Some people can write through trauma. Can create through pain. Express through hardship.
I’ve been silent on here for over a year. We’ve all been in transition, these feelings are not singular to me. My case is not special. Or maybe it is. I’ve been remarkably fortunate during this pandemic; I’ve been healthy, clothed, fed, employed for a good amount of this year. Lucky.
I didn’t feel lucky in the Washington Dulles Airport on week ago. I was weeping, in a ball, huddled against a pillar next to the bathroom. I didn’t feel fortunate when I was unable to produce my boarding pass to the woman at the counter. My KN-95 mask taking on water, making it harder to breathe. She abandoned the request for my ticket, asking instead if I was able to produce my ID. I was unable. I stood there shaking, paralyzed. Panic attacking me from all sides. I couldn’t go back to New York. I convinced myself. I could not get on the plane. But I could not express this. I needed her to intuit my thoughts and feelings, because I could not. I was going under the water.
I’ve had panic attacks my whole life. Rather, I learned what they were and how to identify them in college, and then could recognize what had been going on my entire life. It took until I was 19 to bring the words anxiety, depression, panic and triggers into my vocabulary. In the past, so difficult, but now they sit like sugar cubes on my tongue. I know the mouthfeel of them, sweet as syrup, tasty until they turn bitter. I choke until I spit them out. It is my truth.
So as I sat inside a restaurant in New Orleans on Friday night, I felt that first taste of sweetness on my lips. I had travelled for work. My first time in a busy restaurant in a year. Triggers. Of course. Makes sense. Recognize. Take a drink. Such sweetness. Drink again. A notification on my phone. The airline telling me that my upcoming flights are full. I could change to an earlier time if I wanted. Take a drink. Sugar. I should go back early. To New York. To the city that doesn’t sleep. To the city where I can’t sleep. To the city that pisses on me, roughs me up. To the industry that is paralyzed, much like I will be in a few hours’ time. But I change the flight. I don’t sleep. I run in the night to the airport. To go back to where I have told myself I should be. And then I can’t bring myself to get on the plane.
I’ve had friends share life experiences with me recently. Intimate details, the darkness of their pasts. Telling moments that have colored their lives. It’s a privilege to receive and to be trusted with the information. I give this space in my heart to them. Sometimes it causes me to pause and think about how lucky I’ve been. There’s that word again. Luck.
But what if the weight that you feel isn’t always caused by external factors, situations, events? What if the Darkness is just always there? Waiting at the back of the throat, sweet bile, waiting to come up. This is my case. A shadow inside, waiting to cover me like a veil, a shroud. I do a pretty good job of locking Darkness up, swallowing the syrup until It is weighed down at the bottom of me. But when Darkness attacks, and it is an attack, I go down, and I go down hard. I run. I lash out. I weep. I shake. I am frozen. I self sabotage. I am destructive. I am dangerous. It may appear to be extreme, dramatic, false, but it is just the Darkness breaking free. I have silenced her for too long and every now and then she must have her say. Last weekend she was very angry about being locked up and I paid a great price.
Recovering from an attack, for me, is like a multi-step program. There is the weeping period, followed by sleep, then physical soreness, then emotional numbness. Then things get lighter. I’m still waiting for the light after this one. Trying to be patient. For now, still a good amount of Darkness. But I’ll wait, let her have her say, and watch her climb back in again. Pour herself into me, riding her wave of honey all the way down, until it’s time to come out again.
My challenge is to find little outlets for Darkness. I need to create opportunities for her to speak her truth so that I don’t pay the price like I did in the Airport. I struggle with this. Again, and, still. So, Darkness, my old friend, this has been your shining moment. Your time to share. I would also like to thank you for not making me harm myself, as you have done in the past. You suggested it last weekend, but then you left it alone. I thank you for that.
So here I am, beginning. Again. Sitting here with Darkness. Still a little sore. Still a little tired. Still numb. But I’m here, and plan to be for a while.