As we leave behind the storm that 2020 brought upon us and look forward to the new beginnings that 2021 has in store for us, I cannot do so without thinking of all that we have endured and been through. The world as we have known it has become one big panic attack of a seismic proportion for many of us. I think about the mental state of isolating and the damaging effect. I think about the depression and worry that streams across our faces. I think about all the people that have suffered through the chaos. I think about my own mental and physical health and how I could I improve it. Then I realize that with all these thoughts racing through my head, I think about faith. What would worry be if we have faith?
Faith can mean many things to many people. It could be the God factor, faith in humanity, faith in ourselves. I know that when I suffered from a panic disorder and agoraphobia, the more I suffered the more it chipped away at my faith, self-confidence, and self-worth. Each time I had a panic attack, I felt shame. I felt like my freedom was being taken away from me. I felt like my world was crumbling around me and there was no God there to protect me, or that maybe there was a God, but I was not one of the divine chosen ones. I felt insecure. I lost trust in myself. There came a time when I didn’t even feel safe to make decisions on my behalf. I begged my shrink back then, to put me in a psych ward. She refused. I fell into a deep depression and didn’t want to live anymore.
Where do we go when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel -- when we are down in the abyss of despair? How do we bounce back after we have entered a void, a world that we do not want to share with our loved ones or friends, for fear of shame, judgment, being abandoned, misunderstood, or worse - considered crazy? I know these are harsh words and not a healthy way to look at yourself but today I say -- F**K YOU panic… F**K YOU FEAR!
FEAR is a bully. FEAR will defeat you. FEAR will shame you. FEAR will make you depressed and FEAR is nothing more than FALSE. EVIDENCE. APPEARING. REAL. I remember after I was cured by an Indigenous Medicine Man, my panic attacks and fear went away, but my problems and trauma were still there. I was desperate to find answers so I became a seeker of my truth.
One of the things that helped me early on, was a book I stumbled across, ‘THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED,’ by M. Scott Peck, M.D. In the very first page of the book, he says “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult.”
This is such a simple statement, but no one had ever told me that. Had I known that life was hard, I could have saved years, if not a decade of suffering. Twenty-five years ago, I lived under the umbrella of society’s mold of the American dream. Our television and media portrayed this perfect family lifestyle and everything was a façade of perfectness. Those generations of people learned to bury their feelings of inadequacy and insecurities. If we were different than this perfect family model, some of us fell into depression and felt as imposters while masking to the world that we were okay. We didn’t live in our skins, our voices were silenced, we swallowed our pain, buried our emotions, and hid our truths – but we cannot live like that without eventually combusting. My therapist at the time told me that I’m like a cup and if I kept putting emotions inside that cup, it will eventually overflow and that is what happened -- My cup over-flowed.
Back then, I couldn’t see that my panic attacks were actually a good thing. My body no longer wanted to be something I am not. My body was talking to me and trying to purge some of the traumas that my mind stored. My recall memory brought so much physical and mental pain. I feared each time that I felt this emotion because it simply didn’t feel good. I wanted to numb that feeling because let’s face it, no one wants to feel bad. No one wants to wake up and feel this shitty feeling of not wanting to be alive anymore. No one wakes up and wants to feel abandoned and unloved or like they don’t belong in this world where no one understands them.
Buddha said, ‘Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.’
If you said this to me 20 years ago, I would have been like bulls**t. I wouldn’t have understood the underlying philosophical meaning behind it. I didn’t have the mental capacity to process it in the way that it was intended. I wouldn’t have had that spiritual awareness needed to read the subtext between the lines.
Life is hard. Life will offer you lemons and a crappy poker hand. We will lose sometimes, things will go wrong, we will have those end-of-the-world days, but I have learned to look at FEAR in the eye. I have found through my personal experience that my suffering lies in my perception of how I look at things. When things go wrong and they often do, sometimes even being a trickling effect of several things going wrong all at once. I no longer internalize those feelings, or those emotions as the world is out to get me - for if I do, then I'm in trouble as it will take me down a dark path of despair. When life hands you a crappy poker hand, give those cards back to the dealer and get new ones. When life hands you a lemon, you have the power to accept it as a lemon, or learn to make lemonade. The choice is yours.
I think it’s important to understand that our emotions are not the masters of us. They are feelings based on thoughts, our experiences, our perceptions, but we have the power to change those thoughts and our perceptions of our experiences. The power lies within.