Trigger Warning: Depression and Anxiety. It reads nice, but plan now to get yourself a nice pick-me-up afterward.
There are certain chords used in cinematography to pull the audience into a sense of dread or tension. Consider the shrieking staccato of strings in horror films. I try to think of ways to relate the way I experience my panic as if it were a movie:
The sound starts as softly as a pulse of a heartbeat, it’s the strings on a cello. I can feel a squeeze of adrenaline flood up my neck and chill my belly. The dialogue would dim with each draw against the string. I don’t know the right chords on a music scale, but they would be soft to your ears, almost imperceptible to begin. Another heartbeat, and another, the pace is slow at first, but quickens steadily with the increasing volume. Eventually the fast pulse of the strings would blot out the dialogue completely to accompany the actions where I’m trembling and battling the erratic panic. Pushing. Shoving. Slamming doors.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my behavior. I’m afraid that it can so easily be interpreted as an unfit mother who gets taken into a psychiatric ward. (What an ugly stereotype, I’m not proud of fearing that imagery, but here we are in my blog.) Thankfully I’d be the one removed from the home, and not my child. But I don’t want either.
I don’t want to miss out. I don’t want to be tucked away and forgotten. Also I don’t want to be a spectacle. I don’t want to need a hospital to intervene. I just want to feel okay.
I remember feeling this way when I was pregnant with George. Feeling like my marriage was disintegrating because I’m not the same person at present. I’m overcome by imaginary threats. This is why I said that I would only be pregnant once more after George. I hate being pregnant.
The sound of my panic is a cello. A versatile and underrated resonance. The cello is rarely given the spot light, but striking when it shines.
The cello suits my story because I am happy to not be the center of attention. I play a strong and confident supporting role when I’m well. Although, I can enjoy performing a solo and appreciate the applause.
Now, however, I’ve been front and center for some months and I’m exhausted. I’m scared. I have cancer. I am sick. And all I have to look forward to is different renditions of this sound of panic. A new chord for the new drug for 12 weeks. Thereafter, a new melody will accompany a newborn’s sleep schedule for at least 4 months. During this time, I’ll also receive radiation, which I don’t even know what that sheet music looks like. After that, when I’m cured, I’ll get a similar song at a new pitch for newborn life with a toddler until the song transitions to life with two toddlers.
I’m sitting here just rubbing my bald head wishing that I’ve had my last panic attack, but certain that I am far from my last one. I’m also scolding myself for looking so far into the future and letting it frighten me. Everyone who loves me and cares for me warns me to not get overwhelmed by taking it in all at once. “One thing at a time!” they say. “You can’t worry about that now,” they reassure me. Well, I can’t stop. Its like asking a tiger to change its stripes.
I’ve always perceived time in quarterly batches. How can I not? School is blocked into semesters and mid-terms, I practiced that pattern for twenty years. Every year is divided into four seasons, I’ve done that thirty two times! How am I supposed to not interpret my future in the same pattern? And when I look forward, a year out, I dread it.
I fear the exhaustion. I fear the postpartum depression that’s coming for me. I fear the battering of chemotherapy. I fear burning radiation therapy. I fear the unpredictable time and uncertain means of childbirth. I have so much fear and not nearly enough optimism to counter it.
I am confident that I’ll live, but at what quality of life at the moment? I am certain that I will be a cancer survivor, but will this be the last time I have cancer? I am certain my children will grow into good people, but will I have enough positive influence in these early formative years? I just have so many uncertainties and fears and so little capacity to assuage my anxiety. I exhaust myself.
I’ll end here. I can go on and on, but I’m making things worse for myself. So now I hope you, the reader, goes outside and gets some fresh air. A nice hot drink or an iced coffee. A relaxing shower. A tight hug. Try not to be alone and sad. I’ll try for the same.
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