Tipping My Bowl – A Mental Health Update
Hawaiians have this legend about a bowl of light.
When we’re born, we’re born with a bowl. This bowl is overflowing, abundant with light. Think Source Energy light, bright and powerful, pure and genuine.
When we’re born, we’re pure.
We can learn anything and everything from this light. This light is our childhood whimsy and wonder and faith that we are powerful, our knowledge that we can do great things.
As we grow and age, we’re exposed to new things. We witness jealousy, anger, rudeness. We make mistakes, and hurt people, and harm our earth. With each wrongdoing, a stone is tossed into our bowl. Those stones block out some of our light. Once our bowl is filled with stone, we are filled with stone. Filled with heavy, negative energy.
But at any moment, our dark, heavy bowl can simply be overturned. Our stones tumble out and our light glimmers once again. We just need to choose to tip out our bowl.
Mental health, man.
It ebbs and it flows, and when the weight and the haze fades away for a bit you think, “I did it! I beat it! My mind doesn’t own me anymore!” You feel great for a while. You can’t even imagine how you used to feel. Your mind can’t grasp that level of sadness, of fear, of panic. It doesn’t make sense to you anymore.
Until it comes back. And boy, does it come back.
Around October if 2019, I had my first panic attack in years. Fresh out of the shower, plucking my eyebrows, I felt it coming. It was confusion, then overwhelm, then the haze. “I think I’m about to have a panic attack,” I say to Nick, my boyfriend of two and a half years who has never seen me have an episode like this.
And there it was.
Clutching my knees and teetering back and forth on the floor, I couldn’t breathe. Nick sat down in front of me, eyes wide with worry, his hands on my thighs in an effort to comfort me, ground me.
We stayed like this for a while. He knew I didn’t need him to speak, or to ask me, “What’s wrong? What can I do? What’s happening?” I just needed him, there, with me. We sat together on the bathroom floor as my mind raced and my heart fluttered and I labored to fully inhale – and exhale.
It was almost humorous, actually. Me, naked and soaking wet from the shower, cross legged on the tile floor. Him, fully dressed but also soaking wet from holding me, cross legged on the tile floor, steadying my head, holding my gaze, and sharing my breath like we’re in a Lamaze class.
Some time later, I’m able to stand up and hobble down the stairs. I crawl into bed slowly; my whole body is exhausted and achey. He lays with me in silence as my mind and my body recover from an hour of labored breathing and all-encompassing stress.
He’ll get to know these episodes well – as they quickly became a daily event.
Each morning I woke up exhausted and sad, knowing I had a full day of doing things before I could come home and vegetable on the couch. Getting dressed for work became a major stressor for me – my clothes don’t fit – I’ve gotten so fat. My clothes are ugly – I have no style. I work at a clothing store – I need to have style. I don’t have style, and I don’t have money for stylish clothes. What am I even doing at this job? Why is Nick even dating me? If I’m fat and ugly and have no style and can’t even pull myself together enough to get dressed in the morning?
When my coworkers came to clock in for the day, “Hey Laney! How are you?!” Became my least favorite thing to hear. Every How are you? Triggered tears in my eyes, followed by a non-sanctioned 15 minute break in the upstairs closet to gather myself enough to finish the shift without breaking down. There were too many days that tears filled my eyes while I was working on the floor, folding and re-folding and re-folding that pile of sweaters that became my safe place.
When I was depressed in high school, I was terrified of medication. I had this complex that I couldn’t be dependent on anyone or anything, and that dependency was weakness. How could I ever subject myself to foreign chemicals meant to numb my brain? It’s like I thought there was a prize for just pushing through it, like I’d get recognition and praise for suffering the longest and refusing to get help. Ha.
But this time around, I was desperate.
I was constantly feuding with both sides of my brain: the side that knew better, and the side that didn’t know anything at all. The side that knew better was quite the bully. She antagonized my sadness, she diminished my sadness. She knew that there WAS a way to fix this, and that together, we had fixed it before. The side that knew better filled me with guilt and insecurity after every tear shed and every anxious text and every frustrated remark.
But the side that didn’t know anything was too powerful. She recognized ‘she who knew better’, heard her sometimes, but couldn’t get herself to listen. She knew how to fix this. But would she?
Waking up earlier, and starting the morning with gratitude and a little slice of joy? No. Moving my body, even if its just a walk on my lunch break? No. Reaching out for help, journaling my worries and talking to my loved ones? No thank you. She held me down for months, until I was so ashamed of myself and so scared of being a failure that I finally did it. I told my mom I had nowhere else to turn, I just didn’t know what to do anymore. I wanted help, I wanted medicine, I wanted anything.
Now, in July, 9 months later, I’m getting better. Slowly, but surely.
I’ve found a doctor, and I’ve found a medicine. I’ve found my motivation, and I’ve found my voice. Gone are the days of crying in the work closet, and drowning my feelings in red velvet cake. These days, I’m starting my days with movement – sunrise walks to the Mercado down the road. I’m getting through my work day sans-tears and sans-panic. My evenings are spent exercising with friends, writing, researching, snuggling, laundry-ing, cooking, tidying, planning. My days off are spent taking care of myself and diving into the things that bring me joy. I’ve adopted numerous healthy habits over the last few weeks (i.e. getting enough sleep, exercising, fueling my body instead of binging and starving, setting myself up for success).
It feels like I’m honoring myself again. It’s so easy to give in to an indulgent lifestyle, one filled with lots of enthusiastic ‘yes!’’s and skipped workouts and lazy days and extra whipped cream. I fell deep, deep into the, “I deserve this! I can treat myself. This feels good. I’m just gonna live it up,” hole. I came crawling back out 25 pounds heavier and more insecure than I’d ever been.
I knew I was feeling better when I started to miss this blog.
At my lowest, I had lost every ounce of inspiration and drive for this page and my little corner of the internet long ago. I felt as though every idea I had was stupid, I wasn’t special, or unique, or the best. And back then, I needed to be the best. I needed to be special and unique. My actual motivations for this page (self development, community, creativity, expression) were drowned out by my insecurities and quite frankly, laziness.
If you’ve been a Love, Laney reader in the past, you may notice that this blog is.. empty. My posts are gone. And while that was very much not on purpose (I got a little coding-happy and just..broke the whole site), I’m using this as a sign, as a chance to start fresh. Love, Laney was becoming something I was ashamed of, and embarrassed of. My love for it had faded and the neglect made me guilty and I needed to let go.
So cheers, friends. To the second half of 2020 bringing about more change. To spreading joy, and education, and a small escape from the world we are in today.
See you soon.
More info on The Bowl Of Light: