You have to understand that I’m not like you. I’m broken. Fractured in a way that may never be fully healed. The pieces that make me don’t quite fit together properly. You see, there’s this thing in deep inside that lurks, pacing, waiting for the right moment to break free of the restraints it’s under. Anything can unleash it. I’ve gotten far better at controlling it, and my surroundings, to minimize these moments. But still they happen, and they can happen with little warning. The smallest circumstance can be the thing that sets it free. A glance. Something out of place. A noise in the background. A sudden noise or burst of activity. Air pressure changes. Wind. My socks. Yes, even my socks can be the thing that does it. Within seconds I can go from having things “handled” to very much NOT having it handled. At all.

Rage. Frustration. Anger. Irritability. Moodiness. Sadness. Rapidly cycling between feeling good and happy and that i’ve got it back under control to rage at all that’s not going my way. Tears. Tense muscles. Sweats or goosebumps. Or both simultaneously. Sometimes nausea. Feeling light headed. A second or 2 where I feel like I’m going to lose my balance. Tight chest. Loss of breath. Can’t breathe. Heart hammering away in chest and eardrums BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG so loud I’m surprised others can’t hear it too. Weak bladder. Dry mouth. Complete loss of focus, or memory of something I was just doing seconds ago.

Pick a random number between 3 and 7. Now, from the above list, chose that number of symptoms. Imagine experiencing that for minutes, or hours…maybe experiencing 2 or 3 but they all morph from one to another to another. Or all at once. Or maybe all at one to feeling absolutely nothing to the point you momentarily wonder if you’re actually still alive, awake, or if this is just another dream. Having fun? Great, now handle that and work with customers. In all kinds of weather. And try not to crack. To lose control. To release the pent up incoherent EMOTION on the nearest person that may or may not have blinked one too many times for your liking…. all the while not knowing why it keeps happening and not being able to make it go away.

I’m broken. Fractured. The pieces don’t fit together the way they should. One of the pieces that caused some of the cracks is called Anxiety Disorder and his brother Depression. When they’re together like a washing machine gone crazy, thrashing around, making crazy noises, and bumping into things, knocking stuff over, and causing damage. They’ve caused a lot of damage, not only in me but in relationships around me. They’ve taken hobbies and dulled my interest in them. They’ve stolen hours and days of my life just aimlessly staring at my phone or laptop. They’ve made me afraid of nothing — as in there’s nothing to be afraid of, and yet I am afraid. They’ve made things like standing in a line an exercise on remembering to actually breathe and keeping tight control of other bodily functions.

I’m broken. Fractured. From arm’s length there’s no indication of anything wrong with me. And sometimes, even arm’s length is to close for my comfort — physically or metaphorically. Very often it’s tempting to keep all but a very select few at a comfortable distance. I’ve gotten pretty good at masking it. But hiding it also feeds it, makes it stronger, hungrier, more unpredictable. So I fight back the only way I know how…

By living. By reaching out. By fighting the urge to keep EVERYONE at arm’s length and instead pulling people in close. By candidly showing them the cracks and broken parts. By talking about it, and writing about it. By engaging others with similar experiences. Or by trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t have a hot clue…. but wants to understand anyway. By continually working with myself and trying to maintain a normal life. By exposing myself to challenging situations to prove that I can handle it. Yes, sometimes I realize I can’t handle it and have to figure out how to “back out”. Yes, sometimes a “quick” grocery shop will leave me breathless, sweating profusely, and rapidly approaching “meltdown” levels. Yes, sometimes I’ll have to leave my place in a line to visit the restroom, knowing I’ll just have to return to the end of the line again. Sometimes it’s working on positive physical and mental habits. Sometimes it’s just gritting my teeth and refusing to let the darkness consume me again as tempting as that is some days.

I’m fractured. Broken in ways some people can’t imagine. And while I wish I were whole again — the way I used to be — I’m realizing my broken pieces are still me. And somehow, even though the pieces don’t fit quite right, and others are gone completely, I feel more “me” than I have in a long time.

Here’s to the broken ones, barely holding things together: You’re stronger than you know. Trust me

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