Facing Your Demons
What’s that one Thing that you’re afraid of doing? That Thing that makes you take a sharp breath when it crosses your mind with it’s talons clacking against the floor of your brain; frozen. The Thing sits in the bottom of your stomach like a ton of bricks, threatening to withhold your appetite until further notice. Do you run away from It? Let It hide deep inside, sleeping dormant like a volcano with the propensity to explode? Do you sit there, busying your hands and your thoughts with idle, useless things, just so you don’t have to think about It, hitting that imaginary button and watching It go BOOM right there. In front of everyone. Do you?
What is it about that Thing that holds your heart in Its clutches, pulsating, ready to inject it with a syringe filled with fear? Where does that fear come from, and how do you confront It? Maybe, if you don’t think about It, somehow, It will just go away. Maybe someday.
But probably not.
Today was about facing the Thing(s). They are people, things, or ideas that give me that empty feeling, like a vital part of me just disappeared. That part of me is my confidence. My composure. My all-around Good Girl Champion 10.0 score. The part of me that smiles when things go wrong. The Things that I wish would scare me like horror movies do, because then They wouldn’t seem so scary. No, the fear is more internal; deep within the confines of my soul where I keep my most personal feelings, next to where I keep my most precious memories. Knowing that something can get that close to my core is scary in a nightmare-at-home kind of way. The kind of nightmare that takes place in someplace familiar, so when you wake up in that place, you’re not sure if you’re still dreaming, or if that Thing is going to follow you beyond the boundaries of Dreams and Reality. That kind of fear. Lingering, burning, always waiting for Never to finally end. Fear that stalks you through every motion.
Can there be something that really causes that fear? Yes. If you have children, panic attacks, or have experienced that stomach-dropping phone call from a loved one, you have probably had that fear. The closest superficial feeling that I can even come close to comparing it to is that split second when you feel like you’re about to fall backwards in a chair. It’s funny after the fact, and you’ll continue leaning back in your chair even if you do end up falling. It’s that one moment where time and reality are suspended on marionette strings like Father Time is having some sort of show. The moment where you are no longer in control, and you think “how will it feel if I hit the ground?” You don’t breathe or scream; for that moment, you do absolutely nothing, because that’s all you can do. Paralysis. There are real fears that make every waking moment feel like that split second. Could you imagine always feeling like you’ve lost control? Like you’re wondering what will happen when you finally hit the ground.
More Love Letters helps me to combat my fears, as well as offer a hand to others that may need help getting past theirs. In science, a positive charge will cancel out a negative charge. Think of every word in that letter as a positive charge. We’re going to light up the sky. Bear with me; I’m about to give you a small view of one of those memories I keep so deep, and if you prefer to stay on the positive, please scroll past the italics.
I suffered my first panic attack when I was driving home from college one summer. The week before, my parents had called me and said “Your grandpa got divorced, and he’ll be living with us.” “How long?” “I don’t know.” I protested, sitting in my college apartment, telling my parents that it would be weird living with him. I had to take summer classes back home, so I would need my space so I could do well. They assured me that it would be fine, and so we said it was. It wasn’t, but we pretended.
My grandpa and I don’t get along, and we never have. He was an angry man who never used the word ‘love’ in his life, but didn’t even hesitate to slur the word “hate” after only one beer. He was a Korean war veteran who leaned on the excuse of ruined hope to justify his mistreatment of others. “The world is corrupt,” he would say to an 8 year old me, “it’s filled with [inappropriate slur] and people who don’t give a [darn] about anyone.” The war didn’t make him like that. He didn’t see combat. He made himself hate the world. I had horrible memories of him slurring his words and rubbing my arm at family gatherings, my dad pulling him away from me. “You’re so beautiful,” his breath reeking of acid and gasoline, as his fingers would linger on my shoulders. Memories of looking out from in between the wooden slats that made up the closet door as my grandpa waved a rifle and yelled profanities. Hate in its purist form. “It’ll be okay.” My parents said, trying to convince themselves of it.
I pulled over on the side of the highway, holding my chest, thinking I was about to die. “I can’t come home,” I called my mom, babbling between hyperventilated tears. “I’m going to crash if I drive. I can’t come home. I can’t live with him. I can’t.” I did, though. I pulled myself together, drove home, locked the door to my bedroom and slept for 18 hours. We made it work. Grandpa didn’t want to be there anymore than we wanted him. He lived out of a suitcase in my brother’s bedroom, keeping the place relatively sterile. We passed in the hallways like ghosts of different eras, muttering the common conversational courtesies in our wake. I went to class for 6 hours a day, then went elsewhere for the remainder of the time. I stayed at friends’ houses often, and sometimes, I slept in my car. During dinner, grandpa would always find something to complain about. He hates this, he hates that, [F] this, screw that. My father always taught us that cursing was unacceptable in the home, and prohibited at the dinner table. I had enough, and my stomach was unsettled as I poked my food with a fork. “Grandpa, please stop cursing.” “What?” “Please. Just stop. Everything will be fine.” “[F] you, I’m moving out.” “Okay.” He packed his little suitcase and sat in his car for a couple of hours. He had nowhere to go, and we didn’t come after him. Eventually, things returned to normal, and he apologized two weeks later. I don’t think my mom has forgiven him yet.
I had panic attacks all summer. They started following me everywhere I went. It was like nothing triggered them anymore, they just happened. If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you know that you have to do all you can to assure yourself that you aren’t going to die, because everything else is telling you that this is it. This may very well be the end, on the bathroom floor of the community college. In the car on the way home. In my bed in the middle of the night. On a rainy Sunday afternoon.
At that moment, I learned how important it was to confront your fears early on. Save yourself the trouble of building all of this stress, because it will follow you through everything. I still have panic attacks, but not as frequently, and they pass without much event, because I have been able to talk myself into knowing that I’ll be okay. As for how the summer turned out, it went fine. I passed my class and went back to college, my grandpa ended up leaving/getting kicked out, I’m not sure which. My parents are now fielding angry letters from he and his daughter, with whom he is now staying. Today is my mother’s birthday, and just like when she turned 16, my aunt had an angry letter all ready to go, ready to blame her for the world. My grandpa and my aunt have disowned us, and we decided to take a step back from them as well. No need for such negativity in our lives.
I wrote my mother a letter today to counteract the bad one. “Know who you are and remember the love that surrounds you. While everyone deserves your forgiveness, no one deserves your tears. I promise that everything will turn out alright.”
More Love Letters is so important to me. I know what words can do to someone. It can tear families apart. People that decide their words should take the place of their hearts have no place in my life, and I will not stand for such degrading behavior. Everyone deserves a chance to be happy, and if you are not there to aid in their journey, then step out of the way. The universe has a funny way of making certain memories stand out to you. This particular sequence of memories is no longer negative to me, and doesn’t trigger any anger. I could never be capable of hating another human being; that is an evil that my heart could not endure. Instead, I choose to use my experiences to impact others in a positive way. If you have someone in your life that is bringing you down, degrading you, or making you feel less than the spectacular you that you are, I want to be there to counteract every crude word, every snide grin that they throw your way. I write letters to others so that they have a shield to put between themselves and the negativity. I will help you conquer that Thing that keeps you up at night.
You can do it. You can get through anything. You are a warrior that kills with kindness. You are the most beautiful You.
With love and love letters,