page one

I don’t like that I don’t like change. Our culture respects people who transform themselves like phoenixes, lightning their lives on fire and rising from the ashes. Before and after journeys, turning lemons in to Lemonade, underdogs rising to victory. Going through trauma and tragedy and proclaiming that one is better for it. I have always wanted to be at the “after” point, the part where the movie gets made, the book gets written, the inspirational montage brings tears to the eyes of the masses.

But at least for me, that reality has never come to pass. Whenever it feels like things are on fire in my life, generally it burns a lot and I have to work hard to put that fire out and salvage what I can from the wreckage. There’s no phoenix moment, only a lot of hard work that doesn’t translate to an engaging story. My fires aren’t the victory over massive obstacles: they’re slowly coming to realize that parenting is hard work, adulting is hard work, trying to be a writer is hard work, and surviving as a sensitive person in this world is next to impossible. They’re just smouldering coals that burn when you touch them, or mid-July sun rays that scorch. So I just live with the minor burns and carry on.

By minor burns, I mean anxiety. I have it. It’s getting worse. It used to be a sort of minor annoyance, some heart palpitations and the occasional sleepless night. Then it was a few panic attacks. Now it’s a resistance band tied tightly around my chest all the time, needles inside my eyes, rocks on my shoulder blades. It’s lying awake for hours, despairing what I’m going to feel like in the morning, then waking up exhausted. The exhaustion never goes away, but on top of it is a layer of hyperstimulation, where I can’t filter anything away. I do a lot of ignoring and pushing down my feelings because I have little kids at home and I can’t be losing my grip on things when they rely on me for stability and sanity. Then I’ll catch myself daydreaming about off buttons for my brain, or running away from my family, or going into some sort of medically-induced coma to just get me out of here for a while. That path is danger, danger, danger.

I called this post Page One, but it’s the middle of the story. Of course it is. I’m 34 years old. I’ve tried a lot of things with greater and lesser success. To date, medication has been mostly an exercise in enduring side effects with little to no benefit. Sometimes I have daily panic attacks, sometimes I throw up, sometimes I go 36 hours without sleep for no reason. Sometimes I feel possessed. I haven’t tried anything new for nine months, but I’m going in again because the way things are is unsustainable.

So this is my record. I’m starting here, with this post and this round of meds, in the middle of my life. There isn’t going to be a montage and I’m not going to burn everything down. I’m going to try a new fire extinguisher, because there are good things to be found here and I want to be able to find them.