“I want to swim away but don’t know how
Sometimes it feels just like I’m falling in the ocean
Let the waves up take me down
Let the hurricane set in motion”
– Blue October
That’s what it feels like to me.
Like if I’m drowning, holding my breath, with my eyes wide open looking at the surface above me.
My lungs feel as if they’re about the burst from holding my breath for so long.
My arms and legs are weak from trying.
Trying to break the surface into the light of fresh air.
But I never can mange it.
I never manage to break the surface.
I just stay right beneath it, being teased by what I could have if I just fight a little harder.
That’s what I think about a lot.
I could fight harder.
I always think that my best is not my best or there’s something stopping me from giving it my all.
That maybe, on some level, I like feeling this way.
I like where I am.
Maybe I’m not fighting hard enough because I don’t want it to change.
Those are just some of the negative thoughts I have to quell down when it hits.
The fun part?
I never know how or when it’s gonna hit.
Sometimes it comes in waves.
Sometimes it’s all at once.
Sometimes it’s when I go out.
Sometimes it’s when I stay home.
It’s always like surprise muhfucker.
Here I am.
Honestly, I don’t know what’s worse; my period surprising me or my anxiety.
That’s a joke.
A sick one too, because there’s no comparison between the two really.
Everyone has a voice in their head.
Sometimes it’s multiple.
When you have anxiety, it can be multiple.
There’s one voice telling you to fight.
There’s another one telling you you’re not fighting hard enough
There’s one telling you to just give up, just lay in your bed all day and hide from the world.
Then there’s another one telling you what you have to do.
That’s the one I most often listen to.
Simply because it seems the sanest.
It tells me when to smile.
That my hair’s blowing in my face, and instead of letting it happen I should get up and look for a hair clip.
It’s the one that reminds me that even though the wave has hit, I’m in the gym and I should probably finish my set.
It’s the one that tells me that even though I just wanna run home and hide, that I can complete this work out.
It’s the one that tells me that I don’t have to go has hard as I usually do and that any little effort still matters.
It’s not as loud as the others.
But sometimes it’s the one that gets me through the day intact.
And getting through the day when you feel like this should be considered a huge accomplishment.
But no-one really sees that, do they?
No one sees it to tell us good job. Or congratulations. Or I’m proud of you.
One voice says it’s my own fault for that.
I’ve never told anyone.
Or if I did it’s in a way that’s easily brushed off.
So how can anyone take me seriously when half the time I don’t take it seriously?
Maybe it’s because I think I can do it on my own.
Maybe it’s because I don’t want to burden anyone else.
Or maybe it’s because I can barely articulate it sometimes.
Describing it all to another person in the moment.
Telling them that sometimes I can’t sleep, not even if I take melatonin.
Apparently my anxiety is stronger than that.
Telling them that I wake up in cold sweats, trying to figure out if I had a nightmare or this is my body telling me that today’s gonna be one of those days.
I mean really though, how do you tell someone that for most of the day you have this uneasy queasy feeling in your stomach.
A feeling that today’s just gonna go bad.
That you’re not gonna be good.
That you’re not gonna be good enough.
Even me describing it doesn’t give it justice to the actual feeling.
Sometimes when we feel those brave bursts, and attempt to say it out loud; it all sound so crazy to our own ears we just shut up before we even finish.
Because if it sounds crazy to us, God alone knows how it sounds to another person.
So then we clam up.
We tell them that it was nothing.
We fake a laugh.
We force a smile.
And we change the topic.
And the person lets us.
And we’re a little disappointed.
Because there’s a part of us that wanted them to press, to ask more.
To try a little harder, because in our head that shows they care.
Or they’re ‘worthy’ of being told the jumble that’s going on in our heads and in our bodies.
We use their lack of pushing us for more, as further reasons why we can do it on our own.
We make that our resolve.
We get stubborn.
I’m saying that cause it’s how I’ve felt countless times.
I’ve clammed up.
I’ve even pushed people away because I wanted to be alone.
I thought I could do it alone.
You see, that’s how I was raised.
That there are just certain things you just don’t talk about, or things that aren’t real or valid.
I remember asking my mom to see a therapist once.
I was a teenager, and I realised that I was confused by what I felt.
I didn’t understand it.
I wanted to understand it.
I wanted to learn how to not feel it.
I wanted to know if I would always feel it, or if it was just another teenage phase.
I wanted to know how to navigate feeling like that.
I wanted to learn how to cope with it.
My mom’s response?
I don’t think you do, you can’t feel like that.
It’s just stress at school.
You’d be fine.
So I let it go.
Turns out, it’s not just stress at school.
Because even when I was on vacation I felt it.
Felt the waves of panic.
Felt my pulse quicken.
Felt the need to want to disappear.
Felt myself zoning out and acting robotically.
Acting the way I was supposed to.
Doing what was expected of me.
As I grew up, I tried again to talk to my mom.
Granted the conversation began after I called her in hysteric tears after finding out the guy I was dating was cheating on me.
But nevertheless a conversation was started.
Was it too late?
I often wondered that, but then I realised there’s no such thing.
Sometimes, it happens just when you need it to.
My mom didn’t understand my feelings, and she didn’t offer to take me to therapy, but she was there when I needed her.
Even if it was at 3am when I was crying over a final I thought I was gonna fail.
She was always there.
She always listened.
She even gave valuable advice, and not just the generic, “you’re gonna be okay”.
You see, my mom expresses love differently.
It’s how she was raised, I understand that.
It’s not the traditional “I love yous”.
It’s more, “If you fail the exam, that’s okay – you can repeat it”
“If you want to come home at any time let me know, and a ticket would be booked”
“If you want to stay home instead of going out it’s okay”
“You don’t have to come out of your room and interact with family, I’ll tell them you’re studying”
“I bought you strawberries, I know they’re your favourite”
“We can have Chinese tonight for dinner”
In her own little ways she was doing what she thought she could to make me feel better.
And more often than not it worked.
Even when it didn’t work it was a distraction.
It quieted the noise.
It made me feel less alone.
And that’s all that’s needed on occasion.
For the noise to quiet.
For you to breathe, and almost let yourself relax.
Because of that, sometimes when I feel like I’m drowning.
I use people as my life boat.
But then I realise that I’ve made it worse.
I’m surrounded by people, willing them to save me – but they don’t.
I’ll be in a crowed room and feel like it’s closing in on me.
I’ll feel as though I’m screaming at the top of my lungs although no sounds is coming out.
I’ll stare at a spot on the wall and zone out, willing the time to fly by so I can escape the situation.
Escape the situation I put myself in.
You see, what I’m getting at is that it’s not the people per say.
It’s who they are.
People can’t help you if you don’t want to be helped, and if you don’t tell them how you can be helped.
They won’t know how.
The first thing really is starting the conversation.
Starting it with someone you feel safe with.
No bad juju.
For some it’s a friend.
A favourite cousin.
You just have to find your person.
And when you do, sometimes it’s their little effort alone that will make you feel better.
Sometimes they’ll know exactly what to say or do.
Sometimes they won’t, and you’d want to lash out at them.
But you shouldn’t.
Because like you, they’re just figuring it out.
Sometimes they’ll make all the noise stop.
Sometimes they’ll pull you to the surface of the water, allowing you to breathe.
Sometimes they just get you to feel better about yourself.
Each time it’ll be different.
Each time is a new experience.
Each time is a learning opportunity.
And once they’re there?
Each time is one less time you have to do it alone.