The first time I ever remember losing consciousness I was 15 years old. I had watched an episode of Oprah where a young girl used self harm as a release for her pain and sadness. I just remember the footage of that young girl lying in the bathtub, cutting herself, and just… crying in despair.
I don’t know if it was her sadness or the blood or a combination of the two, but in that moment something in me broke. Something I can’t explain, but it’s something that I haven’t yet recovered from (if it’s to be recovered from at all). From then on it was as if I had reached some special kind of breaking point which caused a little switchboard in my head that governed all the things I could “handle” to be switched from ON to OFF.
In that moment I remember feeling an overwhelming heat come over my body and I thought I might be sick, so I stumbled to the kitchen for some water. I remember reaching for a glass and I remember the water going down my throat but other than that I have no memory whatsoever. In the seconds and minutes that followed the incident I dropped the glass and passed out cold. I was told later that when they found me that my arms were curled and my head was rolling side to side. Fearing that I might actually be seizing my sister called 911 and I was whisked off to the hospital under the premise of a drug overdose of some sort (they drug tested me as soon as they got me in a room, which is probably understandable considering the usual 15 year old of the world).
After the doctors released me to the care of my GP I remember the nurse sitting down with my mom about my care. I felt so vulnerable in that moment sitting on the edge of the bed in my backless hospital gown. And I was so embarrassed by my “behavior” that I began to feel sick all over again. In fact, when they took me out of the ambulance I distinctly remember the EMT saying, “The ride’s over, Princess,” in a tone that certainly didn’t compliment the situation at hand. That night after my parents had brought me home from the hospital I remember sitting on the couch with my dad with a spoonful of peanut butter in my hand and just crying my eyes out because I simply could not shake the woozy, nauseas feeling. And it was the exact same feeling that preceded the unconscious state a few hours earlier. All I remember from that conversation was my dad saying something to the effect of “you can’t live like this forever”. It was then and there with tears in my eyes and a spoonful of peanut butter in my hand that I began my absolute greatest battle with anxiety.
You see, once you have discovered that you are no longer in control of your own body – that try as you might you could still be in a tough situation and then blackout entirely and have no recollection of the incident – now that is terrifying. I became resentful of my body. I wanted so badly to be tough, but try as I might I was in a constant war with consciousness. I know now that I’m in my mid twenties and have received professional help for the struggles that my mind was playing tricks on me, but try telling that to a teenager that’s just trying to get by.
I had several more panic-induced blackouts after that, but the most significant one was probably the day that I visited my baby sister in NICU for the first time. It was a literal war in my head to stay in control of my consciousness during those visits. I’m not sure if anyone around me really ever knew what was going on inside, but I cried a lot on my own time – that’s for sure. Driving was an anxious nightmare. School was far worse. I even passed out at school once.
I think I’ve always been on the shy/reserved side of the spectrum. Not that I didn’t like the company of others, but more that I was perfectly alright even if I was left to myself. But the anxiety… and the blackouts… made me feel less of myself. I felt weak. I felt completely incapable of dealing with difficult matters such as injuries, death, and emotional trauma. I’ve carried that around with me for a long while, but recent events and turmoil has reminded me once more that we’re actually much stronger than we think we are. You know that saying about being kind to everyone because we don’t know what kinds of battles they are fighting? Well it’s true. And there are a whole lot of fighters out there.
I’m not here to pretend that I’m some special case. And I’m certainly not here to say that I have experienced great hardships (although our perception is our reality). But tonight at 11:23 pm as I write this instead of going to bed I can’t help but think about the things weighing on my mind and in this moment I keep picturing that skinny 15 year old girl wearing a blue t-shirt and the most awful khaki-colored capri pants clutching a peanut butter spoon with tears streaming down her face and I’m mentally wrapping my arm around that little girl and thinking, “Darling, you are oh so much stronger than you think you are.” Because I know exactly what that little girl is going to face over the years and I know that each day she’s gonna make it and each day she’s gonna face her fears and each day she’s gonna get bigger and stronger and more capable and I just can’t help but look this crappy little group of problems presently in my life and think, “Ha! Problems, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
So believe in yourself. God made you strong. You ARE strong enough to face this.
With love and gratitude,