August 12, 2014: Super High Anxiety


Internal weather report for today:  I have a lot of anxiety.  This is not new.  Anxiety has been with me since I was thirteen, and probably before, although I don’t remember.

Why am I anxious?  Why is there thunder in the distance right now, why is that rooster hoarsely crowing nearby, even though it’s 4:17 pm?  

Why do I feel afraid of you right now, this blog place, that I have come to love and feel connected to?  I remember when I wrote my first post, feeling shy.  Somehow that passed.  Yet now comes fear, of being exposed, putting myself “out there.”

But it isn’t the blog.  And it isn’t anything that happened.  The anxiety entered.  It wants a topic, a reason, it wants a subject to validate itself (there are SO many things it can hook into if I let it!  Endless, ridiculous things, from a “real” cockroach to an “imagined:  What if?”)

Robin Williams killed himself yesterday, apparently due to severe depression.  I can’t and don’t know what it’s like, being so depressed to commit such an act. I’m so sorry someone could feel so much pain. It’s incredibly sad to know he had children and lived in idyllic Tiburon and had a loving wife and was fabulously creative and successful, and that he came to the desperate place where suicide seemed like his – last option, I guess?  

It felt like something’s in the air, something stirring, something unsettled.  Are people and the Earth feeling off a bit right now?  One friend wrote that she is crying a lot these days, a friend of hers had killed himself this time last year; she remembers him with fondness and grief.  

I don’t know if anyone else is feeling any sadness or anxiety, or unsettled.  I don’t have a cure for anxiety but this is what I’ve been doing with it last night and today.  Find a quiet place and fully let myself feel the feeling.  It’s in my chest.  Be with it.  Accept it, feel it without attaching words or imagined events or possible fears around it.

Talk to it a little bit:  “What are you afraid of?”  “What do you need?”  “If you could use words, what do you want to tell me?”

I think the anxiety felt heard.  It answered me.  “What are you afraid of, truly?”  


“What do you need?”


“What do you want to tell me?”

“If you hold me, I’ll soften…I’ll open like the black, sharp rice did the other night, in just six minutes.  I’ll open into a soft, chewy, healthy blossom that you can eat…I’ll turn into love, if you hold me…I’ll lead you to God, if you embrace me…I’ll turn you inside out so that you are open like a body with no skin, so that the outside becomes you…so that there will be nothing to hide, nothing to fear…nothing.”

I hear you.  I love you.  Be not afraid.  We are one.  May we all find and keep, tenderly, together, the peace, love, happiness, health, safety and goodness that we all long for, that we all deserve, as human beings.  Everyone.

4 thoughts on “August 12, 2014: Super High Anxiety

  1. Cheryl,
    Unfortunately, I have known the kind of depression that gripped Robin Williams. Fortunately, I have found ways to deal with that state of mind, mostly through medication. I must also credit my family and especially my wife Leisha for equipping me with the kind of support that is so absolutely critical during such times. I was stunned to learn about the other Robin, wasn’t quite able to let the news penetrate my consciousness. But when it finally did, I thought “there but for the grace of God go I.” I drove home from work in Berkeley yesterday and looked across the bay to Tiburon, fog poised over Mount Tam, and thought “how could this happen?” But I know how it can happen. I know what it’s like to be so deep in sadness that it feels like you’ll never find the way out. Not this time. Depression requires a team to beat it. And people must learn not to be ashamed to reach out and ask for help. That there is strength in asking for assistance, not weakness. But the stigma of there being something wrong with your brain is so vicious and compelling, that too many people remain silent. I suppose that’s why I am responding to your post. To open the door and let light into the darkness. You have allowed me that. I want anyone out there who feels there is no hope to realize it may be just around the corner. Hold on.
    I love the way you end your posts Cheryl. I can feel the connection.
    Be well,
    “Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in.”

    • Oh Dear Robin…Thank you for opening the door and letting the light in. It takes a great deal of courage – and caring for others – to do so. It’s so true, all that you shared – and how important it is to know that “it takes strength in asking for assistance, not weakness.” There is still a lot of shame around depression, anxiety, other so called “disorders” that are so frequently a part of being a human. Let the Sun Shine In…the more we can, the more others can, and we can all move forward in our collective journey of healing, whatever form it takes. Much much love to you, and again ,thank you so much for sharing your story. I can feel the connection, too. xoxo

  2. Thank you Cheryl. For anyone who finds their way to these comments and replies, here is a post from Anne Lamott, writer extraordinaire and fellow traveler on the path. The overarching theme is compassion; compassion for ourselves and our fellow human beings. Her wisdom and insight can be so helpful in times like these.

    “This will not be well written or contain any answers or be very charming. I won’t be able to proof read it It is about times like today when the abyss is visible and we cannot buy cute area rugs at IKEA to truck out the abyss. Our brother Robin fell into it yesterday. We are all staring at the abyss today.

    I called my Jesuit friend the day after the shootings in Newtown, stunned, flat, fixated, scared to death: “Is there any meaning in the deaths of twenty 5 and 6 year old children?”

    Tom said, “Not yet.”

    And there is no meaning in Robin’s death, except as it sheds light on our common humanity, as his life did. But I’ve learned that there can be meaning without things making sense.

    Here is what is true: a third of the people you adore and admire in the world and in your families have severe mental illness and/or addiction. I sure do. I have both. And you still love me. You help hold me up. I try to help hold you up. Half of the people I love most have both; and so do most of the artists who have changed and redeemed me, given me life. Most of us are still here, healing slowly and imperfectly. Some days are way too long.

    And I hate that, I want to say. I would much prefer that God have a magic wand, and not just a raggedy love army of helpers. Mr. Roger’s mother told him when he was a boy, and a tragedy was unfolding that seemed to defy meaning, “Look to the helpers.” That is the secret of life, for Robin’s family, for you and me.

    I knew that those children at Sandy Hook were caught in God’s loving maternal arms at the second each crossed over, and the teachers were, too. I believe the shooter was too, another child of God with severe mental illness, because God loves, period. But this is controversial.

    I know Robin was caught too, in both the arms of God, and of his mother, Laurie.

    I knew them both when I was coming up, in Tiburon. He lived three blocks away on Paradise drive. His family had money; ours didn’t. But we were in the same boat–scared, shy, with terrible self esteem and grandiosity. If you have a genetic predisposition towards mental problems and addiction, as Robin and I did, life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss.

    We all thought after Newtown that gun control legislation would be passed, but no–not one new law. We think in the aftermath of Robin’s death that there will be consciousness raising about mental health, but I doubt it. The shock and awe will pass, like it did after Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. Unless…unless we take action. But what? I don’t have a clue. Well, here’s Glenn Close’s astonishing organization to raise awareness and diminish the stigma of mental illness, where you can give OR receive help: Go there, OK?

    In Newtown, as in all barbarity and suffering, in Robin’s death, on Mount Sinjar, in the Ebola towns, the streets of India’s ghettos, and our own, we see Christ crucified. I don’t mean that in a nice, Christian-y way. I mean that in the most ultimate human and existential way. The temptation is to say, as cute little believers sometimes do, Oh it will all make sense someday. The thing is, it may not. We still sit with scared, dying people; we get the thirsty drinks of water.

    This was at theologian Fred Buechner blog today: “It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.”

    Live stories worth telling! Stop hitting the snooze button. Try not to squander your life on meaningless, multi-tasking bullshit. I would shake you and me but Robin is shaking us now.

    Get help. I did. Be a resurrection story, in the wild non-denominational sense. I am.

    If you need to stop drinking or drugging, I can tell you this: you will be surrounded by arms of love like you have never, not once, imagined. This help will be available twenty/seven. Can you imagine that in this dark scary screwed up world, that I can promise you this? That we will never be closed, if you need us?

    Gravity yanks us down, even a man as stunning in every way as Robin. We need a lot of help getting back up. And even with our battered banged up tool boxes and aching backs, we can help others get up, even when for them to do so seems impossible or at least beyond imagining. Or if it can’t be done, we can sit with them on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity. You know how I always say that laughter is carbonated holiness? Well, Robin was the
    ultimate proof of that, and bubbles are spirit made visible.”
    Anne Lamott, August 2014

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