Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reaching Out Without Pulling Down

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It's funny where we find our strength and inspiration. One of my mantras comes a scene in Firefly, in the Heart of Gold episode, which is one of my favorites. Interestingly, the mantra comes from my least favorite scene. A young woman is giving birth, and nearly everything television and films fuck up about labor is there. But during a contraction Inara says to the laboring mother about her pain,
This is nothing. This is a moment in time. Step aside and let it happen.
That's nearly the exact opposite of what I needed to hear when I was in labor, but it gets me through panic attacks like magic. Almost magic. With Xanax and that mantra I think it qualifies as magic.

Every panic attack immediately spirals into a meta-panic attack, and I relive my worst moments where I felt weak and at the cold hard bottom of everything. I was twenty, just barely. I was in a city where no one knew me or looked me in the eye; They didn't smile or say hello to strangers on the street. I'd skip classes and call in to work and collapse in the floor or the couch and be nearly catatonic for hours. I couldn't move.

When the attacks of anxiety shook through the depression it was like earthquakes. I was terrified to be alone and so out of control. I would call my boyfriend and scare him so badly he'd leave work to come to our apartment and keep me... alive, probably? Safe, comforted. I only ever hurt myself once, taking too many pills but not anything like a lethal dose. One night as a psych inpatient, so my war stories tend to be less dramatic than most of my friends who've been through depression.

I'm thankful for that, but I've never really lost the feeling of being a burden on that dear young man back then. It worries me to distraction that I'll do that to Shane. It broke us up, that boy and me, and when have attacks I look back on the child/woman I was and I feel such contempt. I think I should feel compassion for that girl, but all I see is that I was weak and hate that so much. It's hard as hell to call Shane or a friend for help, because it feels like calling that boy and being so needy. So very weak.

I've never told that story. I don't like to think about how much I scared that sweet guy and our families. But now that I have survived so much loss and brought such new sweetness to the world there are reserves of strength inside here I couldn't have imagined when I was a fledgling woman. Even when I step aside and breathe through it, I can still see her and she terrifies me.

Molly asked me what scares me today, after I'd just gotten through the attack that inspired this. I laughed with her: Bunnies, zombies. But I was thinking, "Her. Me, age 20 or 21. On the phone, pulling someone else down to drown with me. That I'll be her again."

That is the most terrifying thing. Absolutely, when asked that question, my life at that time is the answer. I think now that I need to talk to that girl, to meditate or write to that young self and go full-on Mama on her. Wrap her up in a blanket and tell her she'll live through the chemistry and live to see real, unthinkable loss. Tell her she'll find someone who doesn't take care of her but tells her he sees in her the strength to get up off the floor. I'll tell her I learned to reach out without pulling down.


  1. If you can't walk, crawl. If you can't crawl, find someone who will carry you. I will always carry you, if you will never give up, my love.

    1. My darlin' Browncoat always knows what to say. I love my Cap'n. Aint fixin' ta give up anytime soon. But I DID get stabbed. Right HERE.

      (Yes, I use the stabby quote at least three months after every surgery.)

  2. His reply just made me tear the hell up. I've had this post "unread" like thirty times so I could remember to come back and reply. I love you. I adore you. I will always help carry you, too. (I think we can only pull ourselves down, not pull each other down...)

    1. Now YOUR reply made me teary. I am very lucky to have you both. <3