It’s almost September, almost two years since I moved up here, almost three since my best friend died, five since my life utterly exploded. A lot has happened. A lot is happening. And the world continues to clip along at light speed, with a thousand reasons for me to go back to being agoraphobic and terrified of how bad things are, but…
I’m not sure when exactly my thinking about it changed, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately.
When I was 13, a lot of things were wrong. My home life. My mental health. School. The world at large. I had my first panic attack, and everything collapsed. I didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know why I was so terrified of leaving the house. Why it was so difficult to interact with anyone else. I kept my bureau in front of the door and hid under my bed if anyone tried to come in. I ate at night, when everyone was asleep, and hid in my closet when I couldn’t breathe. And it felt like no one could help me, but I remember with incredible clarity the times people tried.
The near-thousand paper cranes my classmates folded because all they knew was that I was sick. The kind letters passed along from teachers and friends.
My grandfather, who traveled over 700 miles to stand outside the door and say, “Come on, Miss Superfantastic. One step. Take all the time you need. I’m not going anywhere.”
My sister, speaking unusually loud from the kitchen, about how talented I was and how incredible my stories were, and how she was so proud of me.
People gave me things to crawl out toward, even though it felt doomed and every step was surely one closer to death. But the further I got from the safety of my room, the more I came to realize it was a prison.
A couple months back, I watched Bo Burnham’s Inside and it broke me. Sobbed so hard I broke capillaries in my nose. Because it is such a painful thing to be so isolated and alone, but so terrifying to try and reenter the world.
Last year’s lockdown was an uncomfortable return to a place I didn’t want to be. Except this time, the world genuinely wasn’t safe. I returned to work with the knowledge that if I got sick, I could die. People were dying en masse. It should have been paralyzing. I had so many reasons to seal myself in a room. If ever there was a time agoraphobia could be beneficial, this was it.
But I didn’t. I was too concerned with bills and rent and unemployment wasn’t an option. I worked one job. I worked two, sometimes three. Always with the knowledge things could go wrong. Always pushing on anyway. Because the worst could happen, yes, but the other knowns were absolute certainties.
I’m not sure when I started seeing my own dread as a challenge to smash into over and over. It was there. Every day. Conditions were not optimal. Us essential workers were on the brunt of a lot of ugliness. But there was kindness, too, and there were several days I’d walk back to my car marveling at how the world refused to quit. Boarded up windows, brilliant with artwork. Marches and protests that gave me a spark of hope. I’d walk down to the homeless encampment near Skate Park with day-olds and dinners people didn’t pick up, and was so relieved to see other workers already there. Restaurant workers bringing food. Volunteers with medicine and clean water, helping however they could.
Kindness bloomed amidst a suffering world. It gave me a shred of hope to keep going, keep pushing. No matter how hard, no matter how ugly. Refuse to look away. Refuse to accept that everything is broken, that nothing is worth saving. I held position and handed out coffee and promised myself this world was worth staying alive in, fighting for change in, suffering in.
And perhaps that is the thing that has changed. Knowing that I will suffer, but being determined to make it mean something.
That’s what the writing is all about. Always has been. It just took me a couple decades to realize that.
I hope you’re doing okay, reader. I hope things aren’t so heavy it feels like it’s breaking you. Please know you don’t have to carry it alone. You might not know how many people truly care about you, but I promise they are there. Reach out if you can. Doesn’t matter how. Doesn’t matter how little. You are never alone in this world, no matter how alone you feel. We’re alive in it together.
Let’s keep going.
I’m with you.