Crying, sobbing, screaming. Heavens almighty the last few days have been awful. On Friday I felt the best I had in weeks. The sun shined, I was productive, the magnolias started blooming. Saturday was good, too, in a mute sort of way. I transplanted hundreds of plants in a grey, warm greenhouse, listening to the rain hit the roof. It was pleasantly humid and warm, the light comforting, the plants vibrant. As I left the farm I found a perfect robin’s nest – with four warm, blue eggs. I touched them before I realized what I was doing and the hope they contained settled into my body.
There was a sweet, thoughtful funeral for P’s grandma. Then lots of time to catch up with family both near and far. And later, I don’t know why, the sobbing returned with a fury Saturday night. I could calm down enough to sleep only after P read me stories from Dr. Seuss. On Sunday morning P made me Mickey Mouse pancakes at my request – with the syrup from our Norway maple. Then I cried as P sent me off to work on Sunday morning. I sobbed hysterically all the way to the farm, screaming and screaming. Awful, godawful, I tell you.
My only moment of focus came as I fully inspected the bees Sunday afternoon. I opened the hive and there they were, humming, piled four or five deep, working diligently. I forgot my veil and worked only with gloves. I moved slowly, intentionally, with a heart full of wonder. The bees flared up occasionally, making my heart race, but I stepped aside until I calmed myself. I pulled out three frames. I gently knocked heaps of bees from one frame and marveled, absolutely breathless at the perfectly hexagonal yellowish comb they were pulling from the foundation. It was miraculous how they, in such a crowded disjointed frenzy, created such perfection. I held the frame skyward, the cloud-muted sun behind my back, and peered into the tiny cells. And there they were – what I was looking for – miniscule eggs centered in each cell. The queen had been accepted and was laying eggs. The colony was healthy. I felt calm and peaceful for the only time that day.
I went home early. The fields were soaked, the greenhouse nearly maxed out, I exhausted from sadness.
And the crying, the heaving, the single-mindedness continued. I, instead of school projects, read website after website about trauma and abuse. I was trying to find sense in all the sadness. I reluctantly called P’s attention to all the particularly salient details, over and over. I wanted to give him a break, but I couldn’t stop talking. He eventually went into the kitchen to wash dishes. I felt bad, needy, tense. The combination of tension and banging pots escalated my anxiety. I stood on a bleak and windy precipice. I felt, for a fleeting moment, I had a choice. Surrender to the escalation or shut down. I, for the first time ever, surrendered. I fell off a mental cliff, holding my hands to my ears, sobbing loud enough to drown out any and all noise. It was dark, horrifying, endless. I fell, and fell, and fell. Soon I felt P’s hand on my head and I startled, but soon I went off again, sobbing and sobbing, trying to keep any sound at bay. P sat down and fell out of my peripheral vision. I screamed. I couldn’t see him, I could feel a hand, I didn’t know where I was. I leapt to my feet, grabbing a blanket, and slumped down, back to the wall, whispering, “no surprises, no surprises, please, please, no surprises.”
I woke up crying this morning, entirely overwhelmed by anxiety. I realized I’ve been anxious almost continually for fifteen-odd years. I just compartmentalized it, had different names for it depending how it surfaced. When I felt it in the morning I thought it was because I had a busy day. If I’d just get up and get to it, the feeling would go away. When it surfaced as I got dressed I thought it was because I had been eating too much lately. If I’d just get some control over myself the feeling would go away. When the phone would ring I thought it was because I wasn’t very graceful on the phone. If I could just be more socially capable, the feeling would go away. When it would surface as I worked on homework I assumed it was because I was stupid, incompetent, or poorly organized. If I could just get myself together the feeling would go away. It would rise on the way to a social gathering and I wished I didn’t stutter, wished I were funnier, because then the feeling would go away. As I cooked five things for potlucks and still felt it, I figured it was because my debts to others were so deep I couldn’t pay them. If I could figure out a way to pay them back, the feeling would go away. If it rose out of “nowhere” I knew it was because I had a phone call to return or a letter to write, or a mother to forgive. If I would just get a handle on my life the feeling would go away. As I lay down at night and my mind would race I thought I just needed to learn to relax, because then the feeling would go away. But no matter how much I did, no matter how hard I tried, the feeling never, ever went away. In fact it was escalating and getting more intense with time, putting higher, more intense, demands on me.
But this morning I realized none of that was true. All day, every day what I had been experiencing was anxiety. I compartmentalized and labeled it as a way to move through my day. I took direct responsibility as a way to create a sense of control over that which I had no control.
I was washed out to sea this morning, on a turbulent tide of anxiety. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t even compartmentalize it anymore, and, therefore, I couldn’t find a handle. I was paralyzed, horrified, completely overwhelmed.
But I did get up. I got dressed. I didn’t brush my hair. I walked to the bus, paid my fare, and sat down. I didn’t knit. I walked to class and listened in a fog, fighting back tears, fighting back the darkness.
But the day kept moving. I warmed up. I found myself getting engaged in conversations, laughing, feeling the deep dark dissipate. I called a friend to offer support that I didn’t think I had. By the end of the day, I felt good. I had a meeting I didn’t prepare for. I admitted it and didn’t beat myself up. I laughed with friends. I did homework. I didn’t feel anxious. When P asked how my day was I said, “good” and I meant it.
Progress. It doesn’t feel like it sometimes, but it’s there. Hiding in little corners and in quiet conversations. It’s there lurking on cold, cloudy, hard days. It peeks out, baiting me to move forward, tempting me with visions of what life will be like when I come out the other side. I can do this, I will do this. I won’t let the SOB win anymore.