I have spent the last several weeks out on the water with Steve, boating around the San Juan Islands and in Canada. If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you have seen several photos and stories about our trip. I intended to write an inspiring story about a hike that Steve and I took at Princess Louisa Inlet, but instead my crazy poured out (hopefully I will be inspired to write about this hike soon as it was amazing). Mark Twain once said that to write all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. The following is the result of said blood-letting…
Sometimes in life, you should say ‘no’. Like, if someone offers you heroin or asks if you want to rob a liquor store it is probably wise to say no. My personal motto is that if I won’t end up in a federal prison, then I will say ‘yes’. Otherwise, amazing opportunities in life pass you by and five years from now you will be exactly where you are now. Walking the same exact path, knowing the same simple facts that you know now and discarding all new ideas and knowledge that allows your world to expand like these new ideas are just grocery plastic shopping bags that have no real purpose in life other than to be tossed away as soon as you get it home.
Do you know a No?
Want to go out to lunch at that new restaurant?
“No thanks, I probably won’t like it”
Want to plan a trip to Africa to climb a mountain?
“No, why would I want to do that?”
Want to go on a trip where we have no idea where we are going until we get there and find out how amazing it is?
Want to go to a rock climbing gym and watch all the half-naked hot guys climb rocks? And then, we can try to climb some rocks and ask them for tips on climbing and maybe find out if they are single?” (Editor’s note, I would obviously never do this now that I am married…)
“No, I don’t rock climb and probably wouldn’t like it if I tried it.”
The Nos. Those people who seem to lack the physical ability to form the three sounds: Why, Eeee and Esss to create a simple word of promise for the future.
Everyone knows a Nos. During one discussion I had with a gentlemen about this subject, he said, it is always easier to make an excuse not to live your life. I know this is true because there was a time in my life where fear ruled my vocabulary and prevented me from formulating the sounds of Yyyyyeeesss even though that was what my heart wanted. Instead, Fear said no.
No, I cannot eat that piece of pizza because I am not sure it was cooked properly and the person who made it could be sick and if I eat it, I could get sick. No, I cannot drive my car on the interstate because I could get a flat tire and then somehow that will create a series of events that can only lead to my death. N.O. I cannot leave the house, because, if I leave the house I will have to drive my car somewhere and then I will get hungry and the only food will be covered in bacteria that will give me food poisoning and then I will feel sick and my car will crash on the interstate and I will die and if I don’t eat the food I will get light-headed and nauseous from hunger and then I will crash my car and die. Basically, whatever I do, I could die. It is safer to stay at home, eat nothing, do nothing, talk to no one (because they will think I am crazy even though I am the only sane person I know).
But. O H. s h I t! People die in the bathtub! Okay, no baths for me. People could die falling out of their beds. I could trip over my sheet trying to stand up and fall and break my neck…maybe I should sleep on the floor and crawl everywhere. Just to be safe.
These loops, these loops of fear, these loops of crazy will take your life away from you. I know. Many times in my life, anxiety has controlled my brain and caused me to be caught in these loops while Life was trying to reach out to me through anxiety’s fog. Spiraling loops of fog that descend into blackness and overwhelming hopelessness where no light is visible and if a speck of light shines into this abyss of craziness, the crazy makes you shut it out.
When I was stuck in these dark spirals, my heart was suffocating. My breath was shallow and rapid. My hands were clammy and my face pale. Every moment of every day I had to make a decision and I let Fear make the choice for me because I didn’t believe I was strong enough to make my own decision.
I don’t know how to describe how I climbed out of Fear’s abyss, how I learned to keep the crazy at bay. How I struggled for years in therapy and how many nights I cried because life was so scary and I was so terrified but my heart, my spirit, told me to keep fighting.
And I fought hard. One foot in front of the other. One terrifying therapy session after another. I mean, I obviously was going to die just driving to the therapist’s office. One random anti-anxiety drug that made me feel like I was on speed or one that made me feel like I had cotton in my brain. One petrifying drive on the interstate pulling over on every exit to calm down, walk around the car to ensure I didn’t have a flat tire, sit down and breathe until I was calm enough to make it to the next exit.
Every day I fought against the No. Against fear. Every day I fought, every hour I fought, finding new tools to fight with along the way. Sometimes the battles were a long-drawn out boxing match where the winner was controversial and the score had to be tallied several times. Sometimes the battles were a clear-cut loss on my side, yet, every once in a while, there was an exhilarating win for me where I could feel my light shine and heart swell with life.
The truth is that the fight against crazy, that fight against anxiety never ends. Every moment I could choose to say No and shrink away from life and from adventure and let anxiety grow.
“Do you want to go to China?”
Omg, I could die like 500 different ways and no one will ever know what happened to me. Instead, I hear my voice say: Sure, when do we leave?
“Do you want to go scuba diving in Mexico?
How many ways can you die underwater? Sharks? Rays? Eels? Equipment failure? And, hold on, WAIT, don’t people DIE of food poisoning in Mexico? So, the only obvious answer is: Yep, let’s do it!
I don’t always say Yes right away. Sometimes it takes me awhile. When I am hesitant, I read about it and learn about it. Study it and find a buddy to go with me or find a trained professional who can talk me through it. Meditate. Chant a mantra with my mala. Count my breaths until I forget I am supposed to be counting. Take a Xanax and a shot of whiskey. Or several shots of whiskey. But, I do it. I have been scuba diving in Mexico, Hawaii and Palau. I have been to China and Japan multiple times and I have traveled to France and England. I am going to climb a mountain and I am going to do everything in my life I want to do.
My Crazy will always be there, I have learned to live with her and even appreciate her. My Crazy has given me the best gift. I now know it is okay to embrace her and to thank her for making me the strongest person I can be. Crazy has given me the most amazing life and I love her!
P.S. My main anxiety isn’t really about me dying. I do have an intense fear of food poisoning that I have worked through, plus claustrophobia, agoraphobia and a few other fears that are very personal and I am not yet brave enough to share them so I am using the fear of dying in place of these particular fears for the purposes of this article.