This week, both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. Obviously, I didn’t know either of them, but I cried nonetheless. I cried because it breaks my heart that anyone could be so tired that the energy required to keep living is just too much. I cried that anyone can think that, after the initial pain wears off, their loved ones would be better off without them. I cried for their fear. I cried for their bravery. I cried because I understand those feelings.
About 9 months ago, I woke up in the middle of a full blown panic attack the likes of which I have not seen in at least 18 years. I thought I was dying. I felt like my diaphragm was too tight and I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was literally losing my mind.
I ran to the window to get cold air into my lungs, to feel that breath really was entering my body. I frantically rummaged through the medicine drawer in the bathroom until I found an old bottle of Clonazepam and popped an expired pill, trying to convince myself that it still had some potency. And I started to meditate. Concentrated on my breath. In. Out. In. Out. Bring my thoughts away from death. I’m Ok. I can breathe. I can breathe.
Since that night, the panic has not left me. It pops up at what seems like random times. Bedtime is worst. And with the anxiety has come depression, another old friend I have not seen in many years. It can render me immobile. It wants to be my only friend.
But I am wiser now. I know that I am not my anxiety and depression, as I once believed. In my 20’s, when depression had its greatest hold on me, I made the choice to seek help. I learned to recognize the lies that depression tells, even when I’m in the middle of it.
So most days, I feel like these two have returned to teach me something, to move me along on my journey. I try to sit with them, without judgement. I try to be patient. I try not to be afraid. And when the shame creeps in, I try to recognize its lie. Most of the time I succeed.
I also felt that I shouldn’t write about it. Shouldn’t admit it publically. Why? Because I don’t want to be a downer. Don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Or judge me. Don’t want the people I care about to turn their backs on me. Even though I know I am loved unconditionally. Even though.
But my blog is about acceptance of all of our bits, not just the bright, shiny ones. And these bits have been a part of my life much longer than the bright shiny ones have. So the time has come to share.
For the last few months, I have been trying to put into words what anxiety feels like to me. The following words have been showing up in my meditations, urging me to write them down. I had no intention of ever publishing them. They feel too extreme. Too dramatic. But here I am, doing it anyway, because these deaths touched something in me. Because I want others who feel the same to know they are not alone. And because they are also true.
For such a fear-filled woman, I sometimes wonder at my fearlessness.
There is an ocean
With calm, blue waters, and pennies of sunlight on the surface
I dance in the shallows, laughing
But at the edge of my sight is a drop-off
A Marianas Trench
Filled with darkness and creatures unseen
I swim at the edge, afraid of being pulled under
Afraid of being swallowed whole
I tread water, waiting for the tide to carry me safely to shore
And I breathe
There is a mountain
With a winding path that leads upward
And the view is dizzying in its magnificence
But the path can be steep
I hang on to a blade of grass
A shallow ledge
Through the long night, I hold on
Waiting for the sunlight
To lead me to safety
And I breathe
I breathe in love and light and beauty.
I breathe in prayers, and hope and surrender.
I keep death at bay
With my breath