I am a walking anxiety attack of a person. I’ve been described as wildly tense; down to the way that I walk and speak. I always feel faster than the world around me, even when the world demands my slowness for a moment. Because of it, I hardly know what to say half of the time in conversations. I say things I don’t mean and do things impulsively, then spend the rest of my life thinking about it. I wish that I wasn’t this way— yet, here I am. This has always been an issue, but last semester, right at the beginning around August, I began to notice that it was getting out of control. By September, I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. I started doing things that I would have never done before to take up the space in my brain; distract myself with anything I could. I couldn’t drink or smoke at the time so sex was the only really viable option. That didn’t work out well for me, but it worked. I was having panic attacks over nothing. On top of that, my disease felt like it was looming the background— something I knew was coming, but couldn’t get rid of. College life felt like purgatory. I was waiting for my disease to flare again, waiting for it all to fall apart again, so that I could move forward. Around mid-October, the looming feeling was getting worse. My eating was worse than it had ever been. I was loosing weight again. I wasn’t working out. Something was wrong. I knew it was coming, but the anxiety over it was eating me from the inside.
When I finally decided to go to therapy, I really just expected to be greeted by a nice woman who was going to tell me that I needed to be medicated. What she actually suggested was mediation; something that I almost immediately laughed off. I told her I would try it— but really didn’t think much about it. I downloaded an app out of respect for her— might as well, since I clearly needed help— and didn’t really set aside the time until a couple of weeks later when I was in a particularly bad situation.
The first time I did it, I thought it was stupid. When I voiced this to my therapist, she said that it took a while to work— she encouraged me to keep trying. So, because I didn’t really have any other tools at the time, I continued. Slowly, I began to understand what she was saying. I became more aware of my habits and the feelings of jitteriness that I’d become so used to. I realized that I was tense, all the time, and it was making everything in my life worse.
Then, December happened. My disease flared during finals week and put me in the hospital for three weeks. During the awfulness, mindful mediation helped keep me centered. It called me down in the midst of being poked and prodded. It kept me from loosing my cool; gave me another way to organize the terror and confusion of my life.
When I got back to school that January, I continued with the mediation, but I also felt like I needed something else. Some nights, whenever I felt particularly anxious, mediation just wasn’t cutting it. I needed something to really put myself into; something to keep my hands distracted. Finally, one night after a sleepless couple of hours, I snuck into the main room the the church connected to my building and found myself sitting at a piano. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was a wonderful way to deal with my stress— one that I’d dearly missed.
I started playing the piano when I was really young— I have vivid memories of playing things that I’d made up before even going to elementary school. My parents enrolled me in piano lessons, where I picked up some of the basics, although I never learned how to read music and didn’t have the temper to play what other people wanted to. I learned music purely by memorization and learned to pretend that I was reading it. But by the time I’d gotten to 5th grade I had abandoned this all together and could play for hours all by myself, pure composition every time— never the same thing twice. It was something I loved and cherished. Something my parents wished I paid more attention to, but I did not. It was just something I could do that I rarely spoke about. Then, when I turned 15, I lost the ability to use my hands. It was devastating. I couldn’t even move them without screaming, let alone put pressure on the keys. Knowing that I’d lost that part of myself was horrible. Knowing that I could still do it, but my body could not was frustrating and awful. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, after a proper diagnosis and some healing, that my hands were okay enough to play again. It was a couple more months after that until I even allowed myself to play again frequently— I didn’t want to get attached only to loose it again. It was horrible enough the first time. But this past semester, in the midst of the awfulness, I’ve found a lot of comfort in sneaking into the church besides my apartment and playing on the grand piano— all alone for hours at night when nobody is around. To be honest, I don’t really tell people about this, because it’s not really something I feel the need to share most of the time. It’s mostly for me. There are people who have known me for years who don’t know because I keep it a secret. It’s also complicated to explain— I can’t play the same thing twice. I have no idea what I’m doing when I do— I just do it. I can’t even remember it half of the time, which is why I record most of them. Sometimes I get out of it and I can’t even remember the beginning. It’s kind of like my hands are separate from me, and I’m just there, just as impressed as everyone else.
There are very few moments in my life when I get to forget things, but when I’m doing that, I go somewhere else. It’s kind of like meditation— because I’m thinking about things but not really. It’s the magic of going somewhere else— just for a little bit.
I’m not stressed or in pain or worried about something stupid. I’m just sitting; playing out what I feel. Turning it into something for myself. Once; then it’s gone.
I figured that I shouldn’t just say that I can do this without actually playing you something, right? So here’s a video!
(I look mad and not super hot in this, but here you go!)