Face. Accept. Float. Let time pass.
I’m having tension headaches again. Only now the pain that grips the crown of my head comes without warning. Like my anxiety, they’d become nearly non-existent. It was my racing mind that foreshadowed the throbbing of my temples.
Stress is the leading factor of this particular pain, and living with chronic anxiety is like giving the stress a megaphone. Only I don’t know where my anxiety went, so I didn’t hear the stress coming.
I never even considered this was possible—to live without feeling constantly choked by fear. Sure, I still have panic attacks from time to time; I still feel the occasional anxiety of L.A. traffic; and the collective anxiety of world affairs; but we’re talking about progress here, not an overnight miracle. A handful of panic attacks in a year is a helluva better than a handful in a month. We’re all going to die anyway.
Maybe awareness of death is the only way to live.
In my office, there’s a photograph of my cousin and me on the shelf by my desk. We look happy in it. We must’ve been. It was taken in San Francisco in 2014. “She’s gonna die someday,” I said, looking at it while tripping on psychedelics. I looked to the one of my dad. “He already did.”
I faced it. I accepted it. I floated. I let time pass.
You don’t have to eat a handful of mushrooms to know the inevitable of life. After we take our first breath, the only guarantee is our last.
Tackling my anxiety and depression has been the second greatest undertaking of my little life. The greatest, of course, was what forced me to do it.—Or should I say who? A five-foot-three redhead with my heart in her hands. And no, I’m not giving her the credit; the work was mine, but a shove to the ground was apparently what I needed.—Still, it was a year before I realized that digging up the trauma at my roots was the road I had to take. Then it took another two long ones to embrace it—my life. But it’s my story. What else can I do? I’m going to die anyway.
But while I’m here, the anxiety isn’t worth it. Stress comes along with the ride. I’d just prefer it in smaller doses.
So what was my key? Well, in a nutshell—
Therapy. (Two years worth.)
Shadow work. (Ongoing.)
Exercise. (Currently slacking.)
Proper diet. (Also slacking.)
Enough sleep. (Pass the melatonin.)
Meditation. (This includes breath work.)
It was in my education—the kind about human and universal existence—that I came across Claire Weekes’ six-word mantra. “Face. Accept. Float. Let time pass.” It’s about not fighting the fear, but rather moving past it. Resistance to anything only makes the struggle harder. I spent too many days fueled by shame—months and then years. The fear of what horror could happen was robbing me of what good already was—and the hope that life wouldn’t be so bad.
It doesn’t have to be so bad.
And even if it is, even if the horror does happen, I’d rather not worry about it ahead of time. I can’t control what other people think of me. I’m still learning to control what I think of myself.
*Case in point—I wrote this piece a month ago, but I opted not to share it, filing it into the folder with a dozen other un-finished and un-shared works. When discussing it (and how we’re trying to keep our personal lives to ourselves) with another writer, I said, “why give people more ammo before you’re ready??”
But in honor of Toys of the Sun’s second birthday, here’s a little piece of progress—in writing, in life, in me.
Use it as ammo if you’d like, I’ve developed a damn fine shield.