Right beside me 

At 32 years old, I am working on not being scared of everything. We all have our fears. Some more rational than others. Most people are not controlled by these fears. However, as previously stated, my brain is not like other brains. This year I found out that I suffer from panic/anxiety attacks. Come to find out I’ve been suffering from them for years.  I always thought it was something else. I thought I would get motion sickness, fear of heights, my stomach was upset, etc. Then, I was flying alone with my daughter. I started to feel off and uneasy like I had felt so often before. She was sleeping in the seat next to me and I was just getting worse by the second. I looked over at her and remember asking myself what I was going to do. I was alone with my daughter and not well. It went from bad to worse instantly it seemed. No matter how I tried to control my brain, breathing, etc., I continued to spiral. I was dripping sweat like a faucet, my entire body was tingling, I couldn’t breathe, etc. I remember praying telling God to please let someone take care of my baby. I remember thinking about who was going to get her, when she woke up and I was dead next to her. I honestly believed this was it for me. This was how I would die and leave my daughter alone. It started from nothing. I’ve flown countless of times alone with my daughter. That’s how this goes. I’m aware of certain situations and things that will give me anxiety. I’m also aware that it can be nothing that gives me this anxiety. This isn’t anxiety that makes someone bite their nails and be hesistant. This is crippling anxiety that makes you feel physically ill. Have you ever had anxiety so bad that it makes you say a final prayer and black out? 32 years old and I’ve been suffering with anxiety as far back as I can remember. 32 years old and I just find out that I suffer from these anxiety/panic attacks? Wow, that was embarrassing. 

When I learned about panic/anxiety attacks, I tried to think back to the first time I could remember feeling this way. It took me a while. As mentioned previously, my memory is shot and takes some work to sort through. I traced it back to my grandparent’s house. I remember it was storming outside and my grandma had sent me upstairs to shower. I was afraid of storms, but I was even more afraid of my grandma. I went upstairs and let the shower run. I can feel it right now. My heart starting to race. My skin getting clammy. I sat still, because the floor squeaked and I didn’t want her to know I wasn’t in the shower. I remember being so scared that she would find out I didn’t shower. I made myself get in the shower. I cried as I told myself to just let the water wet my hair. As I tried to go back in time to find anxiety or fear, I remembered a lot of similar stories. I remembered every time I had a runny nose, I was so scared to sniff around my grandma that I would let it run into my mouth and down my face. I remembered gagging down food that I didn’t like. Literally gagging and convincing myself, “just one more bite.”  I was a little girl. How could I have been feeling like that? How could a little girl be so scared? How could I still be feeling like that now? 

I’ve always considered myself a pretty chill person. Turns out that I’ve been tightly wound this entire time.  I’ve been in knots for years. It was never “nothing” causing my attacks. I had been on edge my whole life. I never let that go. I knew that my grandma had messed me up. Sounds mean, but it’s the truth. I have a lot of scary and hurtful memories with my grandma. Years ago I chose to take all that and forgive her. She has been one of the biggest healing points for me in my life. She made me cry, fear, panic, and hide. She took the little self esteem I had then and threw it out. Little did I know that what she would give me in return would be invaluable and one of the greatest lessons of my life thus far. She taught me to truly accept people just the way they are. She taught me that I am capable of loving all, even if they have hurt or are different than me. She taught me to forgive. She was the first person I truly forgave. 

I like to believe that people do the best they can with what they have… most of the time. My grandma never left my side. To this day, she is right beside me. Through my mistakes and triumphs, she has stood beside me. As a baby and now as a 32 year old wife and mother, she has stood beside me. She has loved me. She has never turned her back on me. She has never stopped sending me cards on every holiday and birthday. She never stopped praying for me.  No matter how bad things got with me, she stood right beside me. I’m sure I’ve hurt her feelings too. I’m sure I’ve let her down too. She stood right beside me. She’s one of the most important people in my life. She plays such a huge role in the person that I am today.  I’m so lucky to still have her by my side. I’m happy to say that I haven’t had a anxiety attack, since the one I had on the airplane. 

Finding myself at 32

I was around 10 years old and at my brother’s basketball game. I remember being at the very top bleacher. I also remember thinking to myself, “blend in and act like everyone else,” before we all arrived at the gym. So there everyone was cheering, watching the game, acting normal, when the moment that accurately describes me happened. I fell off the top bleacher. Yes, in the middle of an ongoing basketball. Do you know what the sound of chubby 10 year old hitting the gym floor sounds like? The ENTIRE (yes, including the players and referees) gym stopped and looked at me. For those wondering, I was fine. Perhaps it was because I was chubby that I was left undamaged… physically. I still get some anxiety on bleachers. Haha

I’ve always thought of myself to be shy. When I was a young girl, I remember being scared of people and things. I also had three brothers, a busy mom, and a grandma that was pretty rough around the edges that helped take care of us. My first memory is of my father getting mad at me and then never seeing him again.  So most of the times I found myself doing things I didn’t want to do, saying things I didn’t want to say, eating things I didn’t want to eat, etc., because I was too scared to say or do otherwise. I’ve always told myself to blend in, act like everyone else, act normal, don’t attract attention, etc. I’ve continued to tell myself that into my 30’s, until recently that changed for me. 

Recently we attended a birthday party for my friend’s 3 year old daughter. They had great live music, incredible food, family and friends had filled the home, and a piñata. We watched and sang as the kids took turns swinging at the piñata. After all the kids took their swings, a full piñata hung. So adults turns right? “Just blend in, Gabi.  Act like everyone else. Look what the other moms are doing. Play it cool, Gabi,” says my head. It was too late. I was already sprinting to get the stick to hit the piñata. It had rained and was a little misty that night. Well it’s Houston and still warm outside (yes, in January outside in the rain.) So I thought it was a good idea to wear sandals. You all know where I’m going with this. I’ve attached pictures so you get a full effect. Before I started swinging, “blend in me” was acting like Babe Ruth. Circling my bar with my fierce batting stance. Then, it was game time. I swung like I was at the World Series. I felt  everything that moment. Both of my feet lifted off of the ground. I felt my feet moving forward and up. I mean, I caught good solid air. I remember feeling my shirt fly up and my belly jiggle. Bam, I hit the ground. What part of blend in didn’t I understand? 

My whole life I’ve thought I was this shy girl. However, moments like falling off the bleachers and the piñata fall have followed me my entire life. I’m definitely scared of things and people, but I’m most definitely not shy. I’ve told myself to blend in my whole life. I’ve always felt like an outsider looking in. I knew that I was different, but I was scared. Scared to be myself, scared to talk, scared to be left, scared to be unliked, scared of everything. 

That night after a lot of laughter with my husband (who took the pictures and stayed married to me), everything hit me.  I’ve been telling myself to blend in and act like everyone else for decades. Not anymore. I needed to stop lying to myself. 

I’m not scared of being myself anymore. I no longer care if I blend in. I’m not scared  to tell the truth about myself anymore. I’m not scared that people will know I’m not like them. No offense, but I don’t care what anyone thinks about me anymore. I can have an unpopular opinions, fall off bleachers, make bad decisions, get stuck in trees,  babe Ruth the piñata, etc., and it’s me. This is me y’all. I’m a mess. I feel like I’m forever working on my shit. I attract unwanted attention. I’m no longer trying to blend in and I can’t tell you how liberating that is for me.