I set a timer for 40 minutes to write this blog post. Together, you and I are going to see what happens.
.......(30 minutes go by).....
I’m two sentences in with 15 minutes to go. The last 30 minutes have been filled with the stops and starts and the half phrases I talked about last week. But if I were to surrender to honesty right now, in this moment, and speak freely about what’s on my mind- it’s everything.
Everything is on my mind. All at once. Split your television screen into 25 smaller screens - and then 25 more. Play 25 different movies with 25 different themes.
This is my mind.
I don’t talk often about the anxiety that accompanies my depression - but that's really what's happening. I set a timer today, deciding to surrender and write whatever came to mind.
Today I am anxious. I'm often anxious.
My first anxiety attack happened during my first semester of college. The onset was slow - I sat with new friends, eating dinner in the cafeteria, talking about classes, professors, and weekend plans. As the conversation went on, I became aware of a tingling sensation in my skin. I was concentrating to catch each breath.
We walked back to the dorm and I went to my room. I had no t.v., I had no computer, I had nothing but my stereo to distract me and it wasn’t working. I went downstairs to the lounge and turned on the t.v. There was an episode of Cagney and Lacy playing and I tried to follow the plot, tried to immerse myself in the story.
The ice was pouring through my veins. Slow and cold and winding its frigid way through my body. Every breath was a struggle to catch and each time I was able to take a deep breath, I worried I wouldn’t catch the next. As my panic hit its peak, I finally knocked on the door of my resident advisor.
“I don’t feel right,” I said.
Eventually, the “episode” was attributed to a medication I took for my heart arrhythmia - a side effect - and so the medication was changed. But when my dad called later that week to check on me, he did something that I hadn’t realized I needed.
He named my experience.
“I had an anxiety attack once,” he said. “They’re no fun.”
I don’t know what I said to him in that moment. But I know it was the first time, despite my having had times on and off throughout high school where I struggled to catch my breath, that I realized what was truly happening for me. I was battling anxiety.
It might sound small - but what my dad really did for me that day (and the best thing I can tell you about my dad is that if you want to know how the moon got there, he hung it) was give me words for my struggle. And those words gave me some direction.
While it took me years before I would really treat my struggle, my dad cracked the seed of my understanding a little bit that day. And even more so, in that conversation, gave me an even greater gift. He let me know that he shared my struggle.
"I had an anxiety attack once."
Experiences like that are scary and unnerving and make you feel incredibly vulnerable - and alone. And sometimes, a gesture as small as naming the struggle, and knowing that you are not alone in your struggle, can be the first giant step towards healing.