I remember the time I almost went mad in the middle of a beautiful day.
Everything went quiet, as if my brain was busy spinning the sounds into a dull series of thuds whose trespass became increasingly indecipherable to me. Simple conversations required a herculean effort. Words became pin pricks, sentences became wildly rampaging herds.
As far as anxiety attacks go, this fucker was ambitious, It went on this way for several hours with no real let up. There were ebbs, but it was mostly just a long and rolling flow of my heart beating out of my chest, my legs shaking as I walked, sweating as if I’d just gone for a run and shallow breathing.
I was working, which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been home alone. So there I was, going just a little bit insane, in the middle of a beautiful day.
And nobody saw a thing.
That was my last serious anxiety attack, and it’s been three years since that day. Almost. I say this with a cautious respect for the goings on inside my brain. Because I know how things can change, in an instant. I know how a beautiful day can turn into a struggle not to drown. I am humbled, but I am also hopeful. Both.
When you learn yourself, truly learn yourself . . that’s when you grow. You can’t lie about it though. There’s no cheating to the process, hells no. You have to be bluntly honest in your appraisal. And then you have to do one of the hardest things known to man, woman and sometimes beast. It’s called acceptance. This is the sticky part of the label for a lot of peeps, because they confuse acceptance with resignation. And lemme tell you, the one ain’t the other. Being resigned to something is like wearing concrete boots, whereas accepting something is akin to running barefoot in a meadow. One is limiting, the other limitless.
You become you when you begin to see the character in your warts and the medals in your scars. You will find there is an extraordinary quality to just being who you are. You’ll find that your spirit becomes the same thing as water in that it finds a way. It’s all about moving in the direction of that little voice inside you; the sensible sounding voice . . not the one who sounds just like Keith Richards.
I find Zen in the passionate embrace of words, being there for a friend in need and volunteering my time to a cause I love. I find rhythm in a smile and a laugh and a kiss. I find music in the warble of restaurant conversations whose waves crash robustly on top of each other before dying in the mysterious foam. I find peace in climbing rock walls, long runs and carving black diamonds.
The flip side is a low down dirty shame who has ridden off into many a tenuously sublime sunset. I’ve laughed with the sinners when I didn’t feel like crying with the saints no more. Because the truth of it is, for every positive and healthy choice I’ve made over the course of my life, I’ve followed through on some really bad ideas. I somehow managed to survive catastrophes of all shapes and sizes and flavors.
So that’s the thing right there. To not hold it against myself just because my cerebral cortex has been sweet talked into just as many bad ideas as good ones. Being true to yourself is a diet for the soul. It demands that you be accountable, disciplined and infinitely patient. When you rise up, be grateful. When you fall, learn from it.
Understand yourself as that old Tennessee Williams quote that goes, If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels. I remember that one every time I think back to that beautiful day, three years ago.