I’m a big believer in dropping expectations. I don’t do it very well myself, but I think the concept is fantastic.
I have anxiety. And though it took me a while, I have come to accept it as a part of me. I don’t believe it will ever truly go away, not fully anyway. But there were times during the early years of living with it that I begged for it to go away. I wanted someone to hand me a cure, so I could move on with my life and stop being so scared of all things mundane.
And then, one day, I realized that I couldn’t be cured. Because my anxiety is a part of me and as real as the heart inside my chest. Remove the heart, and you die.
I experience anxiety in many different forms. Tremors. Panic attacks. Depression. Apathy. Butterflies. Tears. And then there’s my little friend, I call SAD. Or Stupid Ass Depersonlization.
I first met Depersonalization one night after accidentally smoking too much, how do you say, cannabis. Ironically, I had made it through both high school and college without smoking a single joint. I do it one time, and I have the worst panic attack of my life. They don’t warn people about this stuff… If only they did, because it would have saved me six months of emotionaly turmoil. Yes, six months.
About a month after my weed experience, I began to notice an unease. Nothing felt particularly real anymore. I couldn’t connect with anything around me, even the people. Even my family. I’d look out my window and felt like the apartments across the street were a backdrop on a stage. Two dimensional almost. I remember staring at an almond, focusing on the lines running up and down, wondering how in the world almonds could exist on the same planet as me. Then I freaked out. And my mom told me to stop eating almonds for the time eating. But these things kept happening. I couldn’t think without wondering who was thinking for me. I had been dropped onto a planet I’d never been on before. I couldn’t go to work; I went home for a week to live with my parents.
I finally started feeling better after I discovered the term “depersonalization” online and how cannibis can cause it, but boy, was I in for a hard six months? My symptoms followed me, making me feel like two people, reminding me how broken I was. I regretted my decision. I felt like a virgin who had sex for the first time and acquired HIV. I had gone on an active duty military tour and come back with PTSD without ever putting on a uniform. It wasn’t fair, I conceded.
And then, after days of working with a therapist, reading happiness books, and centering my mind, I began to pull myself out off that dark place. And between October and November, I hadn’t once felt the sting of SAD (Stupid Ass Depersonalization, in case you forgot). I was on the road to a full recovery. But I tried not to assume I had been cured. Because I wasn’t.
Last night, on the couch with my mom, as I was crying about becoming an adult and leaving the security of childhood behind, I felt one half of my mind slip away, behind the glossy veil to hide from the world. See, the thing with SAD is… one half of your brain ostriches to avoid all things evil in the world and the other half of your brain is fully aware that there is nothing at all scary about my family’s living room. And that dissociation causes anxiety. Ironically, this is a defense mechanism. A pretty shitty one, though, amIright? Still, aren’t most defense mechanisms? I TURN MY NOSE AT YOU, DENIAL!
But, as I lay there with my mom, I didn’t let myself panic and doom myself to insanity. OH GOD IT’S BACK!!!! THAT’S IT! IT’S OVER! IT’S OVER FOR US ALL! No, I took a deep breathe and calmly coaxed and glued my brain back together. I assured it that everything would be okay, that even though life seems hard right now, there is nothing we need to do right now other than lay on this couch and cry into mom’s lap. Like my mom always says, just do what’s next. And crying was what’s next.
After about an hour, I felt whole again. And everything was okay. And when SAD knocks on the door again, I won’t scream at it to go away. Instead, I’ll tell it that we’re all good here; but thanks for checking in.
Lesson learned: Be kind to your mind, and don’t expect to ever be cured of anything. That’s just setting yourself up for disappointment.
We are all broken people, and that’s okay.