My heart was racing when I woke up. And, for once, it wasn't a dream or nightmare that was responsible for the acceleration.
Some mornings, I wake up with an immediate sense of panic.
My chest feels like it has been in a corset of cement overnight and has now dried in a way that makes it nearly impossible to breathe, I can hear my pulse booming in my ears as if someone is banging on my eardrums, and the thought of getting out of bed makes my feet curl and my covers twist tightly around my body.
For me, these are the warning signs of a panic attack. And, if you've ever been lucky enough to have one, then you know it is also a call to action. You must act quickly—do something—or you will lose all control of the situation.
I have only lost complete control a handful of times. Many of those times being when I was just a kid and had no way of knowing that I actually could control what I was feeling. But, from time to time, these lovely bouts will revisit me as an unwanted reminder that I may never have it all together—no matter how hard I try.
Although, they no longer surprise me like they did when I was younger which helps in some way. Now, I can almost predict the very moment of their arrival.
A panic attack is born out of two things: depression and anxiety. And, let me tell you, I know these adoptive parents well.
They visit me when I start to convince myself that I don't have enough.
I don't have enough time, I don't have enough money, I don't have enough love to give, there is not enough love to receive, I haven't lost enough weight, I don't have enough success, I don't have enough determination—enough, enough, ENOUGH.
Believing that I am lacking in, well, just about everything is where it all stems from. That and the weight that comes with sorrow—my own as well as others.
It all started at a very early age. I always seemed to feel things a little too deeply—on unhealthy levels. I took on too much responsibility for any pain around me. I held myself accountable for the misfortunes of others—even when they did not involve me. I was a classic "fixer" and still have to fight the desire to continue to be one.
Just let me fix you. Maybe it will help fix me. I find myself STILL thinking this almost daily.
In many ways, I thrived on the sadness. When I was a teenager, my depression was as much a part of who I was as the very name I was given. I carried it with me, always.
Though I did not always show it, I mentally tortured myself with my depression and even hurt myself physically because of it. It was such a shameful and ridiculous thing to do, I know, but I can't help but feel for that sad girl every time I touch those scars. I know better now and I wish she had, too.
In high school, I remember daydreaming about soaking up everyone else's hurts, collecting all of their worries, and carrying the weight all on my own. I felt like I was already so sad inside that it wouldn't matter if I added to the pile—as long as it meant the ones I loved, or even the ones I might love, wouldn't have to feel this way.
I let this thought revisit me today while I was lying in bed.
I wish everyone would just come and lay their worries on this bed with me. I am good at hurting. Is that something you can even be good at? Because I really think I am. If depression was a company, I'd be their highest paid associate because I'd be the most functional... Or at least I used to be.
I was so grateful when that last piece of my thoughts crossed my mind. I USED TO BE.
You see, I have always had my usual recurring thoughts whenever I felt anxiety, depression, or any sort of an unwanted attack coming on—and this thought was not one of them!
This was the first piece of evidence that my light had finally discovered where my darkness had been hiding.
This is only a pool of positive in a sea of negative, I know, but I felt it deeper than any depth of any ocean.
It meant that I was getting better. It meant that all of this work I have been doing on myself—all the prayers, all of the mantras, the quotes, the books, the forced positive thoughts, these writings, THIS blog—they were (and still are) in motion!
I read something in an article recently that I am sure was the final push my light needed to shine through and I'd like to share it with you:
"Depression comes from dwelling on the past. Anxiety comes from unrealistic expectations for your future. This is why living in the present is the only way to actually live."
It is so simple, I know, but it planted a great seed of hope in my heart. It broke down something that I had made so complex in my mind, over many years, into digestible facts—facts that could not only be defined, but also controlled!
Simply put: If I ever felt A or B coming on, then apply C. Voilà!
Now, I am not delusional. I am very aware that it is not always going to be as easy as 1+2=3. Depression and anxiety are awful, yet, creative creatures. That being said, this still offers me a starting point—my own plan of attack for when the panic is on the horizon—and that is a more than welcomed thing for me.
I always thought that sharing my melancholy and my depressive tendencies so publicly would surely result in another bout of anxiety or lead to depressing thoughts that are a lot like these:
Oh my God. Why did I publish that? Now everyone will know! They will know that I have stayed in bed for days...that I sometimes still do. They will know how sick I can feel inside, that I am not always as positive as I pray to be... They will judge me! They will judge because I don't have ENOUGH to be sad about. There haven't been ENOUGH bad things happen to me to justify my depression. What if they think I don't have ENOUGH problems to be dealing with anxiety? What if sharing this part of me isn't ENOUGH proof for them?
Enough is enough.
It really is. In fact, it has to be!
It is MY pain, MY hurts, MY problem. And I cannot waste any time in confronting them—much less defending or apologizing for them. Otherwise, how is that pool of light ever going to compete with that sea of darkness inside of me? It is my responsibility to make waves from its rays—to make room for a new tide.
So, maybe this will be uncomfortable for some to read, or some will want to compare their sadness with my own by tallying up the hardships we have been dealt in life—and that's OK.
Go right ahead. Keep the score but, please, keep it to yourself.
I did not write this for you. I wrote it for myself and those who miss that light and think that it is never going to shine again. It can and it will. I promise. I am standing in just a small piece of it right now and it is plenty warm.
And if I'm alone on this one, that is OK, too. Because, for the first time in a very long time, I AM ENOUGH.
I hope you can see that you are, too.