on those who remind you to breathe

I’ve always been a fairly anxious person. Or rather, I used to be.

In truth, my parents should have probably been more careful about monitoring what I watched and read, though it wasn’t the typical subject matter that set me off.

Once, it was a 60 Minutes episode on melanoma that we watched together. My parents had no idea when they put me to bed that evening that I would spend the next few nights not sleeping and, instead, taking inventory of each of the nearly countless freckles on my body, trying to figure out which one of them was going to inevitably kill me. By the end of my endeavor, my parents had noticed my nearly always red and puffy eyes and how quiet I had become. When they sat me down and got me to tell them what was wrong (that I was dying of skin cancer), I remember them being terribly loving and reassuring when they told their nine-year old daughter that I most definitely did not have melanoma, though I swear I remember them trying not to laugh at me just a little.
When I was eleven, it was a Seventeen magazine article on alopecia. As soon as I read it, I became convinced that the hairs on my brush and the ones going down the drain in the shower were sure signs I was going to lose all of my hair. And at eleven, for me, it might as well have been cancer.

This time it was my grandmother, who a few days later was the one to crack my shell-shocked face. I remember her hugging me, promising me that everything I was experiencing was normal and that if it ever developed into something serious, she’d have the best doctors in the world looking at my charts. I’ve always known my grandmother was a special person in my life, but I think that moment really cemented it. She was so unbelievably kind. So empathetic. I swear, even if I had been sick, the hug she gave me that afternoon would have cured me.

I’ve learned how to deal with my slightly hypochondriac nature these days.

I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety.

I know what triggers me.

How to lessen the effects.

Most of the time.

There are still some days when my body starts driving, and I have no idea how to put the brakes on. In fact, I don’t even know what the hell I am doing in the car.

And it’s these days, when it becomes so entirely clear why I will fall in love with the person who not only tells me to take several deep breaths but begins taking them with me before I can even wrap my head around the suggestion.

Because I come from a tribe of breathers. Men and women who know how to hold space for one another when it is needed. To be nothing but a paper bag that keeps them from hyperventilating and give them a chance to catch their breath.

Food is my love language, but breath is life.

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