We haven’t known each other forever, but we know each other well. We met a few years ago. I remember my first panic attack like it was yesterday. What I thought was a stroke was actually the result of a few things related to you that I’d never felt before—numb and tingly limbs, pounding chest, joints so stiff they wouldn’t move, hyperventilation, and the most paralyzing fear. You came and you went, but I knew after that I wouldn’t ever be the same.
In my family, talking about you is kind of like talking about the weather. You exist as long as we exist. Just like we’re predisposed to having a certain body type, my family is genetically coded to struggle with you at some point in our lives. And probably depression, too. My dad has known you on all levels, including being hit by you at your worst even when nothing at all feels wrong in life. My grandma is a constant worrier. My mom likely deals with you daily, but hides it well. My sister and I talk about you like a leaky kitchen faucet.
“How is it today?”
“It’s annoying. I’m fine, but it sucks.”
I used to be the lucky one. I was the one that escaped you to some degree. I’ve known my fair share of stress but wow, you are so much greater than that. Being “stressed out” on some level was normal for me, but it had yet to escape my mind and find a home in my body.
Now you manifest in me physically. And it hurts. It literally hurts. You make my heart beat like I just fell in love but with none of the same excitement. You make me wake up with a chest so tight I can’t fully inhale. You make my stomach twist into knots. You make my heart burn, my mind race, my palms sweat. And the latest thing you did was make me sick with what I assumed was a virus or the flu. Fever, aches, weakness. It felt like never-ending fatigue. I had never felt so damn tired. You made my body so tense and wound up and in straight up over-drive that my immune system couldn’t keep up. My body conked out on me.
You’ve show me raw. You’ve shown me real. You’ve shown me human. You’ve shown me hopelessness and sadness and a vulnerability that changed me at my core. And for that, I am thankful.
I’m working on finding the beauty in the bad. I need to understand the blessing that you are to me because frankly, I don’t know how I’d get through you if I didn’t embrace that perspective. (Reading this book helped). So while this may seem more like a hate letter, I assure you it isn’t.
I appreciate that you challenge me. You ground me. You’re the low to my high but you make those highs feel so precious. You keep me in this messy middle space and most importantly you make me love and appreciate the fragility of my heart and my emotions. I am not a super human. I am meant to fall down and get back up again. You remind me that I’m not God, that I need to stop, feel my feelings, accept hardship, breathe deeper, savor the slowness of life, and just be.
The most extraordinary thing you have taught me, you have forced me, is to be.
Because the only way I could breathe normally last week without it hurting my lungs at the top of my breathe was to pause. To let go. To stop being un-selfish when what I needed most was to be totally selfish. And you knew that.
You’re one of the only things on Earth that makes me stop doing, and you use that to your advantage. I was able to think a lot when I was sitting on the couch all day. I’m working on listening more to my mind so things don’t manifest into what they did last week. I’m working on knowing myself at my core, on accepting that life is bliss and beauty and fear and misery all rolled into one and that there’s greatness and necessity in that balance. You and the universe have an interesting thing going on here.
Because of you, I’m consciously working not on being one thing or another, not on being more productive or organized or efficient or wise, but just being.
I couldn’t be without you. And for that, I am grateful.