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)