It is not customary to speak of weakness Nnwa. It is not. Even if that weakness is not of your own, even if that weakness is what you need to let pass on its own. So I will tell you this once.
I remember clearly. That day. Ordinary, just enough sun, the perfect beginning for a weekend. I love to stay in bed when I can and catch up on a chapter or two, or one of the week’s papers, maybe even run through the online streets. And so I did. I knew I had been under a lot of pressure. Work, school, family – there was a lot of flipping events in that time but I always had it under control somehow and on that day, I just needed to kick back. I thought. When you are not attuned to chaos, you do not see that you are in the heart of a hurricane until it flings you out of its eye and on to the currents. At least that is what it felt like.
One trigger. That was all it took to bring the tower down. They do not teach you how to breathe when you are dying Nnwa. Some things, you will find out, you learn on your own. In retrospect, I do not know how I did not see it coming and for a long time after, this one thought battered me. Why wasn’t I prepared for this? I read later that they can be sudden, frightening and often for no clear reason Nnwa. Panic attacks are sneaky like that. They like to take you by surprise. But how was I supposed to know they happened to regular people?
a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety.
I had my book in my hand but I figured it would make more sense to see if there was anything new online first. Ping. I cannot ignore notifications because for some strange reason I feel like it is akin to refusing to look someone in their eyes when they call your name. I would have been alright on any other day I think. Dealing with shitty emails is becoming an expected adulting skill these days anyways and me, I am quite the decorum slayer. But it just had to be sent on this one day I was closer to the edge than I thought possible.
I do not know if it was fury, disappointment or betrayal I felt first. There was too much emotion to separate one from another. I remember not being able to stop shaking. I remember letting my phone fling to the floor. I remember breathing and not breathing at the same time. I have seen movie scenes where an abducted child tried to scream and bang the windows so the neighbour jogging by would come and help. I figured that is what I felt like when I tried to cry and speak and nothing could make it out. I have no idea how long I lay there betrayed by my own body. Unable to move, unable to speak, unable to reach my phone and locked in because that is what you do when you go to bed every night – lock up. It was surreal mostly because I partly felt like an observer. My neighbour had a set of my keys so she could have helped but there was no way `i could reach her. And then what would I tell her was happening? ‘Hi, could you come over I am….what? Breaking down?’. There is no way to make that sound right…
When I did move, did breathe all I could do was cry. That was the first of a few. I only knew months later what they actually were. In between, I was mostly ashamed for losing control. Partly thought there was finally something wrong in my head. Funny how an attacker flips the blame on you; even funnier how you agree it is true.
It took a while to realise I had too much on my mind than I needed; too much on my plate than I needed. Took even more time till I established my triggers and started from there. Dr. Google helped much. I did not know these were things people asked for help for. Also, I am not very attuned to talking through problems. I was cultured to know you keep your problems close until you think them through and solve them, then perhaps, talk about them.
Nnwa, you have a 50/50 chance of picking up a lot of who I am. This means you will have a great mind, you will be wired to achieve and think through everything and unfortunately, you might be, like me, ill prepared to think through anything that causes you pain. Those ones you will probably lock up until you have no choice but to unpackage and maybe then, finally think through them. I will tell you how this system works someday. Your mind will be your blessing and your curse. I hope you do not keep so much that it bursts out. I hope somehow, you learn to let things go. Learn that even the strong ones need a rest sometime.
You will be strong. You will have a big heart. You will be an amazing woman. Always remember nothing is worth losing your peace over. You will not get to choose what you get from life most days; but you will get to choose to let go of things before they are too heavy to hold. You will get to choose to reach out and find help when you can. If ever you find you can’t, remember there is no shame, no shame in losing it when its too much. Let it pass over, breathe and let it go. Then start again. They say you should practice calm breathing, relax your body and what not – which is helpful but at that particular time, redundant. The best way there is is to be happy. Every day, choose happiness and peace; wire yourself in such a way that you have no time for anything but that which makes you happier, smarter and stronger. Run away from things only to gain enough strength to face them again. Do not be an ostrich Nnwa. The ground above the sand will catch fire. Fire has no mercy, when it does you will burn along with it.
There is an increasing pressure in my time to have it all and then some. To be at the best of it all all the time. It is ridiculous really, this notion. It sets us on paths of self-ignorance and causes us to push ourselves mercilessly beyond borders. The worst of it has to be that it makes us think of ourselves less and pushes us more toward the ‘bigger picture’ leaving most of us battered and disillusioned at many stops of life because we just cannot figure out why we give so much and get so little. Yet therein is the problem. We give so much that we have nothing left for us. I do not know how your own world will be Nnwa but I know you will need to learn to be a little selfish if you want to remain sane. Give of your time but have some for yourself. Give of your expertise, your joy, your energy but only after you hold back some for yourself. Because when you have more than you give, you are free to see when you are not well enough. Free to see when you need to stop and breathe and enjoy the sun.Because when you have given until they are full, it is you that remains a hollow shell.
We were not invincible because we are strong. We are because we fall many times, fall apart some times but always get it back together. Somehow. it is what the best of us do. Take a break once in a while (a lot), choose the energy you allow around you, do not let your work enslave you and the need for perfection, that we will need an entire sit down to go over because I fear many things amongst which is feeding you the lie that is living the perfect life in the hope of receiving a perfect end. The world does not work that way anymore; if ever it did. You should come first and that is not selfishness or whatever else they will tell you. That is survival. If anything, I need you to believe there is no shame in striving to be happy and letting go of what you find to be your triggers Nnwa, no shame.