Tell me a story….
I’m slightly embarrassed by how much time has passed between posts. Well actually, no I’m not. I feel like I should be embarrassed. But, I think I do this blog a disservice if I put my life on hold to write it… and between my little vacay and hosting a party for the premiere of my show with my cast and crew… I be doin some livin. I started this post in Mexico, and am wrapping it up snuggled up on my couch at home. I hope you will forgive my lapse in blogging, and if you don’t…. tough cookies.
I am wrapping up my little vacay. It has been a lovely surprise in so many different ways. A last minute decision to join dear girlfriends at a tiny boutique hotel just outside of Puerta Vallarta that is a destination wedding mainstay. I laughed at my friend for booking it…. and then ate my words as we descended upon this rustic gem of hotel on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Quaint wicker lanterns adorn every nook, alcove, and wall, and delicious characters await to sit and share my new favorite drink…. the Chilada. We have become fast friends with the owners, staff and guests… Chatting poolside into the afternoon hours, punctuated by a late night impromptu dance party which culminated with almost everyone jumping into the pool fully clothed. Ahhhhhhh vacation.
Everyone has a story to tell. And I find that if you sit with most people long enough you will find so much more then meets the eye. From the bartender who came for a wedding and never left the property, to the family of 6 celebrating life after the amazing battle their 27 year old daughter,sibling, and wife endured with a stage four cancer. I have loved sitting and listening, meeting people from all walks of life and hearing their stories. I wonder why it is so difficult to put this into practice in my everyday life. If it’s just because I don’t take the time, then I guess maybe it’s time to slow down.
Let’s pretend we’ve just arrived here at the “hotel de 365sits”. We’ve plopped ourselves down by the pool, a waiter comes by and drops off a drink or two. We watch the waves crashing on the beach… you turn to me and ask, “so what brings you here?”….
This is my story.
In 1997 I was in my second year of college at Washington State University. I had been a pretty quiet kid in high school. Didn’t really drink until my senior year, liked to be home with my parents on the weekends. In college, I learned the art of the party. It was a small college town, nothing to do really but drink(apparently it didn’t occur to me to oh, I don’t know… study) and I was having a blast. I’d never done drugs, save for smoking a bit of pot here and there, and had my first experiences with mushrooms and ecstasy. One night, a group of us decided to do E and go out to some parties. I took the small pill and sat laughing with my friends…. the next thing I knew, I was sprinting down the street, convinced I was dying. The feeling that seemed to suck the very breath from my lungs was so horrible, dark and deep that the only thing I could equate it with was death. I remember thinking that my parents were going to have to identify my body, and in the process… they would realize I had done drugs. Thankfully a friend ran after me, grabbed me and calmed me down… he repeatedly promised I was going to be OK. Something finally clicked over, and after calming down, I went on to see and experience things that helped categorize the evening as the craziest night I have ever experienced. People’s mouths and eyes changed places as I spoke to them, I gained and lost extra digits on my hands, and my mind rallied against me in ways I never thought possible. After that evening I had my first ever panic attack. It exploded into a full fledged anxiety disorder. On a daily basis I experienced symptoms that had me convinced that I was losing my mind. I have to this day, never touched another drug.
I dropped out of college shortly after, the anxiety made it impossible to concentrate on anything…. The following 10 years fluctuated between moments of intense, horrific anxiety, and times where I seemed able to grasp some sense of a light at the end of the tunnel. During this time I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of acting… and as I had success with that my symptoms seemed to improve.
Then, in 2005 I was put on new medication for my hypothyroidism… a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. I had been on hormone replacement for years but a specialist decided to tweak the meds I was taking for optimal results. Everything seemed to be going along swimmingly until three weeks after I started the new meds. I was sitting on the floor playing with my dogs when I suddenly felt the cold familiar rush of adrenaline that marked the begining of an anxiety attack. I tried every tactic I knew to get it under control, but it was so intense that I had no power over it. My heart was racing out of control and everything started to go fuzzy and dark… I couldn’t breathe… What I didn’t know was that the dosage of my new medication had put me into the hyperthyroid range. The pendulum had swung entirely in the opposite direction, and the result was utter pandemonium for my mind and body. For some reason, even when the dosage was corrected, my mind and body stayed out of whack. For the next 5 months I experienced anxiety attacks accompanied by a plunge into a deep dark depression. Unable to sleep, but dreading the hours I was awake, I struggled to understand what was happening to me. It wasn’t that I was so sad or down, it was the complete absence of feeling ANYTHING. It was a horrible, awful existence. While I promised my loved ones that I wouldn’t attempt to hurt myself, I understood clearly for the first time why people take their own lives.
I did not want to be in this world if this was how it was going to be. I did not know if I had the strength to hold on.
My doctors tried in vain to put me on antidepressants. I was so terrified of putting anything else in my body that I vehemently refused. The only thing that seemed to help was when I sat and closed my eyes and told myself to just breathe. And so one day, near the end of my rope, I looked online and found a meditation class.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
It wasn’t an overnight fix. It was and still is sometimes an uphill battle. But as I’ve learned to sit and be still with what is in the moment, the anxiety and depression have slowly slowly gone on their way. I find great strength in the idea that I am all that I need. The mind is such an amazing incredible thing… it cannot be controlled, but it can be trained. When I realized that I was not my feelings, and that my mind was like an insolent little child left to run wild, I took the first step towards understanding the unstoppable power of my authentic self.
It’s a bit scary to share this with all of you. Halfway through typing it I fought the urge to delete the whole thing. It’s a deeply personal and difficult story. Being in the public eye, it’s hard not to worry about presenting an image that is flawed and real. You become accustomed to spin, and making things look as good as possible. I am certainly not perfect, and I’m not always proud of the choices I have made. But, I can honestly say that I have no regrets(well except maybe letting someone pluck my eyebrows when I was 14, but that’s a whooooole nother story) and that every step along this great climb of mine has had its own purpose and direction.
I feel such gratitude towards the individuals I met on my trip. By sharing your stories, you have inspired and encouraged me to tell my own. During the darkest moments of my life, I really wanted someone to share a story that I could relate to and tell me that it was going to be ok. I’m here to tell you, that from my experience…
everything will be ok. It really will.
So tell your story. Sit with others and listen as they tell theirs. And then tell them again and again and again. I do believe that we owe this to one another. No man is an island……
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.