A new poem called Paper Gown and a blog post about how anxiety affected the lives of my partner and I this summer

Tonight I cleaned out my purse, and I found a poem written on May 25th of this year. I was saving it to type up later. I scribbled it down quickly on a small notepad while I was waiting for news on my partner who was in the emergency room at the time. None of us knew what was wrong with her, but I honestly believed it was a heart attack or some kind of serious heart problem.

I don't think I've ever felt fear like that before. I've lost a lot in this life, as most of us have. But in that moment I thought I might lose the one person who has seen me at my best and worst and yet has never given up on me.

When I typed this up today, I got really emotional and cried some much needed tears. Grateful tears, because I have a deeper and more wonderful love than I could ever have imagined. This relationship is exactly what I always wanted, and I think very few people really get that in this life. You have to love that deeply to hurt as deeply as I did that night.

I'm going to let you read the poem now and then I'll continue what I've got to say below that. This is for you, Lisa. I hope you love it--and I hope the rest of you do too. :)

* * *

Paper Gown
Dedicated with love to Lisa

You never know how close you are to the gates
until you feel the breath slip from you.
Like letting go of that pretty balloon,
it's up, past the clouds, and gone far too soon.

I felt that thread lengthen and thin today
as you gasped for air and screamed for life.

I can't lose you now--not now that I've
finally realized that you are my heartbeat.

The center of my life
rests uncomfortably
behind sterile doors,
wrapped in a paper gown
and teetering dangerously close
to a place that I can't fathom.

Did you look in her eyes
when she fell in love with me?
Did you feel that heart pumping
when she fought for me?

I will it to continue beating.
Keep the rhythm strong
and the music sweet.

Let the one I love continue to breathe.
God, I need her here with me.

* * *

Those last two lines were a plea, a prayer on paper. I wanted God to read those words and let her stay with me. Her diagnosis later that night was anxiety. At first it felt like a slap in the face by the doctors. It felt like they were saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, we can't find what the real problem is, so we'll just put this catch-all label on it so you can go home now." But they were right.

Lisa came to a pretty quick acceptance of it, but the next few weeks were really rough. I was afraid to even talk about the anxiety, because I had this irrational fear that talking about it would make it worse or make it last longer. I was afraid that it would change her--that we'd never have any fun again, that life would never feel the same. Meanwhile she was just trying to get through the day, first with the pills that the doctors prescribed, then with meditation, then with a holistic remedy we ordered online.

And then finally, things seemed normal again. I'm not really sure what did it. Probably a combination of things. Knowing that it's anxiety and it can't kill you is helpful to say the least. They say that stress and anxiety don't go away, you just learn to handle them. I think somehow she adjusted and learned how to handle her own stress levels--to kind of ride the waves instead of fighting them. I think that's the only way you can really live with anxiety.

Ironically or not, I ended up in the emergency room a little over a month ago, and my diagnosis was the same: Anxiety. I've been wanting to write a blog post about it here, but the words just wouldn't come. It was difficult to face the fact that I was doing that to myself--that the racing pulse and inability to breathe were "just anxiety." But now I get it.

I wasn't willing to accept the doctor's diagnosis of anxiety. I got really angry inside, though I tried to be respectful and express my concerns about that diagnosis to the doctor. As I talked about it, I saw my pulse race up to 130 on the monitor. Suddenly I couldn't breathe again, but worse than ever before. I thought I was dying. I demanded more X-rays and tests (which I am now paying for, literally). They found nothing.

I continued to fight the diagnosis until the next night when I was back at home and it all started to sink in. Before the emergency room visit I was having four bouts per day with extreme shortness of breath. I thought they were really severe asthma attacks. After the emergency room visit those previously short bouts stretched out into day-long ordeals. My chest felt so tight, and it felt like I wasn't getting any air in.

This was when it became clearer for me, because I was obviously breathing just fine and getting plenty of air in--it just felt like I wasn't getting enough air. It was all in my head, yet it was as real as can be. Now I understand that there are very real physical consequences when you don't deal with your emotions.

The answer for me was also to just ride it out and not fight it. I wrote about it. I read about it! I felt the feelings and didn't run from them. I started praying again. I started meditating again. I started having fun again, and I think that was possibly more powerful than all of the other things combined. Lastly I started opening up about my feelings instead of keeping them all inside. I learned that it is OK to feel the way I feel, whether it's happy, sad, angry, or whatever it may be!

A book that really helped me was The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Your Health: New Dimensions in Mind-Body Healing. It was one of my grandmother's books and I'm really glad I kept it. If any of you out there are going through the same things I went through, I highly recommend that book. It touches on so many different topics that affect your health. It's definitely one of my favorite books now.

I haven't had any of those anxiety attacks in the last few weeks. I've felt them begin but then they subside. I know that they can come back if I stop taking good care of myself. Health has become one of my top priorities. What we went through this summer with our anxiety issues has really awakened me to the importance of enjoying life. If you're all about the struggle, always fighting against something, always working towards something, you will pay for it.

This blog post got lengthy, didn't it? I went from not being able to find the words, to finding too many words! But seriously I'm glad to have finally written up my feelings on the whole experience. It's been a difficult one but it is much better now. I'd like to thank anyone who actually read this far--you are the ones that I'm writing this blog for. :)

Stay tuned... more poems and maybe even some lyrics (who wants lyrics this time?? Comment this post and let me know!) coming up next week...

Early Departure: a poem I wrote tonight

A new poem: The Guilt of the Locust