"Just breathe, Baby."
I try to focus on those three words.
Just three words which sound farther to me than the atmosphere. Still, for the moment I am desperately trying to cling to them. To find solace in those words.
Air is escaping my body in wheezes and my chest is tighter than a vice. All I can focus on is nothing and everything.
Survival mode has kicked into hyper drive as I run to the bathroom as if a predator was closer to me than my skin. I climb into the tub sobbing like I did frequently as a child, when my mother would tell me a terrible storm was coming. There is a storm coming. I am that storm.
The repetitive knocks on the door sound like gunshots. I cover my ears and sob. I am spiraling, falling into a feeling that I am going to die. If I can't breathe, I will die. And I must be dying now.
I look around frantically, searching for anything to cling to; to bring those three words to life so they will cradle me, wipe my tears and return the air that was stolen back to me. But I find nothing so I sink into the tub and hum to myself. No melody in particular, but a familiar sound.
My skin hurts to touch but I do it anyway. I ground myself in moments where I make myself tactile. I run my finger over a scar on my chin that I earned growing up with a older sister who loved to play tricks. I feel good remembering that so I play it again in my head.
My mind quickly darts to a memory I wish to forget and the person who knocks on the door pleading to get in is no longer the one who tells me those three words, but rather one who wishes to take them away from me and I spiral again. I still have no air and the storm is here.
I'm straining to stand, but being a crumpled piece of glass will serve me nothing. I force myself out of the tub and look at myself in the mirror.
I scan my tear soaked face for any discrepancies and find none. I'm here. I am alive. I turn to look around the room, I take every item into account; shampoos I never use, lotions, purfumes.
I take my index finger and press on my neck and I feel my heartbeat slowing. I take a deep breath and it's shaky but I feel it filling my lungs slowly. I feel grateful.
A rush of comfort washes over me as I repetitively complete the cycle over and over.
Breathe in, then out.
Breathe in, then out.
The feeling leaves as quickly as it came and is immediately replaced with shame. I clean my face in the sink, letting the cold water run down my face as if it will remove the memory of this moment. As if this moment will just run down the drain and I won't feel like this again.
I know I have to face those words now; to tell those words that I failed them. That those words were not enough. I wanted them to be. I did my best to cling to them. But I lost my grip on them and they flew away. I have let them down. I am ashamed.
I open the door and those three words are waiting patiently behind it. They brush my hair behind my ears. They cradle my face in their hands and tell me, "You're okay. I have you. You're okay." I let those words wash over me and it feels like daylight. They take my hands and lead me to my bed.
I feel grateful as they cover me in my blakets and crawl inside them with me. They don't ask for an explanation. They just stay with me. Keeping me warm in their arms as guilt washes over me. I feel weak.
"I'm sorry." I squeak.
"Why?" They mused.
"You're stronger than you know."
I have played that sentence over and over in my mind for a long time now. Trying to file it in my mind and sometimes it feels out of place. As if the file is corrupted somehow.
What makes you strong when you are constantly battling a fear that you create in your mind? Or how do you battle a sadness that has no origin? How do you battle voices that don't exist?
I understand others pain because of my own. I feel closer to the broken because I am broken. I find myself sympathizing with strangers as they sympathize with me. I have more respect for the struggles of others because I understand my personal struggle isn't comparable to others. Each stuggle is unique in its own way. I use my weaknesses to make connections to others and gather strengths from these connections so that they may do the same from me.
I believe we are constellations. We may feel as if we stand alone but together we are whole. We make something beautiful.
I feel hopeful about the future. I feel that as a whole, people are good and that helps me get through days that are too hard to bear. I feel that when my days are long and hard, I remind myself that I am a star. Something burns inside me to continue my journey. And I am strong enough to survive.
We are all stars.
We are strong enough to survive.
The dark days pass and the daylight will feel warm again.