I woke up today and realized it’s #BellLetsTalk Day.
So I figured, it only seems fitting that after waking up from a night where I spent an hour in a panic talking to a West-coast friend to calm me down, that I do talk.
It’s time. For real.
Right off the bat, I have to admit, it feels weird to be writing this because I can’t help but wonder if people will look at me and think, “Why would you of all people have anxiety?”
I’m often told I have such an optimistic or happy-go-with-the-flow-personality that it almost seems strange someone like me could be this panic ridden.
But I am.
And I can’t help it.
Since the summer of 2019, I have struggled with the strange sense of fear, panic, and dread on a day to day basis.
From running to the ER from my apartment one morning where I couldn’t stop crying to the nurses on duty; to waking up at 2 am in the Dominican where I crawled into my parents’ hotel room so I could feel some comfort as I curled up against my mother; to crying many nights to whichever of my Facebook friends or cousins was online in the dead of night, I have faced my fair share of paralyzing fear.
Some nights I wake up thinking I can’t breathe.
And most nights I can’t help but ask: why now and why me?
For the first time in four years, I am at a job I love, without the constant fear of financial instability.
For the first time in a long time, I am emotionally in a good place.
But for the first time in my life, I find myself struggling some days to get out of the comfort of my bed.
Most days it doesn’t make sense to me.
Other days it does.
For those who know me, you know how much my grandmother’s death affected my life.
In a lot of ways she was one of my strongest confidants, the person I knew I could go to for anything and everything (for the most part, there were some things my Lola didn’t need to know).
And almost two years later, I’ve only slowly come to accept that the trauma surrounding her death—being in the room when we pulled life support, burying her the day before my birthday, losing my job weeks later, and not having her there (as she always was) to hold me through it—is finally coming to light.
I once wrote: Something happens when you watch someone you love die.
I just didn’t realize, until now, that ‘something’ would be mentally in me.
When you’re stuck working a minimum wage job for a summer while scrambling to find a full-time job in your field because you need to figure out how to pay rent since you just moved out, fight or flight truly does kick in.
You don’t really get time to stop and think.
That is, until you finally do.
That is, until you finally have no distractions and you’re faced with the scars and fears of death and uncertainty that manifested from that point in your life.
That is, until you realize how saddening and maddening the world can be one month into the new decade and you’re forced to face your triggers daily.
I am not okay—and I’m writing this because I didn’t think I was allowed to be.
In most areas of my life I am blessed, I am more than okay.
But I’m also not.
Most times, I go through my day feeling fine, healthy, and strong.
Then other days, I feel the walls close in on me as I stress about the current state of my health (maybe I’ll talk about that another day).
Other days I’m in a grocery store feeling like I have no control over my body.
And once in a while, I’m hanging out with childhood friends watching TV, lifting my legs up against a fridge as I lie on the floor to slow down my heart rate.
The most reassuring thing about being on such an anxiety-ridden journey is discovering you really aren’t alone.
While I often find myself apologizing to people for pouring my feelings and fears out to them, they often shake their head and tell me to stop.
That I shouldn’t have to feel sorry, as they hold my hand.
That it’s okay, as they try to make me laugh.
That I need to just breathe, as they look me dead in the eyes.
“Just breathe,” they repeat, over and over and over again. “Take a deep breath and breathe.”
I don’t know when I will be fully okay or if I ever will be.
But, for now it begins with breathing.
And slowly but surely, I’m learning to start to know how.