Respect the Process, Trust the Universe

T

he fabricate of reality was violently being ripped away. There was nothing I could do to stop it

 

“My name is Greenberry Taylor. I was born in Mobile, Alabama. In 1987. I’m on the floor of my kitchen,” I said in my head. Hunched over on my elbows and knees, I repeated the words. Over and over again, fingers laced together behind my head resting on the hardwood floor.
I was drenched in sweat. I couldn’t stop shaking. I couldn’t stop repeating the words. If I did, I’d be gone.
Directly beneath my mouth was a pool of vomit. The liquid was thick. Made up of chunks from a banana I had eaten earlier that morning. Amongst the fruit, I could see two, small, yellow pills that had attempted to disintegrate. They were Klonopin, a drug used to treat seizures, panic disorder, and anxiety. I had popped them earlier in hopes they would extinguish the feelings that had been building.
They failed.
As I rocked back and forth on my knees and elbows in the kitchen, my mother patted my back. “You are OK,” she calmly said. “You are right here. I am right here.”
I picked the pills from the vomit and forced them down my throat without any water. I wasn’t even disgusted. I just wanted the drugs to work. For a moment I blacked out, but came too quickly.
Scared to move out of the fetal position, my mother slowly helped me to the couch. As soon as I hit the soft, familiar cushions, I began to feel relaxed and tired. The drugs were working. I was safe.
As I dozed in and out of sleep, I could hear my mom on the phone with my long-time psychologist. “I’ve never seen it this bad. I don’t know what to do,” she said quietly so I wouldn’t hear her. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do either.
I had struggled with anxiety since I was 18. But this panic attack on a warm summer day in May 2012 was different.
It left me broken. It left me agoraphobic. It left me facing an overwhelming threshold.

S

ummer marched on. June. July. August. September. I watched the months pass by from inside my parent’s home.
Any time I tried to leave the house, a million thoughts would explode in my brain. I would become overwhelmed, sometimes almost immobile. The scariest, and most frequent thought: What if I have another attack like May?
Though I did voyage to the Midwest early that October. I was in love with a girl—cliché, I know; but there’s always a girl—living in that region, and I wanted to see her. I wanted to prove to myself I could travel, too. So I drove there. However, I spent the entire trip in a constant state of fear and soaked in cold sweats.
Fear of another episode.
The trip ended with the girl telling me she didn’t love me. Go figure. One more blow to the heart already ravaged by fear. Once I returned home in mid-October, I wouldn’t leave Fairhope again until April.

T

he leaves outside started to change. October. November. December. January. Still scared. Still trapped in this small town.
I setup my Eno hammock under a Popcorn tree in my backyard each day. I’d climb in and read. I read a lot. Books could take me places and teach me things without leaving my house.
There was a calendar in my room. It was tropical beach themed. On days I didn’t experience an attack, I marked the date with a single diagonal line. Days when attacks crept in received an X. There were mostly X’s.
Sometimes I would break down and cry. I was so afraid of being stuck in this constant state of fear and anxiety. My family could only observe. On June 2, 2012 I wrote in my journal:

I can see everyone’s concern for me. It’s written on their faces. Like a sad, depressing painting I can’t escape. I know they are aware of what I’m struggling with. And while I appreciate their concern, it’s almost like another burden. On the other hand, I need their concern, worry and love. For maybe at this point during the process (wading through anxiety) it appears to be a burden, but in fact is the polar opposite. Because, if I had no one to worry, or show concern, I would truly be alone in this.”

I spent my 24th birthday in the emergency room.
While members of my family sat in the living room of our home waiting for me to enter, my mom was rushing me to Thomas Hospital. I thought I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t. It was anxiety morphing itself into something physical. It enjoyed doing that.
When I walked in the house, no one had any idea where I had been. They just looked at me with puzzled expression, staring at my wrist – I had forgotten to remove the hospital bracelet. My outfit didn’t help either: A Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, plaid boxers, and mismatching socks.
Life went on. I wished I could make it go away. I wished I could live a semi-normal life again. My body ached. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I just wanted to give up. But I didn’t.

H

ealing is a process.

In our culture, though, everyone is looking for the Magic Bullet; the thing that can fix you instantly. I looked. It wasn’t there. If you find it, please let me know. Otherwise, respect the process.
I visited France, and Augusta, on a regular basis for four to five months. Sadly, I was not jet-setting. France is a psychologist. Augusta is a licensed professional counselor.
France identified anxious patterns from my past, possible triggers, and stripped away the psychological bullshit I feared. “Greenberry, you aren’t crazy. You are just anxious,” she would say. I’d been seeing France since I was first diagnosed with anxiety. She always ended our sessions by telling me that it was going to be OK. That I was going to be OK.
She was right.
Augusta taught me about mindfulness, meditation and different techniques for managing stress and anxiety. I used to fight panic attacks. Augusta taught me to welcome them. She told me to let the anxiety visit, but that it could not stay. She told me I was going through this because I was strong enough.
She was right.
The world started to become less scary. I began to find my balance. I saw the Universe unfolding as it should. It helped being surrounded by family and friends. I call the people that were there for me during this time my ride-or-die family. This means they were, and forever will be, there for me no matter what.

Coltrane was with me the most, though. When I would sleep. When I would eat. When I would try and drive my car. He always listened, never interrupted and loved me unconditionally. For a seven-year-old service dog, he was wise beyond his years. He still is.

Music helped tremendously. Melodies and lyrics struck chords with me, bringing tears to my eyes, a smile to my face or a belly full of laughter. I didn’t care which. All of them provided a sense of relief and a feeling of normalcy.
Normal people cry. Normal people smile. Normal people laugh.
To reacclimate myself with society, I took baby steps. I’d set small goals. A seven-mile drive to Target. A four-minute trip to Publix to shop for groceries.
In the beginning, a panic attack would start to build as soon as I got in the store. I tried to focus on shopping, focus on my breathing and let the anxiety pass. But I struggled. Once, I bailed from Walmart after all my items had been scanned. I left everything on the counter and went and sat in my car. After a few minutes, I went back in the store, paid and collected my items. I told the cashier I had forgotten my wallet.
Finally, a victory.

I

left Fairhope on April 10, 2013, headed to work Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in California. It was the first time I had ventured out on my own since the attack that almost crippled me last May (October, sure, if you count the debacle trip to the Midwest). I spent a month in the desert. There were some trying moments, but I pushed through.
I respected the process.
If I started to freak out, my ride-or-die buddy Wyatt would look over at me and say, “Let’s go grab a refreshing spa water at catering, little Greenberry. We deserve a break from these people anyways.”
We’d sit under palm trees to shield us from the scorching desert sun, and sip spa water. We talked about festival attendees and how obnoxious the bass from the DJ tent was. We did this frequently.
And in one of those moments in the shade talking to Wyatt, with the smell of roasted red-pepper hummus and dried dirt filling the air, I crossed the threshold. Fear and anxiety faded like the shadows of the trees hanging above us.
I felt alive again.

I

n August of 2013, I began graduate school at the University of Florida. I received my master’s in 2015, and in a few short months I will return to Florida to pursue my Ph.D. From time-to-time, though, I still experience anxiety and fear. I understand this is something I will face throughout life.
But, I continue to respect the process.
When I was living at home, in the wake of that unforgettable day in 2012, my mother gave me a framed poem. It was something she found in a garage sale down the road. In fact, she had the exact same copy in her dorm room in college. It is simply titled, Desiderata.
Throughout the years, a line from Desiderata has become a mantra of sorts to me. It provides comfort in moments of clarity. It provides hope in moments of fear. It is simple:

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

Whatever thresholds lie before you, just remember the Universe is unfolding as it should.

The fabricate of reality was violently being ripped away. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I kept repeating my name, address and where I was born over-and-over again laying on my kitchen floor. I was drenched in sweat. I couldn’t stop shaking. I couldn’t stop repeating the words. If I did, I’d be gone.(The purpose of this paragraph is to serve as an excerpt for the story. It is not a continuation of the work above)

The original title of this story, as published in Bellum: Respect the Process, Trust the Universe. It originally appeared in the print edition released June 1, 2017.