In a bathroom in a 2 star hotel in Roanoke, Virginia.

I was just listening to Lady Antebellum’s new song, Ocean. It’s beautiful. It’s melody triggered a memory from earlier this year, maybe April. My team and I were driving from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Trenton, New Jersey and we were spending the first night in Roanoke, Virginia.

The hotel was by far the worst accommodations we had stayed at thus far. The first rooms we were given were smoking rooms and the bed sheets were wrinkled and had burn marks and holes in them. We got moved to non-smoking rooms, but the sheets didn’t look much better.

Anyway, I remember feeling so exhausted when we finally got to our rooms. We drove over 10 hours that day and I was behind the wheel for most of it. Being on campus the day and whole week prior was also a draining ordeal. My team wanted to go out for dinner soon, so we took turns showering beforehand.

When it was my turn, I entered the bathroom and took off my clothes. I stepped into the bathtub and turned the water on, it was already hot. I don’t remember much, but I remember just standing under the water and not having a thought in my head- I was too tired. And then I choked and had to slam my hand over my mouth to muffle my crying. It hit me out of nowhere and it hit me hard.

Like I said, I don’t remember much, but I do remember not being able to stop crying. My body had hit its limit. My chest and stomach hurt from all the heavy breathing and contracting. I know I was trying to be as quiet as possible and I worried about my eyes being bright red when stepping out.

Finally, once my body calmed down, I continued to stand under the hot water and think about what just happened.

I still don’t know. My best guess is that improper management of emotions leads to bottling up, and, of course, every bottle has a limit.

I worry sometimes that I still don’t know how to process grief and sadness, and sometimes anger. I don’t get angry often, the list of triggers is very short. But when I do, I don’t even know how to release those kinds of emotions. So I don’t. It doesn’t affect my daily life, but I worry that the type of breakdown I recalled above will be the result of me not handling my emotions as I should.

Therapy has helped and I know that I have to give myself permission to feel these things, and I am working on it, I promise. That’s a promise to myself.

What do you do when there’s nothing left to do?

I am a busy human, mostly by choice. There isn’t much I absolutely have to do. We could probably categorize my M-F job as a “have to” seeing as that’s how I afford my shelter, food, and water. Most everything else is a “I should do this” or “I just feel like I should”. A tiny percentage of the things I do are “I want to do this”.

I think I care less about physically doing x, y, and z and more about just having it done. I want the end result, whether that’s cleanliness, a meal-prepped fridge for the coming week, or happy family members who don’t complain about not having seen me for weeks. I like feeling productive and I like knowing that other people are happy. I like going to bed at night knowing I didn’t waste the hours I had that day.

After having several conversations with several friends and family members, it seems that I need to rethink what “wasting my time” means. Is it wasteful to decline a social invitation to watch a movie by myself? Is it wasteful to spend the day in bed with my partner instead of doing laundry, cleaning, or any other household chore? Is it wasteful to take an entire day out of my week from working or school and NOT use it for errands?

I’m learning that down-time is healthy. It’s necessary. I’m comfortable with silence, but am I comfortable with stillness? Maybe not as comfortable as I thought I was. Things to work on, I suppose.

I was riding shotgun yesterday and I swear I didn’t know completely what to do with myself. In my mind, even driving my car is “something to do”. When my hands aren’t on the wheel and my mind isn’t focused on the road in front of me, my brain is confused; “So, what do we do now? What do we do when there is nothing to do?”

I don’t have an answer. I need to learn to not just slow down, but to stop and pay attention to where I am. I need to take it in, this life- slowly and deeply.

When I am 90 years old, I won’t remember doing laundry or meal prepping, but I will remember that beautiful mural on the side of the building I stopped by to admire on the way to work. I won’t remember the drive to the grocery store, but I will remember the intimate conversation I had with the person I took time to share dinner with.

I also don’t want to run myself down all through the day only to collapse in utter fatigue when I come home to my partner each night. I want to give her 100%. I also should give myself 100%.

I’m a work in progress, what can I say?

Why Therapy?

I went to therapy for the first time when I was about 9 years old. It was shortly after my parents divorced. I had my first panic attack around that time as well. I think most of it stemmed from separation anxiety I had when my mother wasn’t close by.

When I got a little older, I didn’t continue therapy because I didn’t notice much change and I was also told that I would probably “grow out of it”. To some extent, I think I did. I don’t have separation anxiety anymore, but I do have anxiety towards other things.

Not dealing with loss and grief has been a huge issue for me that I was recently made aware of by my current therapist. If we define “loss” as the “ending of something” (not necessarily death), then I have experienced a lot of loss in my life that I have chosen not to emotionally or mentally process/deal with. As a result, my body stores those emotions as anxiety and it gets periodically released as symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks.

For a while, I thought I was able to track my triggers (loud music, crowds, thunderstorms, tornado sirens, yelling/shouting), but over time, the attacks seemed to be more random.

I was able to count the number attacks I had during 2018-2019 on one hand up until the end of May of this year. As I was looking for a home, a job, and I was also dealing with (I actually wasn’t dealing with it at all) a fresh breakup, I found myself hyperventilating at the nail salon. The old familiar feeling was back in full swing.

2 weeks, a house, and a job later, the panic attacks and anxious feelings subsided. I’m 99.9% sure that my anxiety was caused by the stress of not having a home or being employed.

Let’s fast forward to today- to today’s therapy session to be exact. Today was one of the best sessions I’ve had since starting. I’ve discovered a lot of things in the past 2 months. I’ve also acknowledged a lot of things in the past 2 months.

  • I am hard on myself.
  • I have a fear of failure.
  • To me, setting goals+achieving said goals=success/life purpose

Today was the first step of me including all parts of me in an acknowledgement. What that looks like is: “I acknowledge that when I think about [insert whatever makes you anxious/scared here (for me it was elaborate solo travel)], I get scared and nervous, but I also have powered through similar things that have also made me scared and nervous.

Instead of saying “X makes me feel scared”, I’m including the fact that yes, I feel this fear, but I’ve also fucking powered through fear before.

I’ve shut parts of myself down over the years. I’ve shut down Grieving Megan. I’ve shut down Angry Megan. I’ve shut down Sad Megan. I’ve even shut down Excited/Hopeful/Optimistic Megan because I have a fear of getting my hopes up and then being let down and feeling stupid for letting myself get them up in the first place. I’ve silenced all these parts of me and the voices that belong to them. Today was a step in letting them be heard.