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La Petite Mort

Jake showed up at the door today, in the middle of his school day lunch hour. His face pale, his skin clammy.

He struggles so much with anxiety, with all sorts of things that we can all relate to, right? It gets so big and tough that being up against this shit at the age of fifteen feels like a snowball in an avalanche.

I pointed to the futon and ordered him to sit down while I phoned the school. Enabling anxiety makes it bigger and I wasn’t going to let Jake be suffocated by it.

We talked together on the futon while we worked out a plan and he said something to me that reminded me so much of what we all say to ourselves when we’re struggling with things unseen, like anxiety and depression. I told him that he will get through this crisis and will one day be able to help other people through the same thing and he said to me, “This isn’t even a crisis, though. Nobody in my family died. I shouldn’t be like this.

And that? RIGHT THERE is the tragedy of emotional pain. Right. There. It’s unseen. It feels invalid, like some kind of joke. It’s immeasurable.

But it’s all a death. Physical death is the ultimate separation but death shows up in all shapes and sizes throughout our lives. Did you know that in the French language, the word orgasm is referred to as “la petite mort” or “little death?” Because time has to go by before the connection can be reestablished. Or you know, crotchless chaps, a feather boa and Ray LaMontagne.

Separation, isolation, whether it’s tangible or merely a feared state is death, and it needs to be grieved. Acknowledged, and grieved. And then, and only then, can we move forward. Back to connection, back to life.

You don’t have to go through a divorce or the death of a loved one to feel the pain that comes with separation. It can happen when somebody stands us up for a date or doesn’t return our phone call or really anytime we feel like we are the only person on earth that has a zit that big or boobs that lame or whatever it is in your life that triggers shame. Shoving the pain down or lashing out at others only makes us feel worse.

Here, let me get you started:

You’re on your own with the chaps and boa though.

When is the last time you felt all alone? Like nobody else has ever felt this way?

Do you ever invalidate how you feel by comparing your life to others’ and then minimizing your own pain?

What were you like when you were 15?

Right here.




{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Lauren @ ihadabiglunch November 12, 2015, 7:34 pm

    Wow. This is so powerful. He is so lucky to have you. Can you imagine not having anyone around to have compassion for and empathize with your pain? A, as you put it, pretty immeasurable/indescribable pain?

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 12, 2015, 7:47 pm

      I think it’s still possible to empathize with someone even if we haven’t felt their exact pain, but it sure is more potent when we have. I handed the kid my DNA so the least I can do is stand strong while he leans into me. Anxiety is shitty.

  • Heather@hungryforbalance November 13, 2015, 5:29 am

    Every damn time I deal with anxiety/depression issues I tell myself that, my life is so good! What do I have to be so upset about? Then my anxiety and depression gets coupled with anger, at myself and other people. It usually takes me a little while to get over it because I hate explaining what’s going on; it just seems so stupid when I say it out loud.
    When I was 15, I was awkward, shy, anxious, and overweight. I am basically the same except for the overweight part.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 1:14 pm

      Angry feels good because it acts like a vent to get all that anxiety and depression out. Or so we think, anyway. Then we figure out pretty quick that straight arming the coffee table only leads to a big mess, and more anxiety and depression. I think if we can keep talking about it on here and with our circle of people, we will slowly and surely be able to manage these intense feelings.

  • Jamie November 13, 2015, 7:57 am

    When I get depressed or suffer from serious bouts of anxiety, I often times judge myself, thinking that others would think I’m crazy if they knew, which often times leads to more serious depression or anxiety. Jake is so lucky to have a wonderful and caring parent to open up to. It is so hard to do that – I really admire him.

    And when I was 15, I was a grade A bitch. Ugh. Haha

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 1:12 pm

      YOU?!?! A bitch? NOOOOOO. But ya, I think every 15 year old girl can be pretty bitchy! Seriously though, shame makes everything worse, and judgement and secrecy grow shame like bamboo. If we’re sitting around judging ourselves, life is going to only get tougher. Boo.

  • Susie @ SuzLyfe November 13, 2015, 8:05 am

    I never had the type of anxiety or depression where I felt completely alone. I have certainly felt lonely, but never alone. I felt isolated, but could always feel that people were around, existing around me, but I couldn’t interact. But not alone. Your son has such a particularly dangerous type of anxiety. He is so fortunate that you are there. And I am always here for you. xoxo
    At 15… I was still dealing with the aftermaths of Crohn’s Issues, but not the worst. But I was lonely. But in the midst of that loneliness, I had my mom and my horses.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 1:10 pm

      There’s a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. One is a truth and one is a feeling. I’ve always said that just because we feel something doesn’t make it true. Just because we feel alone, doesn’t mean we truly ARE alone. There are a whole lot of us crazy cats out there. Whether we join hands physically in person or over the blogosphere or interwebs, by email, FB, texting, whatever, doesn’t really matter. It all brings us closer together, brings down the walls and barriers put up by shame and emotional struggles/mental illness etc.

  • Andy November 13, 2015, 8:26 am

    Normally, I’m a total lurker on your website (though I love it!) but I so strongly relate to your post today that I had to comment. I completely understand that “I shouldn’t be like this” feeling… that ‘I have no right’ to feel this way feeling. It’s absolutely the worst situation because you then feel guilty in addition to feeling anxious. Your posts on anxiety have helped to make me feel so much less alone (“other people think that way too?!”).

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 1:07 pm

      ANDY!!! Thank you so much for writing! I’ll share your comment with Jake as I know it will really help him. And you said it yourself, that we all help each other because by saying it all out loud, it takes the shame away and brings people together. The best feeling ever? The feeling of belonging. That we are not alone. PHEW. What a relief hey?

  • Maddie @ Dixie Runs November 13, 2015, 8:53 am

    I pride myself on being the person that my close friends can trust with their secrets and come to with their problems, but it has made me feel like any problems I have are insignificant compared to what they are going through so I tend to sweep them under the rug. I know I shouldn’t, but I ALWAYS compare myself to others and then tell myself to stop complaining and forget about it. I have a great life and am so blessed but I still deal with anxiety on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s just hard and you need to ask for help. I’m getting better.l at that

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 1:06 pm

      Well, I’m glad you at least realize that you have a harder time asking for help, and I’m also not surprised at all that people find you so trustworthy and easy to talk to. Someone once told me to act like a container rather than a sponge when I am listening to their problems. Focusing on the container image helps me to not let their pain become my own, where I soak it all up and carry it around with me on top of all of mine too.

  • Laura @ This Runner's Recipes November 13, 2015, 9:22 am

    I constantly invalidate how I feel. I’m very much the type who will be upset over something and then tell myself to get over because at least there’s food on the table and a roof on my head. Since I became Catholic, I’ve been much better in trying to empathize with even the small suffering and upsets of others and practice self-empathy. To see someone’s suffering, no matter how small, is to truly see them as a person.
    Your son is so lucky to have you. You exhibit the most remarkable capacity of empathy in your writing, so I know that you have it even more in person-to-person interactions.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 12:42 pm

      You know, there’s a fine line between having perspective and invalidation. It’s a tough tightrope sometimes! Yes, I have a lot of empathy, that’s for sure. It’s a double-edged sword. So many times I have lamented about feeling TOO MUCH. Sometimes I wish there was a bit less emotion pulsing through my veins.

  • Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian November 13, 2015, 11:10 am

    When I was 15, I was a pretty anxious person as well. I still feel like a lot of the time is spent worrying even these days, and I’ve also seen my fiancee go through some severe anxiety since I’ve known him. It can be a tough thing to deal with for sure.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 12:39 pm

      You know what? Sometimes when I am with someone who is MORE anxious than I am, I will actually balance it out by calming down quite a bit. But then when they leave, I get all anxious again, plus some.

  • Megan @ Meg Go Run November 13, 2015, 11:46 am

    I have invalidated my own pain but the older I get, the more I have learned not to. I know a lot of people invalidate their pain but they shouldn’t. You can’t compare one person’s pain to another’s, it just doesn’t work like that!

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 13, 2015, 12:38 pm

      I’m glad you’re learning not to. It’s a steep learning curve though, hey?

  • Meghan@Cleaneatsfastfeets.com November 15, 2015, 5:21 am

    So this is exactly what my shrink was saying last week… wait was that just last week? Anyway, you have to allow, acknowledge and accept the feeling (regardless of what sparked it) and then soften your knowledge of it. Meaning don’t be a dick to yourself because you have it. I don’t have the shame bit or the comparison thing, instead I try to pretend it doesn’t exist which only works for so long and then it doesn’t work at all.

    Also when it comes to anxiety and panic attacks, that’s a whole host of surging hormones, adrenals acting out and brain chemistry all packed into one giant ball, rolling down hill and picking up steam and more baggage along the way. Sometimes it helps to logically say ok my hormones and brain is acting crazy right now and that happens, with or without a trigger. It’s like a woman with extreme PMS. The right side of your brain is telling you these feelings aren’t logical while the left side is kicking, screaming, and throwing out tears.

    • suzy.suzyheather@gmail.com November 15, 2015, 9:10 am

      YES!!!!!!!!!! So so SO true. You’re right! Sometimes there is no trigger at all other than surging hormones. That makes me think of the whole postpartum depression thing, where the hormones take a nosedive taking our happiness and sanity along with it.

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