Friday, April 30, 2010


There have been times in my life when I've teetered on the edge of craziness, sure I'd topple over and completely lose my mind. I've had that fear since I was little, sometimes talking myself back into my body during exceptionally existential moments of not knowing who I was. At the time I had no idea I was just having a moment of looking at the bigger cosmic picture, I was sure I was following in the footsteps of relatives who had lost themselves in mental issues. I had an aunt who didn't leave her apartment for years, who maintained strict rules that things coming into her apartment became hers. My mother lost many lovely serving dishes that way until she resorted to disposable when bringing dessert. By the time one of my grandmothers died, she was basically a hermit, cutting off every single family member one by one. At one point, before contact was severed, she sent me hate postcards, calling me spawn of the devil and various other nasty names. I was 18 or so at the time and have blocked most of them out. 

I also had anxiety attacks, only I had no idea what they were. I was too petrified to tell anyone, so when my heart was straining out of my chest, when I couldn't catch my breath, when my mind was spinning so fast I couldn't pinpoint any thoughts but sheer panic, I curled myself into a ball until it passed. Or lost myself in endless books, to keep the fear at bay. I learned, silently, secretly, to avoid anything that made me nervous. I still don't ski, don't rollerblade, don't scale high heights.

I'm still terrified of losing control. Of microscopic cracks forming in my carefully constructed armor that will rip open so everything will crash and burn around me. Even after surviving an eating disorder and bouts of anxiety that had me too scared to get up and function, I still feel that icy hand occasionally stroking my spine. Anxiety makes me hunch over slightly, as if to help myself hold everything together. I wear more muted clothes, I cut myself off from people, I stay far away from new experiences that could possibly set something off. Stress brings it bubbling back just below the surface and, sadly, that's unavoidable. As is the genetic component. Anxiety runs through women in my family, sometimes quietly minding its own business, at others it floods its banks, destroying everything in its path. 

When anxiety is raging, it's hard to know there's calm on the other side. 

It's hard to hold onto the fact that everything will be ok in the end. 

That's one of my mantras: everything is fine. That, and this is only temporary

Those words are my lifelines when anxiety traps me in the corner and I don't see, believe, know there's a way out.

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