Jasmine, can look at the sky and know that it’s blue, see that nothing is falling and have years of experience telling me the sky is not made of faulty puzzle pieces prone to crashing down upon the earth…
●The ~feeling~ that the sky is falling! the sky is falling! is so strong that my anxiety convinces my brain and I, Jasmine, that the sky is indeed falling.
So soon enough my brain, a lying bitch just doing her best to protect me, and my anxiety tag team my nervous system and boom! Everyone inside of this body is running around terrified that the sky is falling and there’s absolutely nothing they (a bunch of feelings and emotions and little bits and bops inside of a MERE HUMAN) can do to stop it.
That leaves me, Jasmine, a virgo, to bear witness to absolute irrational logic and fear that feels so real I’m often extremely exhausted afterwards. And embarrassed. And ashamed. And frustrated. And angry. And ready to give my goddamn brain a piece of my mind… wait what?
So the other week, I was experiencing one of these glorious chicken little moments. It felt out of nowhere, as it always does. [[Even though looking back with compassion I can recognize that being self-quarantined during a global pandemic/ health crisis as someone with a chronic illness who fiercely loves people and places that are being drastically effected by this and has worries about the future and fears is the perfect setting for a chicken little moment and can begin to release some of the blame.]]
In the middle of the chaos I run to my bedroom, weeping uncontrollably, seeking some sort of quiet. Alas, it was not my living room that was the problem. The noise followed me because it was my brain screaming at me. Soon enough she was attacking everything I believed to be real; myself, my relationships, my hopes, my dreams, my worth. Is anything real? Is nothing like I thought it was? Do I not actually love anything? Does love even exist?
And the noise started to grow louder and louder, hungry for self-loathing and the deep sadness it was creating.
Until somewhere deep inside of me, a moment that could’ve been cherry-picked from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, a voice pushed it’s way through the noise.
“You have to stop it.”
What? Have you seen this? Do you know how this thing works? It calls the shots, I get beat up, and then we all take a nice long nap afterwards.
“You have to teach it to stop.”
I was furious and exhausted. Here I was being yelled at by my own brain, crying and shaking in a little ball on my bed, and someone inside me decides to play Yoda.
“You have to make it stop.”
I hate myself. I hate my brain. I hate everything. I’m so overwhelmed and filled with so much fear I just want to disappear…. and yet you think I can somehow make this stop?
“You have to teach it to stop.”
I struggled. And I cried. And the voice went away leaving me clinging to my bed even harder.
Until I whispered, “I know that I love my little sister” a fact so irrevocably true even my liar of a brain could hold onto it.
I hold onto the only truth my brain cannot attack. I love Maya, ferociously. I love Maya, wholeheartedly. This love, this untouchable truth is like a mantra, pulling me out of the darkness.
I rock and I shake and my brain yells at me. And I just keep thinking “I know that Maya is real and that my love for her is real. “
I bombarded my own brain with the facts.
Over and over again.
Until I started to believe in other truths again.
I stopped shaking.
I stopped crying.
I slowly stitched myself back together with love.
I know my anxiety has not been cured by my inner Yoda–more panic attacks will come. I will never be able to out-run my loneliness, my hopelessness, my sadness.
But I also know that I will walk alongside fear, like a faithful companion, for the rest of my life and more importantly, will continue to learn how to combat her. Vulnerability, compassion, and love are the weapons I am sharpening for our journey ahead, as we navigate this time of crisis together.
Read on, dear friend.