I am beyond excited to be back and writing on this blog! It has been almost three years since I wrote. I had stopped writing because my story took a very unexpected turn. I had been sharing about my recovering from severe anxiety, but what I didn’t realize was the story I was sharing was not my own. I have been going back and forth about sharing this part of my recovery, but this is not something you keep quiet.
I am so overwhelmed with joy to share what has been happening in my life for the past three years, but before I do that I would love to go back and share something else. If you have been here before I want to remind you of my struggles with anxiety. If you are new here, this story will give you a glimpse into my past, and then you can feel free to read through some old posts to get a bigger picture. The story I want to share with you today is one I shared with a group of women in September of 2017.
This story takes place in the fall of 2002
It is a Friday evening and the sun is beginning to set. I have spent most of the day puttering around my house trying to keep myself busy. I don’t really have anything to do right now, which stresses me out. I need to keep busy. I was off from work and I don’t have classes on Friday’s, so today was spent in a desperate attempt to fill my time. I use to love having the day off to do the things that I wanted and enjoyed, but having all this time to myself frightens me. I’m scared and yet I don’t know what I’m scared of. I have a terrible feeling that something awful is going to happen, but what? Could this feeling be a warning of something that is really about to happen? I have heard about people who have feared something bad happening right before it really did. That could be what’s going on right now.
I am startled by my mom who has quietly walked into the room and my heart immediately starts racing. She is completely unaware of the battle waging inside of my head at the moment. My mind drifts off to an image of Nicole and my heart begins to hurt. I imagine her smile. Everyone always said she had a smile that could light up a room. That is just how I remember her. Fatigue takes over my mind as I force the beautiful image of Nicole away. I miss her so much.
My attention comes back to my mom. I start to feel angry at her and that makes me want to cry. I shouldn’t be angry at her. This is ridiculous. My mind begins to spiral out of control, and quickly my thoughts are interrupted as my mom asks me if I want to go to Applebee’s for dinner with the rest of my family. My heart quickens its rate again. Dinner, how could I possibly go out to a restaurant right now and have a good time? Is she serious right now? Can’t she just leave me alone, or better yet, can’t she save me? I catch a glimpse of my mom and I beg my mind to shut up for two seconds. My mom is looking at me with her kind eyes waiting for an answer. She is so sweet. I stare into her sweet eyes, the ones that have watched over me since I was a little baby, the ones that have looked at me with pure love, the ones that have laughed with me a thousand times. They are the eyes that have stared intently into mine so many times as I cried and needed her. Right now I need her. I need her to save me, save me from myself. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I don’t understand myself right now so I couldn’t dare ask for someone else to understand me, but I need her. I’m going crazy and I guess when you’re crazy, no one can save you.
As if nothing is wrong I smile back at my mom and tell her no thank you. I use the excuse that I don’t feel good and start to walk away.
Of course she won’t let me off that easy because we are a close family who loves being together. She will want me to be at dinner. She tells me that I have to eat and to come in my own car so I can just leave when I am done. I know she means well, but my anxiety is starting to build because the thought of going into a restaurant is so overwhelming. The lights, the noise, the people sitting around talking and laughing, as if everything is okay, I want no part of that right now. I again tell her no and that I really want to lie down. She looks at me sympathetically and tells me that she will bring me home something to eat.
I lie down on the brightly colored floral couch in the living room and turn the TV on. I jump from channel to channel hoping that something will quiet my thoughts. As I surf through the channels my skin begins to crawl and that bad feeling reminds me that it has not left me. I turn the volume up. I have to keep my mind distracted, distracted from itself.
The rest of the house is noisy as always. I have three sisters, so for a family of six there is always something going on in our house. People are always coming and going. On a daily basis there is homework being done, boyfriends being talked about, a bathroom being fought over, clothes disappearing and most often a lot of laughter circulating throughout our home. Just out our back door we have horses that beautifully roam their paddocks and keep my mom and two sisters, Nicole and Christine, happily occupied. We are a busy house and that never bothered me until my mind became so loud. I don’t want everyone to go away; I just want the house to be quiet and calm, just long enough for me to think.
Christine walks into the room and sits on top of my legs. She is the youngest of our family; younger than me by 3 ½ years and no matter what she will always be my baby sister, even if she is 16. Her personality most closely resembles mine, and for this reason she and I have always gotten along perfectly. We get each other’s sense of humor; at least she got mine when I was funny. I am far from funny these days. I love being around her, even when I feel the worst, because she reminds me of who I use to be. I use to be fun and carefree. I use to be happy.
I lie there wishing I could be more like Christine when she tells me that she’s upset I’m not coming to dinner. Here we go again. Can I just be left alone? I don’t want to go out to eat. What doesn’t everyone understand? I just want to lay here, alone, in the quiet and try and regain control of my brain. I say something ridiculous in an effort to be funny and it seems to work because Christine laughs and walks away.
I close my eyes and imagine myself at the restaurant. I picture myself sitting at the table with my family and I’m calm. It will be fun to spend time out with everyone. I’ll order that apple walnut salad that I love so much and I’ll have a good time. I can do it. I can be calm.
No, I can’t do it. My mind takes flight and my breathing becomes shallow. I’m scared again and I don’t know why. Something bad is going to happen. Maybe something bad is going to happen at the restaurant and I should be home. I should tell my family to stay home, but then I would sound crazy. They would look at me like I was some crazy person, and not the happy and carefree daughter and sister they know me as. A knot tightens in my chest and it hurts. It hurts to breathe. I have to calm myself down otherwise my breathing will get really bad.
My other sister Nicole walks into the room and tells me I should come to dinner. My breathing becomes even more shallow as I get more worked up by this dinner invitation. I can’t even breathe, let alone go out to eat. Nicole is just a year and a half younger than me and she has a super strong personality. She knows what she likes and doesn’t and stands strong in any decision she makes. She is a mix of pure beauty and attitude. I envy her in many ways and in between all of our head butting we have a great relationship. She doesn’t even give me time to answer and runs out of the room to grab her coat. Finally, my family is leaving. Everyone says goodbye to me only after asking me five more times if I’m sure I don’t want to come with them.
The door closes and silence immediately fills the large house, a silence that I have been waiting for, but now that it’s here I am panicked. I feel nervous as I try to convince myself that time alone will be good for me when without warning, an image of the knives in the kitchen flashes into my mind. They are the ones that come in that block you keep on your counter. There are all different size knives in that block and I am suddenly scared of them. I don’t know where this fear is coming from, but what if I do something with them? What if I hurt myself? What if I do something worse? Was this the bad thing that I was thinking would happen? The knot grows larger in my chest and I feel like I am going to throw up. I don’t know why I am thinking like this. Would I really hurt myself? I don’t know the answer to that question and because I can’t answer this panic pours through my body.
I change the channel and try to really concentrate on what I’m watching, but I can’t. My body is shaking and I have broken out into a sweat. I can’t get my mind off the knives. What if my family came home and found me, bleeding, dead? That last thought is terrifying and without even realizing it I have the phone in my hand and I’m dialing my boyfriend’s number. John answers the phone and I ask him to come over and take me to Applebee’s so I can have dinner with my family. All I tell John is that I am having a bad panic attack and within moments he is at my door and we are driving over down the block to the restaurant.
The car ride with John is a quiet one and I don’t dare speak of the thoughts that just ran through my mind. I think I am just tired and if I get a good night’s sleep I will feel better in the morning. This will all just be a memory and I can start fresh then. I am beginning to feel hopeful as I look at John. He is such a great guy. I am so lucky to have him. He has no idea that he’s dating a crazy person. If he knew what I was just thinking he would know that I am losing my mind and he would definitely leave me. I press my lips together tightly and hold my breath as if to keep my secrets inside. He looks over and smiles at me and my body calms down just ever so slightly. My mouth relaxes and I slowly exhale. I wiggle around in the passenger seat trying to get comfortable. My mind has slowed down, but this knot seems to have made a home in my chest.
When my family catches sight of me everyone smiles and yells in delight that I finally decided to join them. I smile back and quietly sit down. I order my apple walnut salad and try my best to enjoy it, but I can’t stop thinking about the knives back at my house and those awful thoughts that were racing through my head only moments before. I am still scared, but I am safe because I am with my family.
The rest of the night is uneventful and I promise over and over in my head that tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will feel back to my old self.