Electrified Butterflies

My ability to remember the most obscure and random situations can be uncanny. Like the time in the 3rd grade where my teacher made me sit in a cubicle of wavy cardboard she had used to make her bulletin boards. Why? Because I talked too much. Or hiding in the huge tires on the playground during recess. Why? Because everyone was playing hide and seek… but they hadn’t included me.

I can remember situations and experiences from childhood as though I am flipping through a photo album of every moment of my life. And with each snap shot I am momentarily transported back to that time. I can remember what was said, what was done, how I felt. My anticipation of being made up like a cat from the Broadway play CATS… it’s not just a memory I can actually relive the experience in my mind and body.

I talk to friends from high school and they vaguely remember this and that. I have moments in time singed into my brain as if done with a branding iron. I didn’t realize this was different until recently when people would say they barely remember their childhood except from what they are reminded by pictures and family stories. Or flipping through year books. My memories are more then memories they are pseudo-transports back in time. I can be that 5 year old in Kindergarten playing in the parachute. The 7th grader telling her friend too loudly a secret that was later shared by a male classmate over the loudspeaker during afternoon announcements.

It’s the surge of emotion that accompanies these memories that is sometimes unnerving. I mean who gets upset over something that happened on a bus trip to Lake Placid with your ice skating team when you were 12? This girl, right here. This 46 year old woman can be immediately transported back in time and feel all the feels that came on that trip. And they don’t stop. Waves of crashing memories hit me from time to time and the emotional response is … well… rough.

Many times people who are dealing with a diagnosis of depression also have strong anxiety. I’m not talking the willies or the nerves you get on a roller coaster. I’m talking stop you in your tracks, frozen in time, soul quaking disruption. And it’s annoying and disarming and frequently embarrassing. How do I know? Because I live it. Anxiety is the boogie monster that taps you on the back in the middle of the day and says “Boo, and hey by the way, I’m certain that you are about to fail just like that one time in 7th grade when you landed your axel and then forgot the rest of your program.” And then it just leaves you to remember the moment, the feelings, and the what if’s start to generate. Like a copy machine on overdrive. And the self doubt that had been shelved away comes bouncing out of its hiding spot by the force of the energy from the copy machine and swirling memories. And boom it’s a Gargamel explosion of epic proportions.

I’ve only allowed a select few to see me in my full blown anxiety mode because it’s not rational, it’s by no means enjoyable and people understand it even less than depression. But I’ve recently realized why I have such vivid memories… because they are attached to significant emotions. Maybe they are unresolved. Or maybe they are a gift to help me better relate to others. Or perhaps a curse for something unforetold. I can hang onto an emotional memory like a toddler with it’s blankey, regardless of its usefulness.

But you know, anxiety doesn’t make sense. I guess it’s useful in a fight or flight situation. Or if you just want to see what it feels like to have your heart race and your mind spin in circles like a top while you desperately try to hold yourself together so no one notices and thinks you’re a weirdo. It may not make sense but I can tell you that it can be triggered by a seemingly benign thing that may not even be recognizable. But once it hits, there is tremendous effort to lasso this flurry of burning butterflies that consume your body and your mind.

So those memories? The feelings associated with them? When I have those same feelings now related to something completely different I can still be emotionally transported back to hiding in the tire where I felt sad and a alone and embarrassed because for some reason, I wasn’t included.

So many people have severe anxiety, and it is disabling at times. What’s even more power zapping is the response people can give. Yes, we understand this is not logical. Yes we understand we should breathe. But do you understand we currently feel as though we are about to be shot dead in front of a firing squad and have no where to run? Because sometimes that is how it feels.

In order to enjoy every day to its fullest, sometimes you just have to be ok with it being good enough. I hate being anxious, almost more than feeling depressed. I don’t like my emotional recall that slices through my brain like an untethered electrical wire at the most unpredictable times. But what I am beyond grateful for are those people who care enough to love me in my moment. To remind me to take off my shoes. Stay in the center lane. And listen to their voice as I ride my bumper car through the mountains. Without them I would not be able to ground my kite and keep my sanity.

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