Discover more from Wildly alive
Tears at midnight
The slow crumbling of my resilience - and the rebuilding of it
Thanks for reading Wildly alive! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
It had slowly been building up for weeks. My body is like a cat that senses the sudden fall in atmospheric pressure before a thunderstorm is coming: even when the sky’s still clear and I think everything is okay, my body knows it isn’t. It tried to warn me as best as it could by giving me the warning signs at its disposal: shoulder muscles that were so hard you could bounce a coin off of them; a persistent pain in my left hip; digestive issues; headaches; a stiffening of the neck that forced me to turn my entire body if I needed to do a shoulder check in the car, making driving difficult and painful; bone-deep exhaustion.
When that failed, the sudden bursting into tears happened. Crying at work for no apparent reason whilst with a patient; tears at midnight in front of a distraught husband who wanted to help but didn’t know how. Sobbing when anything even remotely sad happened in books or on TV or to someone I knew or to strangers I didn’t know. More sobbing at work, because with so much time spent at work, a lot of the crying was bound to happen there.
By now I knew something was wrong - after all, I’ve been here before. But, just like a fool, I kept telling myself to “hang in there for just a little while longer. Almost there, you’re almost done, things will change any day now, it will be better tomorrow.”
I never made it to tomorrow. Or to be more precise, I made it through so many tomorrows without it getting better that I lost my faith in them. And once my faith was gone, the rest of my resilience crumbled all around me, leaving me exposed and vulnerable.
My body, not knowing what else to do to make me pay attention, resorted to desperate measures: it sent me a panic attack.
While I had literally hit rock bottom, in this case the cold bathroom floor, on which I was sitting because I couldn’t stop crying. One moment I was sitting next to to the toilet, tears streaming down my face, regretting every decision I’d ever made that got me here - the next I couldn’t breathe.
Working at a hospital has its perks. In no time I was whisked to emergency, hyperventilating into a paperbag, and they gave me a room, took my vital signs, and treated me with an abundance of kindness and understanding.
The one good thing about panic attacks is that they don’t last long. They blast through you like a tornado, shocking and all-consuming, but quick. The aftermath of it feels just like you’d imagine you’d feel after a natural disaster occurred: you’re limp.
My body felt like it had been hit by a truck, my face was swollen from all the crying, and my brain felt strangely, blissfully empty - like a sponge that had been thoroughly wrung out and was now dry and mangled.
The irony is that I know this shit. I mean, I’ve written books about quitting the hustle and about how to live well with depression, and I always tell other people to honour their limits and listen to their body and mind. I know what to do when my mental health needs TLC, I know what will make me feel better (and worse) - but for some reason, I’m self-sabotaging. Why? I have no idea - that’s for my therapist and me to work out.
I want to tell you what I’ve been doing since my panic attack, because they are all very good things:
🍁 I started a poetry account on Instagram. I’m challenging myself to write a poem every day, to get away from overthinking them and just write. It’s a lot of fun! I also appreciate that it cuts down on my scrolling in the morning, because instead of scrolling I’m writing. Win/win!
🍁 I reconnected with a friend. My heart is light and full at the same time.
🍁 I’ve made an important decision about work. I don’t want to go into detail, but let’s just say I have re-discovered my values and what’s important to me.
🍁 I did some decorating for fall! I may do some more!
🍁 I’m working on my novel, and it’s a revelation. As you know, my writing is very personal and autobiographical, and I haven’t really done fiction. I started another novel a few years ago, but it was pure agony to get the words out, and 30,000 words in I gave up. This one is different. I have a clear picture in my head of the characters, of the message I want to convey, and of the tone of the book. Writing it feels like crafting something, like holding a lump of clay or piece of wood in my hands and creating something beautiful out of it. It feels - sacred, almost. I’m enjoying myself tremendously, and I’m so excited to spend all fall and winter with my characters.
🍁 Our new house is taking much longer than I’d hoped. Initially I thought we might be able to move this year, but that won’t be happening. I was pretty bummed about it for a while, but now I’ve decided to see it as a gift instead of a setback. It gives me more time to say goodbye to our place, which is very special, particularly my cabin. I’ve been spending a lot of time in it, and I love it so much. So do the dogs:
🍁 Last but not least, I’m still hiking every day with my babies, so grateful to live here and to have them by my side.
Look after yourself, my friends. You are worthy just the way you are; simply for being you.
P.S. Did you know thatis on Substack now?? She sent her first letter an hour ago! Oh happy day!