What do you let define you

Frantic on the floor of the Newark Airport with a travel pillow grasping hold around my neck, I laid there is disbelief. Utter disbelief about what it was I was about to embark on. A flight to India. Holy hell. My vision was blurring. A sense of non-reality rushed through my veins. What was I thinking?
Flash forward five months prior, I was gearing up to begin my final semester of college. Free-spirited and even more care free than ever before. At this time I knew my future held two things: graduation as well as a venture to conquer three continents in three weeks. I was ready. I was prepared. I was excited. But another thing my final semester had in store for me I was far less aware of: Panic Disorder.

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There was one particular day where I was catching up with my oldest of friends. Drinking, talking, enjoying the sunshine and basking in each other’s light. At dinner,a rush came over me. Maybe it was exhaustion. Maybe it was too much drinking and fun-having over time from the previous weeks. A rush I had yet to ever feel. It was as though i was going to throw up or pass out. The only thing I could think was I have to get out of here. Now. The lights of the restaurant spun around my head and the sounds intruded my mind in the worst way. I had to get home. I had to find comfort. Immediately. It was a sickness I had never encountered. Almost indescribable.
I finally arrived to my home. Immediately ran to my bedroom oasis, with Drake by my side. I lay in complete confusion about why my mind churned in such a way and why my body felt separate from my mind and I felt separate from the world. At the time I had no clue what was going on, other than the fact that I had either been drugged or was simply loosing my mind. I had a great day. Stress free as can be. It was not until a few months later that I realized what it was that came over me that evening.
The sun rose, as did I, I felt new again. Ready to conquer my work day. I arrived with a smile ready to see my friends and make some money. The same way I spend every Sunday: an endless, hopefully fruitful day at Burton’s Grill. Still no clue what had happened, I leaned in to tell my manager about the weirdness of the night before and how it so immediately vanished as I made my way into the next day. Strange right?
I moseyed over to my first table of the day. They seemed to overwhelm me. But not in a sense that I could not have easily handled any other day. But this new me, this new rush I felt from the night before, it surfaced. The room was spinning. All I wanted was to get away from them. Get away from a conversation with someone unfamiliar. I could not think straight. I was in a sense scared. I could not even see straight. All levels of my mind and body shifted among these planes of consciousness.
I took a breather and thought maybe I was dehydrated and needed gatorade or water. My concert-going, on the road, party life style was catching up. That is all it is, I thought.
Then came bad days, worse days. As they came the good days went as well. But why? I was just so happy. I had a California vacation with the best if friends on the horizon and the brighest future right ahead of me.
My mind churned constantly. Racing, racing, racing. What exactly did it race with? Worry, anxiety, constant ever-evolving thoughts. I wanted it to go away. I had no clue what was wrong. I couldn’t even remember my mind before it switched to working this way.
Most interesting part is this came on at one of the happiest points of my life. Why was it that I was happy? I was happy because of myself and the life I created. Nothing and no one else.
But even then, more troubles lied ahead.
Who doesn’t celebrate their best friends birthday with them? Only a shitty friend right? And that would be me. It came to a point where tears could not stay out of my eyes and thoughts could not exit my mind. I missed it. I missed her birthday. I missed her birthday so bad, that I needed my mom. I missed it so bad because that night I realized I could no longer work.
Not I need my mom, a phone call will do, but I need you, I need you present. I need you right now because I cant go to work, I cant see my friends, I cant support my friends, I cant go to class, I cant see live music, I cant get out of bad. I cant do any of the things that bring me light and energy therefore a smile and happiness. I need you, Mom. What is wrong with me mom?
I needed help. I knew something in my life had shifted and I knew I could not change it alone. But the important thing is my awareness of it and my urge for change. Carefree, on the go, tipsy, gypsy Kara turned into something completely not me. All the things that made me human, that gave me passion had be stripped from my life.
My life had come to the point where I had not one but two doctors helping me through. I thought to myself “damn, its this bad huh?”. They both concluded I had “Panic Disorder” I always thought panic attacks were brief hyperventilating into a brown bag moment that appear in movies.
My situation was different. It was tunnel vision, it was dissolution, it was disconnection from the real world. It was constant. Constant worry, constant stress, constant sadness. It lasted from when it started until the end of my day when I feel into a slumber.
Weeks had passed and I was not better. Maybe slightly, but I was not Kara. Why wasn’t I getting better. I was doing it all. I was exercising, I started doing yoga everyday. I spent lots of time rompin’ at dog parks and the beach with Drake, these are the top things that brings me to life: the number one thing being music.
When it comes to live music it began to overwhelm me. It began to suffocate me. Why, this is my outlet, this is all I have. My sanctuary. What will I do if my truest love cannot be a part of my life any longer because of something that is overcoming me. I would never let music fade from my existence but I will let this disorder fade.
I would not wish this on my own worst enemy. I would give my right hand to not have gone through it. I mean when I say, “I don’t know if I can go to WSP tonight” simply because of my panic, you know shit is bad. Shoutout to Mikey Houser, those old panic sets put me at ease knowing you understood the feeling. Oh what I would do to have seen Mikey play.
Then came the next biggest weight grasping down on my shoulders: this trip. How was I suppose to do it? I was not better. My time pre-adulting to live it up, became masked by this illness. I cannot go see my favorite bands, how the f*** am I suppose to make it through a 14 hour flight to India, followed by three plus weeks of world travel. I had given up. I had weighed my options. I had the option laid out in my mind that it would be possible for me to not go. To stay and focus on my health. Anyone who knows me knows thats not me. I have an adventurous spirit I like to model my life after. What would be worse on me, to go or not to go?
I struggled with one main question: Why me? Why me at such a crucial, moving time in my life. It could be genetics, it could be a symptom of quitting contraceptives after seven years of continuous use, it could be age, it could be the major life changes ahead of me. For me, the answer happens to be a mixture of all of the above.
I kept saying I am better than this. But thats the thing about mental disorder, a person truly cannot help it. A person truly lacks control. A person with Crohn’s would not say “Digestive system, you’re better than this” because they know its not. They know it does not function properly. Same with my mind is not better than this, it is off balance and needed some changes to better itself.
Today, I sit here on a plane back to the states. I MADE IT! Three continents in three weeks. A place I never imagined I would make it to. A place I thought I was mentally and emotionally unable to be at.
Nothing worth having comes easy. I am defeating my fears along side defeating a disease that puts your fears on hyperdrive.
My three weeks in three continents helped me to conquered my biggest fear of all: my Panic Disorder. I did the unimaginable for a normal soul, let alone a struggling soul. I am venturing home feeling new and refreshed. Feeling as though I finally am myself again. A person I could not remember. A person i thought was long gone. I am no longer a person who cannot make it to work, or miss special days in their friends lives. A person who lives for live music again. A person who can converse with strangers. A person who can take leaps and chances. A person with courage to move to a new city where she knows few and far between. A person whose face is now graced with a smile instead of immense worry.
There are so many people I could thank for getting me here. Mental illness is no joke. It needs attention and it needs to not be taken lightly. Be aware of yourself and never lose sight of you and your goals and your dreams. And if for some reason you do, don’t be afraid. There is such thing as help. And such thing as bouncing back. Just don’t be too humble to do so. Find strength in reaching out as I have.
This no longer defines me. I define me.

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