So, I sat down to write my entry tonight and a lot of emotions showed up to help. I’ve always felt sarcasm deserved its own font, so for my purposes italics will work.
Often times the first, and most loud, emotion for me is scared. I am scared to write about how scared I am. And, to be perfectly honest, no idea which fear I should even start with. So, I am going to start with my first memory of the feeling of scared…
I was between 8 and 10 years of age. I smiled all the time. I had the roundest face with fat, squeeze-worthy cheeks and that big smile. My grandma, let’s call her Pam, had taken my cousin and I to the mall for something. I do not recall the reason we went because the most exciting thing happened: she bought us huge cookie treats from the cookie cake store in the food court. It was so special to me, not only because it was food, but because she didn’t buy me things. She gave me money at Christmas and maybe my birthday, but she never just gave me anything. So, I cherished this huge cookie filled with frosting and the feeling that Pam really did like me. The cookie was so huge, I didn’t finish it and was so proud to bring home my gift. I remember my Mom even being surprised about the cookie gift and seemed as thankful as I was. We both smiled.
I was awoken that night, abruptly, sweating and choking. My nose was full of something making it impossible to breathe. My body is shaking and I can not speak or move quickly enough before vomit forces its way out of my nose and mouth with a vengence. I can only gasp as I roll over to try and move. My body will not move. I am no longer physically ill. The vomit did choke me but I was now breathing. However, I was only breathing because I was telling myself to breathe. Fear had completely paralyzed me. My stomach wrenched. I couldn’t scream out for my mom, who was only one room away. And, I remember the first feeling of what I will be told ten years later is, anxiety. It is the loneliest of feelings. It is fear and terror with nothing scary to point at to explain the fear. Me and fear. Hanging off my bed. Lying in my special, regurgetated cookie that I’d once treasured. Immoble. Repeating to myself; just breathe.
My Mom came to me, I guess it was instinct, or maybe I was louder than I realized. She helps me out of bed and expects me to walk to the bathroom. I am old enough to know I have to get cleaned up, but I can not. I fear moving will make it happen again. I am stuck. She calls my Dad in who gets me to the bathroom and cleans me up, I am sure just assuming I have a virus or bug causing me to be lethargic. But, I was no longer sick. This was something different. This was awful and uncertain and downright debilitating. This is the first anxiety attack I ever experienced, and I did not know the words or understand any way to tell my parents what I was feeling.
Just breathe. It’s all my 9 year old self could do to combat a feeling of drowning in your own emotional quicksand, surrounded by people who care for you and would immediately pull you out of the quicksand–if they could see it.
Thirty years later, roughly, and I am still using ‘ just breathe’ to get through life. Part of me is very proud of my 9 year old self for coming up with a mantra without even knowing what I was doing. And, other parts of me are so bummed that I am still plagued by feelings that started at 9 years old.