I’m standing here motionless. The cars are racing towards us, the wind is not quite but almost deafening, I swear I feel the bridge shaking, and my kids are encouraging amused motorists to honk their horns. Every instinct I have tells me to move, that I’m in danger, that this is NOT a safe place for me or my children to be.
I’m on a bridge over looking the busy highway — connecting a walkway in Cary, NC — and this is EXACTLY what my life has felt like for the past three years. Every car that races by feels like a near miss. The noise is SO loud I can’t concentrate. My heart is racing because I’m scared of heights and I know for sure that this bridge is moving and we’re all going to die. I’m faking my composure for no reason at all. And my kids? They are completely oblivious to it all.
I’m with a very good friend — and I don’t want to tell her that I’m terrified. We have a conversation that I can’t remember because 1) it’s too loud to hear what she is saying and I’m sure I’m not making any sense anyway 2) I’m distracted by the thought that one of my kids will slip through a tiny little box of space in the protective fence 3) I’m overcome by the realization of how normal the heightened and unreasonable panic feels to me.
How does this happen to a person? One crisis after another, and soon you are just standing there, motionless, waiting for the next near miss, hoping you duck in time? Patiently waiting for the noise to quiet down and it never seems to. More importantly, how does one recover?
I’m surrounded by boxes, and chaos, and children, and phone calls, and bills, and doctors, and noise. I make long lists with tiny little boxes that I meticulously check off in celebratory silence every time I complete a task. I close my eyes and click “PAY” and wait for my heart to stop fluttering and just know the money will be there. (It’s math, I know — but really when you get to the point I am at, it’s no longer one plus one equals two.) I smile and nod my head whenever I get news of another postponement, unexpected expense, unavoidable family crisis.
Bridge swaying. Heart pounding. Smiling and talking while pretending I’m not screaming inside.
We walk off the bridge after my kids are appropriately pleased with how many truckers honks they have solicited. I try to hide that I’m walking faster than everyone else. I lamely use chasing my toddler as an excuse for my rushing. I’m not completely calm again until we are away from the bridge and stop to look at a lizard and some bugs.
It’s taken me three days to process the experience…and today, it came to me: It’s the presence of the person standing next to me that’s keeping me from flipping the fuck out.
Recovery? The answer is not in the tiny little boxes. It’s in allowing the people who care about me — to stand as close as I can stand it. It’s accepting the help that is offered to me. It’s the text messages, the phone calls, the tweets, the video calls, the emails, the last-minute lunches, coffee, and visits — the connections that keep me grounded. Never doubt that every single positive thought in my direction is generous and walks me one step at a time off the bridge that has become my chaotic life — and closer to a life I can truly be peaceful with. One where I can stop to notice the lizards and bugs. My recovery is based completely on the belief that in the middle of all this noise: I am not alone.
For that I am thankful. Peace.