Thursday, October 26, 2017

Coffee & Moonlight: How I Deal With Anxiety

| "Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows |

I once wrote a blog post that I ended up never publishing, as I felt it was too personal and too much for me to be posting after having just started blogging. Realistically, that post was nothing more than the continuation of something I started doing late last fall, after I had fallen into a growing depression. More often than not, I would spend late nights writing out how I felt, without thinking about it, and for only myself to ever see. For months in the latter part of last year, writing out how I was consistently feeling was the only thing that kept things bearable. It makes sense, then, that in June I was tempted to continue that technique - only this time I had the option of sharing it with others.

The only thing is that my writing was never intended for anyone other than myself. I didn't plan it or limit myself or focus consciously on what I was choosing to write out; I simply said it as I felt it. Thinking about posting those kind of thoughts on my blog seemed just a bit too strange for me, and I decided not to publish it.

But mental illness, depression, anxiety, emotional hurt -- these are things that I care about far too deeply to keep my thoughts about them to myself for the sake of risking my pride or image. I have more compassion for those suffering from a war within their own heads than I do for anything else, because I have been there, I am there - and I need others to know they are not alone.

So, on that note, the little unpublished piece I wrote that June night went like this:

|| I don’t know why I feel everything so deeply. I can feel happiness in distorted highs and then crash down into a breaking heart and an aching soul within minutes. I’ve always felt things with a weight that seemed more than normal, a heaviness that seemed odd. When I love something, it is not just a piece of my world that I appreciate. I feel a pressing need to embrace the overflowing passion I have for whatever it is I love, to ensure that it is as prominent in my life as it deserves to be, to surround myself and immerse myself within it.

They say this is something that I’ve been blessed with, that it’s a mark of the innocence of the youthful heart and that I should hold onto it with pride. There are times when I feel so incredibly grateful to have been blessed with such a curse. My heart breaks at the slightest word, but it causes me to look at the pieces of a shattered world with a desire – a need – to seek out the beauty and the dazzling tragedy and the crumbling brilliance of this bestowed existence.   

Yet other times, I am crushed. This curse, a curse to feel, wholly debilitates me. Perhaps it is because I have lost what I have loved so terribly much in my past. Perhaps it is because what I have loved before has stolen all of me and then shown me it wants none of me. With growth comes an increasing difficulty to uphold this curse of passion. 

Maybe I cannot say exactly why it has become so absurdly hard for me to enter the real world day after day, or why I do this in fear. Each moment is a short breath and subtle reminder to myself that I must continue as I tense up in defense against what is hurting me. Sometimes I do not even know if that thing that is threatening my steadiness is outside of me or within me. The one thing I do know is that I refuse to let this weight I have been given take the life from me. It cannot control me, for I must take hold of it and use it to channel the fervor and presence within me into goodness and beauty and enhancement of the world. 

So I live on in this hell. I continue under this curse. ||

Now you know. 

I read recently that you should never think about what you need to say when you are writing, or think about where you need to point out what, because it takes your focus off of the writing itself. You should simply write. What you need to say will come as an inevitable result of your choice to just write. Perhaps this is why for months some of my best writing happened in the notes on my phone; it was just the raw result of
 what I felt. 

In one of those notes, from sometime in the spring of this year, I attempted to explain what anxiety actually felt like. I debated whether or not I'd be able to add that into this post, too, but if I am going to be completely unedited and honest, I feel that I should share it as well:

 || It's like 

Picture you're in a tornado. There's wind everywhere. It's ripping at you. Everything is being blown to ruins. Chaos. Engulfing you. You can't see. You can't think. Your heart pounds. You want to scream but you're too weak. You want nothing but for it to stop - to be somewhere safe.

It's like that, but the other way around. That scene is inside of you. You feel all of that in your chest. It debilitates you. You want to cry, but no tears come. You are perpetually exhausted, but you can't ever sleep. Shaky. Desperate. Paranoid. Sporadic. Angry at everyone. Angry most at yourself. 

And the world sits calmly and passes by you. And makes it so much worse. ||

One of my favorite quotes says that "if you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you." That, to me, explains why writing is so important - so necessary - in my life. If I'm not writing, the hurt and the fear stay within. I'm not sure if it's ever possible to actually release all of the internal turmoil through writing, or through any form of catharsis, but I do know that it makes it significantly more bearable. Beyond that, it brings feelings of accomplishment due to the fact that you have created something. As I always like to say, I believe people are happiest when they are loving and living for what they love.

The other main way I've soothed overbearing anxiety I discovered in the early weeks of last January. After the culmination of a very hard few months the previous fall, I had gotten to the point where my depression and anxiety had become truly debilitating, in every sense of the word; I was living in such deep fear and hurt, such physical and emotional instability, that I was considering taking a break from school and moving back home. I would wake up literally trembling and wonder how I would possibly channel enough strength to make it through the day.

I started getting up before the sun had risen over the skyscrapers surrounding my apartment building and spending hours alone trying to calm myself down. Whether my early mornings were a result of insomnia or a conscious decision I made to ensure time on my own, I cannot remember. All I know is that those few hours every dark morning before the rest of the world had risen became the best thing I could have possibly done for my emotional state at the time. I started routinely brewing a fresh cup of coffee, grabbing a blanket, and sitting on my couch to do homework or write while listening to music that I found calming and meaningful. Soon after I began this, I created a playlist of these songs and named it after my secret little solution:
Coffee & Moonlight.

Some of the songs in this playlist are a few of the most precious gifts given to me in my life, and I love them more than I can explain for their heart and for how they have gotten me through very dark places. I would highly encourage anyone seeking to soothe their soul to listen to them and let them speak existence. The following is the list of song titles that I spent every morning listening to and reveling in.

Coffee & Moonlight
Tenenbaum - The Paper Kites
Way Down We Go - Kaleo 
All I Want - Dawn Golden 
5AM - Amber Run
Time Is Dancing - Ben Howard
Delicate - Damien Rice 
And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop - James Vincent McMorrow
Awake My Soul - Mumford & Sons
Don't Go Slow - Benjamin Francis Leftwich 
Songbird - Josh Garrels 
The Yawning Grave - Lord Huron
Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft And Low - James Vincent McMorrow
Northern Wind - City and Colour 
I Forget Where We Were - Ben Howard 
Emmylou - Vance Joy
After The Storm - Mumford & Sons
Lonelily - Damien Rice
Sensible Heart - City and Colour
Burgh Island - Ben Howard 
Angela - The Lumineers
Lovely - Sara Haze
Fire Escape - Half Moon Run
DNA - Lia Marie Johnson 
All The Pretty Girls - Kaleo
Anchor - Novo Amor
Holocene - Bon Iver
Medicine - Daughter
Tilikum - Benjamin Francis Leftwich
Silhouette - Aquilo
My Arms Were Always Around You - Peter Bradley Adams
Be Still - Canyon City
Wastelands - Amber Run
Smother - Daughter
Re: Stacks - Bon Iver
Losing You - Aquilo
Cursive - Billie Marten 

I don't think anyone having to suffer through a war within their own mind should have to go through it alone. It's exactly why many of these songs and a few of the artists I have discovered because of the harder times have become some of the most important parts of my life.

| And at once, 
I knew I was not magnificent. -Bon Iver |

If you struggle with mental illness, that horrid maze within oneself, I hope this has provided some relief and encouragement. Please know you are loved and you are never alone.

xx Erin Nicole


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