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For My Fellow Travelers And Those That Care For Them

A Letter To Connect Us To The Realities Of Depression, Anxiety, Panic, Trauma, And Suicide.

Dear Fellow Traveler,

Let’s start with, you are not alone! There are millions of us marching with you. You may not know it because, well, no one likes to be part of the medical establishment's statistics. Yet, when we see that the amount of people with anxiety and depression are rising, we know we are one of those numbers. We are part of the suffering masses who understands what it is like to fall in the darkness of depression and face the fear of anxiety. Some of us, like myself, know the dread of panic. Yes, we are one of those seemingly dismissed numbers on a page.

Oh my dear fellow traveler, I see you. I know what it is like to go to bed with a smile and the monster comes to visit during the night, thinking maybe you were too happy, too content with your life, so it comes to visit. This is when you wake up with the 2am blues, the melancholy strings are playing, and you know the slow dance of depression has begun. The dark monster sits on that place in the middle of your spine that causes your shoulders to feel heavy and your head to feel a dull ache. The worst feeling is when the monster starts to whisper in your ear, “You are nothing.” You try to lift yourself and convince the monster that they are wrong but his voice continues, “You are a burden to the world, to everyone who has ever met you, and everyone who claims they love you. Everyone would be better off if you died.” The monster of depression is a cruel bastard, stealing your hope and bringing the dreaded numbness. That is the worst part, the numbness. It’s when you know that your former self, the person you were just hours before is there, somewhere deep and restrained, trying to breathe and survive, but you don’t recognize yourself anymore. It is when you look in the mirror and hardly recognize the person that stands before you with glassy eyes. The numbness is when you see the people around you repeat their words of love to you, saying they care, but you can hardly hear them. You struggle to respond because they seem incredibly hard to reach, even when you can feel their warmth right next to you. Perhaps, your past traumas have decided to sit beside you and remind you of everything that you have been through and that they will never leave. They flood your mind with muddy waters.

Stay! Pause! Breathe! Accept! Impermanence! Hope! Resilience!

Oh my dear fellow traveler, your mind started to spin, I can see it. You now worry about things that have not even happened yet and you wish you could stop the intrusive thoughts but the rollercoaster has started to speed up and is now out of control. The fear has come to you. It was a stealthy attack, waging war when you were not ready and thinking things were okay, calm even, and then it came for you. Anxiety likes to run its sharp fingernails up your chest and make a path to your skull, where it will dig in, causing havoc on all of your senses, driving you close to what you think is madness. You tell yourself that this is your new norm, to live in constant fear, swirling out of control, losing yourself in the process. You have people near you that you try to fool with false courage, attempting to simply will the anxiety away as if you have a magic wand, but when you deny it, your fear grows. You cannot deny the beast of anxiety. It is too strong, too damaging, stealing away your peace and calmness. It not only captures your mind, telling you, “Get ready, you are about to die,” but it likes to toy with your body as well. It will bring pain to your bones, convincing you that disease has come to visit. It blurs your vision and makes your face tingle, and then laughs as you tell yourself that you must have a horrible brain condition that will soon paralyze you. The place anxiety loves the most is in your chest, laying heavy on your heart. Oh, it loves to make you think that crushing heaviness in your chest is a heart attack, sending you to the emergency room to be hooked up to a machine and then the doctor tells you that it is “just” anxiety. Humiliation sinks in soon after and society's stigmas start to tell you that they are right, “You are weak!” Anxiety feels so bad you beg it to go away but the beast likes to wreak havoc on you and see you curl into the corner so it can attempt to ruin you, take away your joy. It doesn’t want you to function. You look around at everyone and everything that you are responsible for and wonder, “How can I possibly fulfill my obligations to the world I have created?” That question causes more weight on your shoulders and the adrenaline of fear to hit your bloodstream like a hurricane. You look at the people you love and want them to understand. You want them to hang on through this craziness that is causing you to spin out of control. You need your job to survive, for those you love and count on you, but you feel like you will lose it all. The fear of losing everything is there in front of you, and the beast is grinning with sharp yellow teeth, wanting to steal it all from you. Anxiety is greedy.

Stay! Pause! Breathe! Accept! Impermanence! Hope! Resilience!

Oh my dear fellow traveler, I see you walking calmly, living your life, and feeling good. Then, it comes on unexpectedly, taking your breath, like someone jammed a vacuum hose down your throat, turning it on high. Suddenly, without notice, you feel like you cannot breathe, your chest is crushing in on you, and it’s as if the devil’s hands are around your throat strangling the courage and life out of you. Every muscle in your body tenses up and you are now a living statue, frozen in place, wishing the sculpture would take a hammer and smash you because falling to the floor in a thousand pieces would be better than what is happening. Panic is here. It is like no other feeling in the world and it is not whispering like the monster of depression. Instead, it is screaming in your ear, “You are going to fucking die! I am about to take you on the ride of your life and you will not survive this!” Oh my dear traveler, if panic has come to visit, I am sorry. You have my empathy for panic is cruel. It is telling your mind that you may not come back from this and that you are going crazy, mad, and will have to eventually be placed in an institution. It is a torturous feeling, where your mind is now under so much distress that it is delivering you to a true living hell. You feel the people around you, they are close, and you wonder if they see you falling into the abyss? Do they understand that you are fighting to come back from the place panic has taken you, but it has a powerful grasp. Yet, you cannot be concerned about them and what they think because you are simply trying to survive. Panic! That son of a bitch that will disrupt your life without notice and make you feel like you are about to lose everything that you have built in your life, especially love. Panic tells you in a loud and screeching voice, “Who would want to love someone like you?” You believe what panic says and become a runaway train out of control, waiting to crash.

Stay! Pause! Breathe! Accept! Impermanence! Hope! Resilience!

Oh dear fellow traveler, I see that your emotions have combined forces and have told you that it is time. They are all taunting you as they circle around you like bullies on the playground and their words are cruel, “Kill yourself! Nobody wants you around anymore, so do it. Kill yourself!” You sit quietly in these moments, holding your head, trying to block out their voices but you do wonder for a moment if they are right. It is when you try to tell yourself that you are worthy of love and you are worthy of life, but the taunting continues. The past traumas, the depression, the anxiety, and the panic are convincing. They keep forcing words into your mind that are telling you that you are a burden, a rabid animal, that needs to be put out of your misery. You want to hang on but when you see the people you love flash before you, like they are an illusion, far from reach, you start to tell yourself that they will be better off without you. The voices are convincing and you now realize they were right the entire time, no matter how you try to change the dialogue, you are a burden. You are searching for anything you can to hang on and not go through with it. This is your edge, your bottom, and you must find the strength to climb back up the mountain and let the cool air bring you the clarity of truth, you are no one’s burden, especially your own. Life is a glorious, sometimes out of control beast, and you must tame it.

Stay! Pause! Breathe! Accept! Impermanence! Hope! Resilience!

For those that walk alongside the traveler, it is important you know what may be happening in the mind of those who suffer from mental illness. Understanding and compassion are what they need. They do not need you to fix them. They only need you to tell them, “I love you. I am here for you. Please let me know if I can do anything for you.” Perhaps, just sit with them in silence because they will feel your loving, calming presence, and then wait. They do hear you and they can feel your loving presence. Remember this, when you enter your time of suffering, because we all do in one form or another, they will understand because they know. They will offer a great deal of compassion and empathy, and they may just have a secret key to open the lock that is confining you. Keep them close, for none of us are alone.

Stay! Pause! Breathe! Accept! Impermanence! Hope! Resilience!

Oh dear fellow traveler, you are strong. You are a survivor and can sit with your suffering and understand it. You can learn the strategies that you need to cope and become resilient in order to live a long fulfilling life. When you learn to communicate with your trauma, depression, anxiety, and panic, they will listen. They will always try to convince you of your lack of worth and that you are a burden. The monsters will come for their feast when you least expect it. It is a great test, so prepare for it ahead of time. Study the beast and be ready. They will convince you that you will lose everything in your life. However, when you prepare yourself daily for the wars in your mind, you will be the victor. I am not telling you that it will be an easy battle. That would undermine the power of what you are dealing with. You can do hard things. You are worth it!

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