Why I Love my Fat Body – And Why You Should, Too.

Whenever I see pictures of fat women (almost exclusively women) posted online, I inevitably see a bunch of comments about how sickening it is to glorify fat because it is so unhealthy. Bodies come in all degrees of health. There are skinny unhealthy people and fat healthy people and everything in between. If you are using the illogical fallacy of fat being unhealthy to fuel your hatred, you might as well go onto a page of people with heart disease and spout off about how ugly their chest scars are. At any rate, if you’re the kind of person who goes to the comments on posts like that just so you can talk about how unhealthy fat people are, please stop reading this post. You are too stupid to grasp any of what I have to say after this.

I’ve spent a lot of years overcoming the sad effects of a society that punishes people for being fat. There are those who think they mean well such as the “you have such a beautiful face” crowd and the well-meaning mother who struggles with her own self-esteem and pushed new diets on me from the age of twelve. There was the time my sister, also a victim of the bias against fat women, told me that I better lose weight before high school because if I wanted to be in the marching band, I was going to have to get changed in front of everyone else in the band. In fourth grade, we had class weigh ins right in front of the whole class and everyone tried to see what mine said. Throughout middle school and high school, other kids oinked or mooed at me on a regular basis. Once, when jogging, a man actually slowed down his pickup truck to yell, “Don’t break the pavement, fatty” as I ran by. I walked home and didn’t run again for many long years. I absorbed every comment, every snide remark, every well-meaning, but still cutting aside.

As an adult, I set about trying to comes to terms with my fat body, even while putting it through the hell of every diet I could find. I ate nothing but grapefruit. I did the cabbage soup diet. Once, I lost sixty pounds and bought clothes in the “normal” stores and still thought I was ridiculously fat. And ugly. I equated fat with ugly back then. I joined a group of women who purported to be about size acceptance but really consisted of a lot of sad women sitting around talking about how much it sucked to be fat.

I had relationships in my twenties, but I attributed that to people who just fell in love with my personality and put up with the fact that I was fat. In essence, I didn’t love myself, so it didn’t occur to me that someone else could love me just as I was. Of course, because of that, I drew people who didn’t love and embrace me the way that I was. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fast forward to the age of 38 when I, though a positive and loving woman, was not doing well. I was in a long term relationship with someone who did not celebrate me. I was a two pack a day smoker. I was a daydreamer, but not a doer. I had moved to a beautiful Caribbean island and I loved a lot of things about my life there, but I wasn’t treating myself with respect and care.

One day, I decided that had to change. I was tired of hating my body. I was tired of being afraid of what people had to say about me. I was tired about not going to Zumba classes or refusing to go for a swim because of the way certain people looked at me.

It was a slow process. I started by quitting drinking. Then I quit smoking. I started hiking with my soul friend, Aj. We took huge hikes up the sides of gigantic hills that I thought might kill me. I knew it was the best way to keep from going back to smoking. I started meditating. I became a vegetarian. Eventually, I left that dead end relationship and moved back to the states.

And something amazing happened. I grew to love myself. I didn’t just love myself in spite of my fat body. I loved myself AND my fat body. I went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival where I saw women of every shape and size and age and color and ability laughing and loving and dancing and celebrating themselves and me. I fell in love with my own breasts, the weight of them, the way they felt when I lifted them in my hands. I grew to love touching the soft skin of my stomach. I admired the strong and fat curves of my butt. I expressed gratitude for my big thighs that have carried me this far in my wonderful journey. I made love with womyn with the lights on. I refused to be with someone who didn’t love my body the way it was. I set my boundaries and my boundaries involved only being involved with womyn who celebrated and cherished me. And since I’m not a hypocrite, I applied that same rule to myself. I celebrated and cherished myself.

Then something even more amazing happened. I realized I wasn’t just talking about it. I was living it. I celebrated women of all shapes and sizes. I didn’t feel defensive around women with thin bodies or athletic bodies. I didn’t equate skinny with beautiful and I didn’t equate fat with ugly. I started to see through the patriarchal bullshit that insists women be in competition with each other. I started to call out instances of fat shaming, or any kind of shaming of women for their bodies. I stopped watching anything to do with celebrities and I refused to look at fashion magazines and I realized that I have gotten out of the Matrix. That all of those people who think that they have the right to tell women what they should do with their bodies are poisoned in their minds. They’re sick. They are the unhealthy ones. The people who yell “fatty” at a jogger or sneer at a fat person in an exercise class or peer into someone’s cart at the grocery store to see what kind of food they’re buying or purposely go to a page about fat acceptance to leave idiotic comments about fat being gross and unhealthy or lift their eyebrows when they see a woman with hairy legs or write off older women as useless or refuse to see any woman who falls outside of the standard societal expectation of pretty as just that. They are the sick ones. They’re what’s wrong with this society. Those people who feel they somehow have a right to hate someone based on the way they look.They’re hurting our society and they need help.

My journey continued until I was not only loving myself the way I am, but teaching other women how to do the same. Women who have felt too old, too skinny, too muscled, too fat, too wrinkled, too scarred. Women who, like me, have been told that they are not enough the way they are. Women who wore the negative opinions of this sick society.

I learned that I’m beautiful. More importantly, I learned that I am worthy of love and happiness and respect and desire. I learned that I am a woman in every true sense of the word and anyone who can’t understand that isn’t worth my time.

Finally, today was the culmination of all of my self love work. I’ve been telling women of every size and shape that they are beautiful for years. Today when I opened a link to look at the pictures of Leonard Nimoy’s fat nudes and I realized that I thought every single one of them was incredibly fucking beautiful. I felt it down to my very soul. These women were divine and miraculous and beautiful and worthy.I’m not sick anymore. I’m not warped by this sick society. I’ve won. I’m healed. You can be, too.

Sometimes Things Suck – And That’s Okay.

love sucks club coverIn honor of my new release, “The Love Sucks Club,” I’m writing today about things that suck. As any of my friends and blog readers can tell you, I am a proponent of living in joy and making life something to be loved. That said, sometimes things just suck. Sometimes, you’re in a sucky relationship or your job sucks or your financial situation sucks. That morning you slept late, stepped full on into cat puke, got a flat tire, and then got to work late only to get yelled at by your boss? That sucked. When you discovered your ex was cheating on you? That sucked? When your kid hit puberty and started yelling about how much she hates you and everything you stand for? Yeah, that really sucked.

For me, right now, my job sucks. I mean, it just sucks. I’m not even going to list the myriad ways in which it sucks. Just take my word for it. It sucks.

Sometimes things just suck. And sometimes, that’s okay. When things suck, we can wallow in the suckiness for only so long before we start to realize that we are going to have to make a change. I’ve been guilty of staying in a relationship for too long because I was afraid of the change. In hindsight, though, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. Leaving that relationship prompted me to sprout my own wings and challenge myself to live my own life.

I once smoked. I smoked for 22 years and at the end of it, I was smoking almost two packs a day. I couldn’t breathe. Really. I woke up every single night, several times a night with my hand pressed against my chest, trying desperately to take in some air. It sucked. It sucked so bad that one day I decided that not breathing was worse than the pain and difficulty of quitting and I stopped.

So my job sucks. And that’s okay. I’ve been kind of drifting along complacently, writing, and playing on Facebook, and half-heartedly marketing my books. I’m not very good at marketing, is what I kept telling myself. (That takes us right back into negative self-talk and self doubt, which are other demons to conquer, but that’s another story.) So I drifted and I lived an amazing life of travelling and hanging out with my friends and moving around and doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. And then, the royalties started to dwindle and it came time for me to get a “job.” Which leads me to where I am now… in a job that sucks.

Here’s the part where I can reframe my perspective and find gratitude for the suckiness. You see, being in a cubicle in a job I hate is so far removed from who I am that I can’t stay there any longer than is absolutely necessary. And here’s where it gets kind of fun. Hating my job has led me to being way more active in self-promotion and working toward my dreams. I’ve recently written an eight week class on Creative Journaling for Inner Peace and Self-love that I intend to teach at the local Unitarian Church. I have made contact with several local news sources, one of which actually responded with a request for book copies for reviews, and an interview for a story. Through that contact, I met a screenwriter who wants to read my first novel and talk about the movie options. And for the first time, I ordered books myself from my publisher with the intention of getting them out there to be read and reviewed. I ordered a video promo of “The Love Sucks Club” that I will put on YouTube. And I am making a video recording of me reading a funny scene from “Man Enough.” Some of this stuff may lead somewhere and some of it may not, but the important thing is that I am getting out there and working for myself.

Would I have done all of this if I wasn’t wanting so desperately to get out of my job? I doubt it. I had plenty of opportunity before, and I didn’t. So, sometimes suckiness really is awesomeness in disguise.

My friend Yvonne is fond of telling me that I should do just one thing every single day that is a step toward my goals. One thing. Her thought is that as long as you do that one thing, no matter what it is, you have made positive progress toward living your dreams. She’s right. One little step every single day still means I am moving forward. And moving forward means moving out of suckiness and into awesomeness, which quite frankly, is where I belong.

To commemorate the birth of my newest novel and the embracing of suckiness in all of our lives, I am giving away a copy of “The Love Sucks Club” to one random person who leaves a comment on this blog.

 

EDITED: The winner of the book giveaway was Lisa Hurt. Thank you everyone who stopped by to play. And Lisa, let’s chat so I can get your information to send you a book.

Womyn’s Space and Michfest: Promoting what I love, not bashing what I hate.

There has been some struggle and controversy over the long standing tradition of one of my favorite places on earth to remain a woman born woman space. People are now trying to take away this space, to say that womyn who were born womyn do not have the right to gather together. I don’t understand this debate. We are not haters. We are not bigots. We are simply womyn. Womyn who have struggled many years with abuse, womyn who fight patriarchal privileged on a daily basis, womyn who are called sir in public, womyn who are subjected to wolf whistles and catcalls on the street, womyn who want to be in a place of safety and love, and womyn who just want to have a great time with other womyn – and we gather once a year for a week long womyn’s music festival in Michigan. It’s called, appropriately, The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

This festival has been suffering some damaging blows from people who are so het up about the intention to keep this womyn’s space for womyn that they sling insults and hate campaigns at the musicians who are chosen to play at fest. As a result, some musicians have dropped out. I don’t fault them for this. I think they didn’t understand the torment they would suffer when deciding to play.

Sadly, all of this warring is putting my safe space, my beloved fest in danger. I don’t want to lose my safe space. But I am not a fighter and I am not a hater. I am about love. Long ago, I had a dream in which a friend’s deceased mother appeared to me and told me to “paint love on my forehead.” I’ve spent the time since then doing just that. I put love out to the universe and the universe has given me love in return. I am not cheap with my love. I spread it around and try to bring joy and happiness to everyone who comes into my world.

So, in trying to protect my safe space, I’m between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to jump into the war, and yet, I think it is beyond important to make a stand to protect something that is nothing but good.

I decided that the only way I could fight was to follow my own preaching and to promote what I love instead of bashing what I hate. Instead of arguing with the people who want to tear down this place of love and healing, I am going to describe why I love it in hopes that I can convince other womyn to go and experience it for themselves.

Fest is a place where womyn can walk down a wooded path after dark alone without fear of being attacked. Fest is a place where a woman can wear whatever she wants and not have to worry about being raped, nor suffering the aftermath of hearing, “Well, look at what she was wearing.” Fest is a place where womyn who have spent their entire lives hearing that they aren’t pretty enough or thin enough or subservient enough start to realize that all of those “enoughs” are a fat lie designed to keep them insecure and in fear of how they measure up. Fest is a place where a woman can do yoga in the sunshine, meditate in a field, take a group journaling workshop, wash dishes in a baby pool, throw a tomahawk into a target, watch a movie under the stars, walk hand in hand with other womyn without being looked at strangely, laugh, cry, dance, make love, smile, meet new friends, drink copious amounts of alcohol, not drink any alcohol at all, sit quietly under a tree without being disturbed, sit around a campfire singing songs, learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, and fall asleep to the far off beating of the drums.

And there’s also music.

And hot showers. And healthy meals lovingly served three times a day. And gorgeous smiling womyn everywhere. And love.

Fest is for any woman who has ever been afraid. Fest is for womyn who haven’t yet realized that there is a place that for one week, they can be completely themselves, no matter what that entails. Coming to fest is akin to sinking into the world’s most comfortable armchair, only the arms belong to your sisters and they are there to help you heal from a world that doesn’t want you to have a place of your own.

Fest is about love.

Fest is about love and healing.

Womyn need this place because womyn spend their lives loving and healing others and fest is the place where they can come to be loved, to be healed.

And I love fest. I therefore ask all of the womyn born womyn in my life to consider making it a priority to come to fest just once to experience the love and safety and healing for yourself. You can save fest while saving yourself.

It will change your life. It changed mine.

Getting Rid of Your Scale… And other people’s perceptions.

all you need is loveTwo things happened in the past couple of days that have led to this blog. First, a friend of mine wrote to me, “I love how you carry yourself. The way you walk and dance and play, you move like you own your body. I think so many of us (women) are enslaved by our perceived abundances or lacks and we carry ourselves as if to hide those imagined imperfections. You seem to celebrate with your body.” I had to read it several times and then think on it for a while before responding. I hadn’t thought of it like that. I merely move through my life the way I want to move, I love who I love, and I do what I want to do. See, it took me almost 41 years to get to this point, and I’m not going to let other people’s ideas about what a fat woman should and should not do/wear/be/say dictate how I behave.

In a way, as I responded to that friend, being a big woman in this society is an act of defiance. I will not hide myself or shrink myself or try to conform myself to someone else’s standards of beauty.

On the opposite side of that is not letting people’s outspoken approval of my moves toward a more societally acceptable appearance turn my head either. The second thing that happened was this exchange at work:

Co-worker: Are you losing weight?

Me: Probably. Seems my pants go on a little easier these days.

Co-worker: How much have you lost?

Me: I don’t know.

Co-worker: Well, when do you weigh?

Me: I don’t. Or won’t.

Cow-worker: (Dumbfounded) Well, how will you know how much weight you lost?

Me: I won’t.

Co-worker: What will you tell people?

Me: What people?

Co-worker: The ones who want to know how much you lost.

Me: It’s none of their business.

Co-worker: I just don’t understand.

Me: You’re confusing a number on a scale with my worth as a person. I don’t.

We exchanged a few more words, but I could tell she walked away without any understanding. I was trying to explain to her that I do not own a scale. I got rid of it a couple of years ago and I will not set foot on one again. Here’s the thing. I am not defined by a number on a scale. I am a strong, creative, beautiful, sexy, funny woman, and some arbitrary number cannot define my self-worth. It took forever for me to realize this… that someone else’s opinion of the way I look matters not one bit to me. They can’t change who I am. They don’t get to define me.

Am I losing weight? Yes. I went vegan a few weeks ago, not out of a weight-loss plan, but to be a better citizen of this universe and for my own health; soul health, emotional health, physical health, and mental health. I have been exercising a little bit because I feel better when my lungs and heart are working well. I meditate daily because it brings me calm and helps to retain my joy. Does all of this contribute to weight loss? Probably. I am definitely heavier than I want to be for my OWN PERSONAL life goals. That is, I want to be able to run up the stairs, and walk five miles for fun, and hike up hills, and kayak, and swim, and play in the woods. But I do not need to be a certain societally prescribed number to do those things. If I lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy. If I don’t lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy.beth at fest

Society has told us from the time that we were little girls that we should look a certain way. Women need to conform to a certain look that has been deemed attractive. It’s the media and our parents and our teachers. I remember my mother in a constant battle with her weight and that translated to all three of the girls in my family. I heard a family member saying about her maybe eight year old daughter, “She was so tiny when she was born. I don’t know what happened.” I hear a friend of mine constantly saying, “Some women should not wear things like that.”I have another friend who actually weighs herself five times a day. FIVE TIMES. And just try reading your Facebook or Twitter feed during things like the Oscars and seeing posts about how fat a certain celebrity looks in a dress. Seriously? Every time someone mocks a woman for the way she looks, she is sending a message to every one around her (and to herself) that no matter what other accomplishments that woman has achieved, she is not good enough unless she conforms to the prescribed way of looking. Is that pathetic?

It’s time to throw away the scale. Take whatever self-care you need to make you happy, and leave it at that. Shaming has never helped anyone get healthy. Shaming someone about their weight does not make them want to lose weight… it simply puts them into a lifelong battle with their weight that they will have to overcome if they ever want to be truly happy. So start right now with getting rid of the scale. Repeat the mantra to yourself, “An arbitrary number does not define me. Society’s *rules” do not define me.” Fat, skinny, old, young, white, black, tall, short, over abundant, under abundant, big breasts, small breasts, no breasts… whatever your appearance, take it back. Take it back and live your life as an act of defiance. Be who and how you want to be and if anyone has a problem with it, remember that it is indeed just that – THEIR problem. It is time to stop giving in to the culture that raised us to think we aren’t good enough. You know what? We ARE GOOD ENOUGH! Confidence is the ultimate reward. Understand that loving yourself is the ultimate act of rebellion. Flipping off the weight loss centers and the makeup industry and the billions of dollars spent to try to look the way we were told we should look is our choice. We have the power.

Living in Joy

awesome 1For the past few months, I’ve been living a little experiment in joy. As part of the changing my life process, I made a decision to try to live in joy every day, no matter what the circumstances of my life brought me. Some days, it was blissfully easy. Some days, I woke up in a ray of sun with a gorgeous woman next to me and a smile on my face. Some days, it was a little harder. Some days, I woke up alone with a sore back, a stuffy nose, and a shitty attitude.

People tend to think that I am just a naturally happy person and for the most part, that is true. I have always been a positive person and I generally think it is better to look on the bright side of things than the dark. The biggest part of me believes that happiness is a choice and I have spent so long choosing happiness that is has become my default.

Still, that doesn’t mean I’m a billboard for perkiness every moment of every day. Bad things happen. Pets die. Relationships end. Dogs throw up on pillows in the middle of the night. Cars break down. Bills pop up. Friends argue. Life happens. And let’s be honest – when you’re in the middle of a terrible breakup or your cat has just died or you’re broken down on the side of the freeway in negative ten degree weather, you probably aren’t going to grin like an idiot and say, “Look at me! I’m living in joy!”

That said, there are some tools I’ve learned along the way that have helped me regroup and recover my equanimity when I’m struggling with sorrow.

1. Remember that nothing is permanent. Nothing is ours. Nothing belongs to us. Houses burn down, spouses die, cars crash, people get sick, lovers leave. We own nothing on this planet, not even our lovers or our children. We only have ourselves and it is up to us to make the most of the time we are given with a certain person or in a certain situation. Conversely, understanding impermanence means understanding that pain is also temporary and the heartache that feels like a gaping wound today will feel less so tomorrow.

2. Change perspective. Recently, I was whining to a friend that I was not only having to work a day job instead of writing full-time, it was a crappy job. Here I am in corporate America again, dressed in business casual, taking phone calls from low income people who want to finance ridiculously over-priced merchandise with ridiculously high interest loans while someone tells me what time I can eat lunch. She challenged me to find the good in the job. Well, it is allowing me to go to Northern California in July, The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in August, and The Left Coast Lesbian Conference in Palm Springs in October. Beyond that, in my effort to reframe my space in this new order, I looked at what I could offer to the people working there. In fact I had a conversation with a co-worker about compassionate communication. She was complaining about an interaction with her boyfriend, and I suggested the next time the issue came up, she could respond in a different way and see if it helped. Yesterday she came in and told me that she used the words I had suggested and for a few moments, felt like they were actually communicating. So maybe I do have a bigger purpose at this place than just answering phones. And again, impermanence. It won’t last forever.

3. Be grateful. If I am in a slump that I can’t seem to get out of, I start listing the things for which I am grateful. Some days, the list is short, some days it is long. Every day, I can at least be grateful that I am alive, that I am with my loving dog, that I have soulmate friends who would be there for me in any way they can. Today, I am also grateful that the sun is shining and that my nose isn’t running. I’m grateful that I get to have lunch with my mom tomorrow. I’m grateful that because of my new job, I can afford to buy new glasses, something I have not done since I broke them on Liz McMullen’s breasts back in July of 2013. (And I was grateful for that experience, too.) Something happens when you start making a gratitude list…. you remind yourself of all of the great things about your life and yourself. It’s a beautiful circle.

4. Practice self-care. Practice it in whatever form this takes. For me, it has recently been about trying to exercise more, eating healthy, and meditating. I am happier on days when I have exercised in some way and eaten a healthy breakfast.

5. Stop being mean to you. This may fall under self-care, but it deserves its own number. Don’t criticize yourself. Don’t mock your appearance, don’t judge yourself because of your weight. Don’t call yourself stupid or ugly or gross or unable to do something. Don’t do it. Just stop. If you find yourself looking in the mirror and making a negative self-comment, stop. Just keep stopping until you don’t do it anymore. And along these lines, stop judging others. Stop looking at celebrities and saying, “Wow, she looks fat in that dress.” Imagine what it is doing to your subconscious when you are saying a size zero actress looks fat. Just stop. Don’t criticize people on the street, not even to yourself. It will not only help you becoming more loving of your own self, but happier because you are not being judgmental of others. This doesn’t just go for your appearance, but for anything. Don’t come down on yourself. Remember you are amazing! You are awesome! You are beautiful! You are a work of art! You are uniquely you and you have the power to recognize your worth.

6. If all else fails, remember that everything in life is an AFGE. (Pronounced aff-gee with a hard ‘g’) Another f**king growth experience.

7. :Last but not least, the best advice I have ever been given. Be nice. Really. It’s that easy. Be a nice person. Hold doors open for people. Smile at clerks at store. Pick up things for people who have dropped them. Ask if someone needs help. Always wave at children who wave at you. Be friendly when you are in a store, especially if you have had to stand in line. The benefits of this are incredible. When you’re nice to people, most of them are nice to you. And that positive energy spreads and infests your mood and helps to pick you up.

The point is that while it is not possible to be bouncy and happy every single moment of every single day, it is possible to do the self-work that it takes to put yourself in the frame of mind that makes day to day living in joy a reality.

In Fact, I’m Terrified

I have a confession to make. I’m not perfect. I know, most of you will find that difficult to believe. I mean, between my incredible good looks, my charm, my wit, and my awe-inspiring humility, I get mistaken for perfect a lot.

But there’s something pretty important about me that most people don’t know and I’d like to open a dialogue about it. I get panic attacks. I am actually in the midst of one right now. I’ve had panic attacks for probably fifteen years. Sometimes, they come for no known reason. Sometimes, I can point to too little water or too much caffeine combined with not enough sleep and a racing heart that leads to paranoia that I might be having a heart attack. Sometimes, I can reason myself into thinking I know what caused it and promise myself to take steps to rid myself of them forever. Panic attacks are the main reason that I quit smoking cigarettes in 09. I read somewhere that smoking makes them worse. I don’t know if that is true or not. I know that when I smoked, I was having more like a panic attack at least once a month, and now they’re more like 3-4 times a year, but that could have a lot to do with other things going on in my life at that time, as well.

Physically, this is how I feel: My lungs feel too tight, like something heavy is sitting on them. I can’t get a full breath, not one. When I concentrate on trying to get a full breath, my lungs feel like they’re going to explode. My head is pounding in a not-quite painful sort of way. It feels as if there is a hand on my brain, squeezing it, causing me to get dizzy in waves. Sometimes, the dizziness goes away for long enough that I almost think it’s over until it slams back into me causing a fresh wave of tears and heart palpitations. Of course, all of the crying clogs up my nose, making it even harder to breathe. My mind can’t stay on any one thing. I can usually throw out a blog post in about twenty minutes. This one has taken forty-five minutes so far because I have to stop every few minutes to sit up and take stock of my physical condition and spend several seconds trying to convince myself that there is nothing physically wrong with me, that I’m not dying, that I don’t need to be rushed to the emergency room.

Emotionally, it’s worse. I’ve made a practice in the past few years of living my life in joy and gratitude. Even when I have the occasional grouchy flare up, I’m usually able to cajole myself out of it by counting my blessings and reminded myself of how lucky I am to have all that I do. During a panic attack, counting my blessings doesn’t help. I feel scared and sad and on the edge and I waiver between full blown tears to abject terror that I am in the midst of a stroke or a heart attack to long, self-doubt filled bouts of anxiety that my daily Beth knows are logically unreasonable, but that my shadow self can’t put way.

My every day attitude is happy and positive. During a panic attack, I can’t get it back. I can’t bring myself back to the positive. I’m convinced that I’ll never finish my third novel, that I’ll be broke forever, that people will find out the terrible truth about me and stop loving me, that I’m about to die, that everything sucks right now and it will never be okay again.

In my real life, I think I am amazing. In a panic attack, I berate myself for *failing* in my self-growth. I think that I should be able to meditate myself back to normal. I think I should be able to get back into a good mood – that I should be able to bring myself back to the joy that I promote so heavily. I feel so dark and so down that I think that anyone who had to be around me right now would consider me a fake and a phony for putting off such a positive and happy vibe. All of that happy feels like a lie in the middle of a panic attack… it’s like, while I am in the midst of that, I can’t even remember that I was happy before this happened. I know I was. I was looking at pictures of myself with some of my good friends in Palm Springs last week and there is genuine joy on my face in every single picture. There’s a picture of myself and my friend from just yesterday, smiling and joyous.  I mean, in my brain, I remember walking into the house, throwing my arms around her, and laughingly telling her how much I enjoyed our twelve hours in the car. I meant it. I feel joy. I felt joy. And from past experience, my logical mind knows that when I get past this attack, I’ll feel that way again. But in the middle of an attack, it feels like I’ve lost it forever and that was it – I got my share of joy and now it’s over.

i was trying to explain it to my friend and the best I could come up with is this: It’s like there’s a battle going on inside of my brain between light and dark – and for the majority of my life, the light and glowing and happy fairy dust side of me is on top with its boot firmly planted in the dark side’s throat. Sometimes, though, the dark side gets out and the two of them battle violently. A panic attack, for me at least, isn’t a solid, unwavering thing. The physical and emotional symptoms kind of come and go over the time that I am having the attack…. so much so that sometimes, it is so long between bouts that I feel sure the attack is over and just as I start to see the light, the dark jabs back in and makes me feel worse because I thought I was so close.

It’s been an hour and a half since this attack started. I am mostly getting a full breath every time now. My heart started to skip a few beats about five minutes ago and I started to get anxiety that something was wrong with my heart, but I was able to talk myself down before I went back into full blown panic again. The sky is mostly blue with a few scattered clouds, but it isn’t a storm anymore. This ending can be credited to my friend who, when I described the battle between dark and light said,” I thought all authors have that. Isn’t that why they write?”

Oh. Duh. So I wrote. This is a panic attack. I couldn’t make myself publish this ten minutes ago – I thought I was posting a deep, dark, and shameful secret that would change everyone’s opinion of me. But, as I’ve come further out of the attack, the real Beth is coming through… and the real Beth thinks that there are others out there who get panic attacks and might want to read about this. This is a panic attack. I get them. If you get them too, write to me. I’d love to hear other people’s stories. Maybe together we can stomp out the darkness. Or at least make the patches of light bigger.