6 Years and a bit ago

October 5, 2014

Date: Hiking in High Rock Part, Staten Island, NY

Instagram Caption: Not all those who wander are lost… except me; I’m lost. 

I have always enjoyed nature, but I have never been one to do such things on my own. Today, I am visiting my Hometown of Staten Island and I wanted to explore a trail. I went to High Rock Park. I used to come here for events as a kid, but never actually ventured onto the trail. 

Being alone on a trail is really a whole new experience. It is great to feel alone and get lost in thought, and in this case, get actually lost. I ended up hiking into an area without clear markers. Calming down has never been my strong suit and I will say I went from 0 to 100 percent panic and back a few times. 

I am a difficult woman to calm down- for myself or others. For some, this has made them say I am difficult to love and maybe I am. It takes a really strong person to sit with someone through anxiety. I know this because, well, because I have done the journaling on it. I think when I am finally close enough to someone to let it rip, I let them see that part of me, that nervous train wreck part of me. For the most part, I have tried to hide how anxious my inner brain can be in public. 

At the height of my anxious mind, I mostly freeze like a deer in headlights, left unable to really say much about how I am feeling, but hoping people would just vanish until I am ready to talk again. Usually this is when I run. Literally run away, like bye bye world. I go hide somewhere to handle it alone, often in the somewhat fetal position. Sometimes this turns into a panic attack and sometimes it just disappears when I get away from whatever the hell is making me anxious. I am still learning ways to deal with it and see it coming, as maybe running isn’t going to work forever.  

I think it is really good for me to put myself in these situations to learn how to deal with irrational fear when I am alone. I mean when I say panicked, I mean I PANICKED on this hike and I could hear cars the whole time. That is just irrational. I know it is irrational. I am not trying to put myself in actual danger here, just you know, learning to walk the world alone. 

Anxiety is so tricky because it can be rational or irrational depending on the moment. Like my issues with food, I can’t just erase anxiety from my life because without it completely, I would probably go into a trance like in Office Space and watch movies with my students all day, or not show up at all.

You gotta have SOME anxiety, some stress to tell you to do the right goddamn thing. 

I went back and forth from extreme enjoyment to overwhelming agony over getting lost in this tiny trail and never ever ever finding my way home. Again I could hear cars, if you knew the size of this trail and how close the street was, you would in fact laugh your asses off. I am trying so hard to work with my anxiety and learn how to push it down and away, allowing me to be sane again or make some decent choices. 

2014 Caption: I give up. I live here now.

I will say in real emergencies, my instincts and anxieties have been pretty god damn spot on. I appreciate in those moments my heightened senses and overt capability to notice things, to notice people. I process things in a different way than other people- I just do. I feel things differently. I sense things. The amount of lost children I have noticed first, allowing me to help them find their parents, is astonishing. Why was I the one to find them?

I think we all have different capabilities in this sense, but there is something about how I process other people and my environment. I swear I can feel their vibes. When something is wrong in another person, I often feel sick to my stomach before they even tell me something, especially with kids. Things that make other people anxious will make me anxious just by hearing it in their voice or even looking at them. Other people’s joy, their pain just resonates in a different way for me. I can feel it in my bones, my arteries. 

People may say I am difficult to love, but my god, I have this capability to love that I wish would go away at times. I just feel people and once we connect, it is hard to let them go. 

In doing these dates, I am already learning so much about myself through solo time to reflect and force these writing sessions. I hope I can make this a lifetime habit. I really do. 

Learning(s): Date yourself to get to know yourself, just like you would do dating others. 

2014 Caption: “Someone built me a stage. It’s like they knew I was coming… so I played some music and belted some tunes” A good friend Jim told me around this time to track the music I was listening to- here I was singing “Do You” by Spoon, my favorite song at the time about giving new love a chance.

You will only learn to cope with anxiety by having anxiety. You can’t avoid the scary things in life; instead embrace them when it is safe to do so. Practice is the only way. 

Present Day

October 26, 2020

Through this memoir process, I am reflecting and again learning so much about myself. Ironically, I am again my own teacher, but now I am working with my present, past, AND future self. Me, myself, and the I that I was- all working in sync to try to make this person completely whole. 

I didn’t really talk about it in that reflection, but on this date, I actually bailed out. I made it sound a lot more cheery I think than it actually was. This was my first date that I really was hit with anxiety and worked on pushing through it.

I was so panicked on the date that I bailed out straight through the trees and got myself to where I heard cars. Now, that put me nowhere near my actual car so I had to call my mom and her partner, Eileen to pick me up. That in itself is a little reminder that you don’t have to deal with anxiety completely alone. 

You can still ask for help, even as a fully grown adult and you SHOULD ask for help even as a fully grown adult when you get past the point of what you can handle alone. In this case, I knew I was DONE DONE so I called for help. 

Before the solo dates, I struggled so much with my mental health. I didn’t know who to really go to with it. I went to my parents, my other family members, my friends. They tried so hard to help, but it wasn’t enough. 

The solo dates, as you will read more about towards the end of the dates, were a huge test for my mental health and it wasn’t always pretty. The solo dates were actually the reason I started therapy, which I have been in ever since. Right after the solo dates I was diagnosed with bipolar. Since then, I have worked with multiple doctors to develop adequate coping skills and know where to turn when I need it. 

Right now, as a fully grown and mentally well adult, it is still an arduous process working on my mental health. I don’t do this alone by any means. 

I am trying to run this blog with absolutely 100 percent transparency when possible and so I will share this additional synchrony. Today, I found myself anxious when I woke up.  I need to have a plumber come to my house to fix something, have to catch up on other projects in my house, issues with COVID in my district etc. etc.

There was just too much on my brain that I was having some anxiety about putting things off and going to work. Because of this, I took a much needed day off today to get all of these things done. This mental health day is everything I needed. My anxiety diminished just by knowing I had the time to do what I needed to do today and I actually got a lot of things done for work and at home easily, calmly.

During the solo dates and my first years of teaching, I had it in my head that a good teacher NEVER takes off unless they are physically sick, i.e. deathbed sick. However, I have learned that anxiety and mental health will turn into physically sick if you don’t care for yourself.

It is just as important to care for your mental health as your physical health. 

My entire life all I ever wanted to be was a mom, a fabulous kick ass mom. I haven’t gotten to be that yet and so I think for now, I get to put that energy into my students. I think a lot of parenting and teaching go hand in hand. What I know about parenting from parents is that you can’t do it if you aren’t well. You need to take care of yourself so that you can, in turn, take care of your kids. 

Today, I took a break to restore my energy so tomorrow, my kids will get the best version of me. In teaching and in life, that is the best I can offer. 

Learnings: Being independent is badass and wonderful, but so is asking for help when you need it.  

You have to come first, always, because the *people in your life deserve the best version of you.

*You are part of the people in your life. You deserve the best version of you, too.*