Thursday, 25 September 2014

"I Will Breathe"

It's too loud. Too loud. TOO. LOUD. Can't breathe. My heart is racing, racing, racing. I can't catch my breath. People - there are too many, too loud, too close. I can't breathe. Get away. I have to get away. Move. Quiet. Air. Tears pricking at my eyes. I must get away. I must be alone. I am alone. Nobody understands.

This is what an anxiety attack feels like for me. It's fresh in my mind because I had two this morning.

An anxiety attack can be debilitating and frustrating. It's frustrating because when I am in the grips of one it feels so illogical and irrational. Intellectually I tell myself to just take a deep breath and close my eyes. It's all fine. But then there's the illness - the part that is often loudest and that screams at me. Fight or flight takes hold and I can only focus on breaking free of the moment. Doing whatever it takes.

So what exactly sent me tumbling over the precipice of anxiety today? Was it public speaking? Nope - I love that sort of thing. It was noise and groups of people surrounding me.

The first small anxiety attack was brought on by a fire drill at work. It wasn't the drill itself, it was the amount of people, the small area, and the noise. I felt uncomfortable and my breathing became labored and shallow. Once I got outside in the fresh air I was OK.

Then there was the department meeting. Fifty people in a meeting room, broken into three groups and a people talking all at once. I began to feel uncomfortable again, not having been fully recovered from the earlier attack. By the end of the meeting I was eager to leave the room - my discomfort was rising but I was still OK. Then came the dreaded elevator ride.

There is always one or two people who will squeeze into the elevator just before the doors close. It's my worst nightmare. Too many people in too small of a space. Then add multiple loud conversations and I am a goner. All bets are off and the anxiety grabs me by my throat.

When I am in this moment of pain I may appear angry or upset. I am short with you if you speak to me. I might appear dismissive. I am simply not capable of social niceties. I can't act how you expect me to or how you want me to. I just can't and I don't have the luxury of time to explain to you in the moment why it's not about you. I'm in survival mode. I want to flee this space, this moment in time.

How can you help me? Allow me physical space and some time to catch my breath - literally. I need to be alone and quiet. I will be OK - this I know. And please don't think it's about you because it simply is not. So please, please don't be angry or annoyed or hurt. This isn't about you or even about me, really. It's about mental illness.

Tonight, as I write this, I am listening to calming, peaceful music. I spent the afternoon working from home, alone and in the recuperative stillness of quiet. I am tired - exhausted from the spinning merry go round. But I am also fine. Tomorrow is a new day and I will be fine then, too. Even if I am not - if depression or anxiety visit again, it will be OK. I will be OK. Because I don't, won't quit.

KB xo

P.S. If you would like to learn more about anxiety disorders please visit the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada website

Thursday, 4 September 2014


Princess Diana quote
This August was the 17th anniversary of Princess Diana's death. I remember clearly where I was when I heard the news. I also remember the sheer shock and utter disbelief that I felt in that moment. How could something so horrible and tragic and so very real have happened to this princess?

It sent me into a depression that lasted a few weeks. I wanted to sit in front of the television and immerse myself in every detail and moment of mourning that was taking place all over the world. The thing was, I wasn't the only person who felt such a deep sense of loss for a person who I had never met. The world had made her into this larger than life being, this fairytale princess come to life.

Fast forward 17 years and I have come to understand that fairytales aren't real. As a child I idolized Princess Diana. I created scrapbook upon scrapbook, carefully cutting and pasting pictures of Diana in her latest ball gown or holding a cute little baby prince. I would often imagine what her life must be like, how lovely it must be. Oddly enough, even at such a young age, I believed that her marriage was not a love match. But surely the wealth and privilege must make her so very happy, right? Wrong.

As we now know she was riddled with insecurities. She experienced depression, anxiety and eating disorders. She lived many unhappy days and nights. Her life was certainly not a fairlytale. And this brings me to the late great Robin Williams. If you made the mistake of reading comments on social media you would have seen things like this: "But how could he have killed himself? He had so much - fame, fortune, and love. Such a waste."

And here is something else that I understand and recognize now as the truth: unhappiness, discontent, and insecurities are universal. Mental illness knows no boundaries and it does not discriminate. Are you a princess? A famous Hollywood star? So what. The black dog of depression can lay itself at your feet just as easily as it does at mine.

When I think about Princess Diana today I think about all the good that she did in the world and how she was able to persevere through her difficult times. She left us while still far too young but she also left a legacy to be proud of. She inspired many in this world.

Sadly, Robin Williams seemed unable to win his battle against his illness. I do not consider suicide a weakness or a slefish act as so many others do. I consider it an act taken by a human being who was in such devestating pain that he felt that was his only option. As someone who has experienced deep, dark pain I understand how that might feel and I am certainly not one to judge him - we cannot know exactly what he was feeling.
So no, I don't believe in fairytales. But that doesn't mean that I don't believe in magic, in love, and in wishing on stars. Without hope we have nothing. Without hope I don't believe that I would be sitting here writing this today. So each day I try to live my life completely and fully, to live my best life. And that is what I hope for you.

KB xo

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