It’s been more than three months, and it still makes my heart beat faster and my pulse quicken; it is not an eventually-formed-fond memory like driving in Wales became and I’m not sure that it ever will be. It is anxiety driven, terror induced shakes.
I don’t know what led to my being so upset. It was probably a perfect storm of events that lined up in a row just so, and I was too busy putting off my anxiety to notice that it was creeping back up on me. It took more than three weeks after to finally reach a semblance of normal anxiety, and then it crept back up into a bad place again. It did slowly come back down, but it was not easy, and it is especially never easy when I’m hyperaware of what is going on inside my head and my emotions and my emotional state, and my best friend is busy, and I can’t afford therapy sooner than every three to four weeks. This could easily turn into an essay on the health care system and money, but I will stick with the breakdown; my collapse; my I-really-don’t-know-what-to-call-it other than badbadbadbad.
There was the misunderstanding between my best friend and myself that we didn’t even realize until a week later. We were answering questions not asked and it was a complete disaster on both our ends.
There was the misunderstanding about my travel plans and a delay that wasn’t a delay that set off a series of hysterical tears.
There were people making plans around me for me and I couldn’t express my disagreement without sounding like a bratty child until finally I broke.
And boy did I break.
I always listen.
I never argue.
My mantra is usually, “Okay, what do you need?” or something similar.
I accept. I do what I should. I do what’s expected. I’m reasonable.
I talk myself out of things constantly to do what works for everyone else.
It wasn’t until I began shouting at the phone, “YOU’RE NOT LISTENING TO ME! THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU! I CAN’T! I CAN’T DO IT TONIGHT! I will do it tomorrow. I can do it tomorrow,” and it was clear there was something more than me being difficult. I was crying and doing that hiccupping thing that you do when you’re five and can’t stop crying, and there was a kind of stunned silence on the other end as the scope of what I was feeling was expressed so overwhelmingly.
Another arrangement was made.
I didn’t like the new arrangement. It put too many people out, but I would accept it. What else could I do? It was a sensible solution and I could handle it I told myself.
Anyway, it didn’t matter; I would handle it. I would be as reasonable as the solution.
By the time I arrived I was alternating between being numb and being upset, and nearly always on the verge of tears. There was another new plan, but I didn’t care. I was too numb to care at this point. I knew I would be taken care of and I didn’t care about anything else.
I was on edge and every look, every whisper, every motion out of eyeshot made me startle. I was afraid to speak. I didn’t know whether to apologize or hide in the bathroom or shout at the world. I stayed quiet, fearful that so many of my friends were angry with me. It was so hard; I felt as though I were being watched and judged, and for the most part that probably wasn’t true, but it was not an easy feeling trying to deal with my own emotional breakdown – and what else could this be? – and worrying about what others were thinking and knowing how I’d failed at getting along and just doing what I was supposed to.
I had held it together all week, and on this last day, I couldn’t hold it together, not even for just a few more hours. I wished I could just suck it up and do the one thing I was asked to do.
And I truly couldn’t do it. It was such a simple thing. I’d been doing it for twenty-five years, and I couldn’t make myself do it now. This was the one thing, the final straw, and it was too much, and even I didn’t know that until something inside took over my voice earlier in the evening. I didn’t think I’d ever fallen apart like this, certainly not with so many hearing and knowing and assuming things, and I was embarrassed as much as anything else.
The one person I was afraid to see smiled at me. It was the kind, tired look of it’s-going-to-be-alright-I-promise, and for a second I thought they were mad at me, but it didn’t matter. We’d be okay; if not today then another day, but that look was the first quasi-hug of comfort until they crossed the room and hugged me tightly with that comforting feeling of never letting go. How I didn’t begin to cry, I honestly don’t know. I was hugged tightly and I buried my face in their shoulder and neck and I held on as if my life depended on it, and in that moment it did.
There were more hugs and hand holds, and shoulders squeezed and smiles to keep me going until the next time which would be who knows when, but it was okay.
I would be okay.
There was a solution, and people were taking care of me and that was what I needed.
I love my friends. Without them, I am nothing. We are all a reflection of one another. We reflect and complement and we fit like puzzle pieces on an enormous board and when they’re not around or available, it takes a toll. I get more paranoid, I get more sensitive, I feel like no one likes me anymore, that I can’t ask for what I need, and the more I stretch out, the further away they are, and I can’t touch them and then I’m falling.
I’ve always likened depression and anxiety to alcoholism. It never truly goes away, no matter how many drugs, how many therapy sessions – it is always there somewhere, and we cope. And sometimes, we have relapses, and we need a reminder of why it’s important to be aware of our mental state, our mental health, and we check in with our sponsor, the one person who’s been there and who we trust to guide us out of the darkness, who always has what we need.
At the same time that we are being led out of the darkness, sometimes we are called upon to be someone else’s sponsor and lead someone else to their light. It doesn’t mean that we’re perfect or that we’re ‘cured’, but it means that we are all on our journeys and when we intersect, we need to look both ways and help each other cross the road.
We have that hand in the dark to hold, the whisper in our ear, and ultimately it will be all right.