It has been a brutal last 72 hours.
There comes a moment when everything in me tightens and I can feel my brain spiraling into this panicked state. I start wondering why and what and who and how and when and what if. I start answering those questions for myself based on limited evidence. I make decisions about what is actually happening. I effectively make myself feel completely isolated, unlovable, despicable.
I’m learning to put the brakes on in those moments. I am learning to breathe through it. I am learning not to fight against it or demand it be different. I am learning to breathe.
I am not strong enough to dig deep, trying to get to the foundation of why my pain is so intense. I am not skilled enough to problem-solve my way to a less painful state. I am not capable of changing hearts or minds. I am not able to change the past.
So I breathe.
“You have to love yourself through it. You have to do the brave thing of accepting yourself, good and bad, and continue putting one foot in front of the other,” a friend of mine said recently.
I was so entangled in shame and self-hatred in that moment that I could barely breathe. But I knew she was right. Life is full of crossroads. Choose life or death. Choose. And self-hatred feels a lot like death. All we can do is breathe and love what is, ourselves included.
I love how happy Arlow is when I walk him off-leash.
I love friends who stand by you even when it’s hard.
I love the flicker of candles and the smell of my aromatherapy diffuser.
I love sunny days and flip-flops and starting the morning off with an energy drink.
I love touch. I love when arms or legs are intertwined, when someone reaches over and rubs my back, when I’m able to squeeze someone tight around the shoulders, when someone kisses the top of my head.
I love “dancing” in the car when a good song comes on.
I love feeding the birds in the neighborhood.
I love freshly washed bedding.
I love days spent outside and laughing with friends and impromptu road trips.
And while I can’t add “I love me” to the list, at least not after these last few days, I am working on it. And I do love pieces of me. Bits of who I am that I can hold tight to and say, “That thing about me isn’t a mistake. It isn’t bad or wrong or hard to love.”
I love that I’m a born writer.
I love that I can make people laugh.
I love that I am gentle and nurturing.
There are other things I would’ve added to that list a few days ago. I would’ve said I love that I care for people and that I’m a fighter and that I invest in my relationships. But now I don’t know that any of that is true.
It’s been three days of a battle unlike any I’ve ever known. It’s not a battle against panic or wanting to kill myself, but a battle in which I am trying to stay standing while the wind and rain whip and beat against me. And I feel bruised and bloody, raw and wounded.
It’s hard to see the good in the last few days. It’s hard to see how I can pull myself back up and get back to a place of being able to look myself in the face. But I can choose not to cling tight to the words spoken and fears they brought up.
I can choose to breathe.