Lost in My Mind

When I was in my mid 20’s, during what seemed to be a routine therapy session talking about work stress and some flared up issues with my dad’s drinking, I discovered that I had been apparently having pretty severe panic attacks for a few years. What I thought at the time was just run-of-the-mill long film production hours exhaustion – because who doesn’t have aural blackouts while driving with no memory of the last 10 miles, or insomnia so severe that getting in bed felt like a physical assault – was in fact a pretty standard case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. There was relief in getting this diagnosis and treatment plan, but also a healthy dose of shame that something was wrong with me that I could not just choose to feel less anxious about [WORK, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, MONEY, HEALTH, FRIENDS, WHAT IF/WILL HE/WON'T HE ETC ETC AD NAUSEUM] and go on with my life.

Soon enough I learned to cope also with the shame of the anxiety, because once I got the attacks to stop coming with such force, I could focus on the triggers, and then cut the wires to those bombs carefully, methodically, one at a time. (There was also a years-long backslide during an abusive relationship; the attacks came back stronger than ever, he piled on the shame goading me not to take the medication or be in therapy. But even after that, long though it took, I diffused those bombs too, and got smarter and healthier and humbler than I have ever been. Oh, and grateful. Can’t leave out the gratitude.)

But sometimes, like a lot of last week, and tonight in the wee hours of Monday morning, the anxiety gremlins attack my brain and my sleep, and I am filled with a range of doubts and get distracted by terrible thoughts of intellectual and emotional failure, and chronic loneliness, and physical weakness, and diminished confidence. I know I am not unique and that while most humans have not had to contend with severe panic, they have felt in the dumps or confused, or have the kind of week when you keep biting the inside of your lip in the same place and it fucking hurts so bad and no matter what it won’t heal until you can figure out how to stop biting it.

This is me trying to stop biting it.

Fully surrounding the petty annoyances and standard issue un-fun adult requirements is the massive cache of goodness I have built around me. Most of this is reflected in the deep and meaningful and wholehearted friendships I share, the average length of which is about 17 years. Sometimes, the ones I had to let go of to move forward come back to me, bringing joy, and satisfaction, and fun. It also scares me a little, because it challenges the way I have muted the expansiveness of my hope in favor of necessary pragmatism, but really, I want to get back to the hope which leads to kindness, and love, and maybe even sleep.

And maybe even… magic.

(BTW, you can blame this song for this post. xo)

6 thoughts on “Lost in My Mind

  1. Justine,

    I hesitate to comment, because though we share a connection, it is mostly a nostalgic one, to a place and time that was literally a life time ago.

    I know almost nothing about you between then and the moment we crossed paths on facebook a few years back. So, sometimes, reading your posts leaves me feeling like maybe I stepped uninvited into the wrong party, that maybe these things weren’t meant for me to know.

    But then, there are nights like tonight…when I find myself reading your post at 4:00 am, fighting my own gremlins, knowing how hard it can be…

    Mostly I just want to to thank you for being brave enough to put it all out there. If anyone deserves a little magic and a bit of sleep, it’s you.

    • Now I’m thanking YOU Tom, because nostalgia/FB or not, you’re very real to me and I appreciate the share back. The only way I know to get rid of worries and/or shame is to very gently talk them out with trusted friends and support systems. Writing it out like this is admittedly a more advanced version and there’s no way I could have done this even five years ago, but in that time I worked hard on the skill of getting it out of my head and into words. Believe me, even as I type this back to you on 2.75 hours of sleep the voice is telling me not to press “reply” but because you are my friend, and I know it’s a good thing… here goes! Magic is what we all deserve. xoxoxo

  2. This is so brave. Because it’s so hard to admit when we’re going through the shit or when we’re scared because we can’t see an end to the shit. And (ahem) sometimes it seems like the best thing is to ignore it and hope it goes away. But that only works for a little while; it always comes back until you deal with it. That takes bravery and I am in awe. xo

  3. Dear dear Justine – though I think you have already come to know, you are an amazingly beautiful woman whose experiences (dark and light) help us all reflect on our own gremlins and remind us that we are bigger and stronger and smarter than they are. Be well and enjoy the magic! Love, Lorraine

    • Lorraine!!! thank you so much sweet old friend!! am giving you a giant e-hug which I will reserve for the next time I see you times 10! very kind words, I am taking them to heart. you are smart and I trust you, so I will do as you say :-) xoxo

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