A few columns ago, I realized crazy was back. Now, he’s riding shotgun, just a tiny little nugget in the back of my mind. I thought I would take him for a spin.

This is both metaphorical and literal. Crazy really is riding shotgun. He can be there every time I step into my car. Ever since that chain of events erupted into cause and response and I found myself in the back of an ambulance, the day that the mental manifested its way into the physical, I no longer look forward to my long drives. And that pisses me off.

I love my drives. When I bought my new home and my five mile, 30 minute congested commute became a 20 mile, 45 minute excursion through rolling roads and past horse farms, I loved it. Now, a sense of dread has crept into the drive. I have to watch my coffee intake, keep the windows down for more air, and guard my thoughts, knowing that some combination of things will cause a panic attack.

They are just little twinges, like whispers in my ear. A fluttering heart beat and I lecture myself on what the cardiologist told me: EKG is fine, Echo Cardiogram is fine, stress test is fine, you’re heart is fine, you are not about to die. Short shallow breaths and I remember, breath in deep and long through my nose and out through my mouth, something about the build up of carbon dioxide. A weird feeling in my head, a pin prick in my arm, a swirling of thoughts that brings me to that doorstep of a panic attack and I shuffle in my seat and push back at the thoughts: you don’t own me, I’m fine, and I love my friggin’ drives, I love my friggin’ drives, I love my friggin’ drives…

Stress? Yes, of course. But is it the depression? I was thinking about describing it, explain how depression is like standing on the beach with the tide coming in and a storm approaching. But I realized it’s not like that at all. It’s like waking up and you are already treading water in a raging surf with the rip currents threatening to carry you out. Thinking about how you got here can be dangerous, as it’s misplaced energy that you need to devote to making it back to shore. But isn’t there some kind of advice that says to allow the rip current to carry you, out beyond the break, where the swimming is easier?

The panic attacks coincided with the time of the year of THE trauma, the event that marked the beginning of the end. Is it that? A ghost of 15 years ago? Late October becomes a focal point for me, that replaced the springtime slide. Does your mind recognize an anniversary and your subconscious take it from there?

Treading water, gasping for breath, slapped by waves, exhausted, I just want to slide down sometimes, beneath the water, beneath the raging surf, and find comfort and respite from the raging surf in the depression. Let the need for air burn my lungs.

I read a Facebook post recently that said, “Damaged people are the most dangerous because they know they can survive.” Yeah, I’ll survive this just as I survived everything else. But I don’t recommend the training regimen. The hammer blows are nothing compared to the sledge hammers that fell. But they still hurt.

As my lungs burn, underneath the raging surf, I know that I know this place. I know that I can push it outward, create a cocoon, and have peace for a moment or two. I know that I can laugh it off, smile it off, fake it till I make it, and be okay. I know that I am damaged, a broken thing, put back together with duct tape and gobs of super glue.

But I want that damn passenger out of my friggin’ car! So I let the rip tide carry me out…

Damaged. Broken thing. Through many years and more miles than I can count, I have had that thought riding shotgun. And through many years and more miles than I can count, I have learned a lot about him and myself. I know that with a thought, I can dispel the cocoon, allow the waters to rush in and cover me and embrace me and drown me. When the waters rush in, I allow in all of the negative thoughts. With my lungs burning, I can examine each one and dissect it, learn it, know it, and then dismiss it for what it is: a distortion in my perception of reality.

What is real?

Damaged. Broken thing. The thoughts well up from those cracks and fissures. There is work to be done on them. Another time, another time. Rip away the duct tape, chisel out the gobs of super glue, open up the cracks and get inside in search of origins. But when you are drowning is not the time. Just let the thoughts swirl and pass. Let the rip tide carry me out beyond the break where I will bob to the surface and be able to make it back to shore.

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