The interesting thing about panic is the way you are physically incapable of thinking. Friends will say, “Why don’t you just…..?”
On the surface, these suggestions are simple things. Obvious, even. When you want to go outside, you just… go outside, right?
When I am in crisis–as my therapy has termed such times–the simplicity of ‘go outside’ is broken into this overwhelming construct of shoulds, needs, have to, fear, anxiety, anger, disappointment. All of these negative things are focused inward, razor blades I’m using to cut up my self-esteem, motivation, drive, creativity, desire, hope, life.
Just do it. It’s one simple thing. Why can’t you do this one thing? You’re so useless. Your friend could do this. Your sister did this just fine and she had six other terrible things going on at the same time. You’re lazy. Stupid. Worthless. You can’t do anything right. You can’t even do anything at all. This is why no one likes you. You are unloveable. No one cares about you. You should just disappear. You deserve to die. You’re a waste of space, messing up everyone around you.
Each negative thought feeds upon the one before, and it feels so impossible to stop the avalanche, much less pull yourself to safety.
Biologically, you really can’t think. When your anxiety kicks in, your body goes into fight or flight mode, all of your blood is rushing to the places to help your survive. That’s your heart, your lungs, and the primal parts of your brain. Not your higher cognitive functions.
So when your friend says, “Just go outside”, you hear nothing but gibberish. You know the words mean something, you know that it’s a simple fix, but you can’t get your mind to tell you what the first step is. You can’t think to walk to the door, you can’t think to put your hand on the knob, to turn it. You can’t even remember how to walk, how to take even that first step.
You are filled with guilt, with fear, with anger at yourself. You don’t get angry at your friend for making it sound like it should be so easy… though you may want to. You don’t get angry at the world that tells you how weak you are for not having it all together, for doing it wrong. You don’t get angry at your family who have spent your whole life telling you to suck it up and pretend that you’re okay, don’t let others know how broken you are.
No. You are angry at yourself, you hate yourself, because you see yourself as useless, worthless, powerless.
Travellers. My dear friends. You are not useless. Your purpose may not be something showy or obvious. Your existence touches those around you, even complete strangers. I enjoy watching people and sometimes the very best part of my day is the way someone’s hair flows in the wind, or the smile on an unknown face, or the contemplative silence across the cafe.
You are not worthless. You are beautiful and worthy. You deserve love. You deserve joy. You deserve happiness, and smiles, and good things. Nothing you do could remove the fact that you are a person. No matter what you do, you do not deserve terrible things. You did not deserve for that awful thing to happen to you. You didn’t invite it. You didn’t cause it.
And you are not powerless. There are many things out of your control. That’s true of everyone. You can make small changes. And, no matter what anyone else says, you are in control of yourself. Your mind. Your heart. Who you are. Even if you cannot decide where you live, your job, what you eat, you own the power of who you are.
The path does not decide what sort of journey you are on. Travellers, we choose what we will learn from each step.