It’s late October, I’m leaving the hospital after visiting my mom who had been recently admitted. This is nothing new, she’s been in and out of the hospital for the past six years since she’s been seriously ill. I’m walking through the parking structure and suddenly realize I can’t find where my car is parked. The next thing I know, I feel the air being robbed from my lungs so violently I start gasping not knowing what is going on. I realize I am having a panic attack and am too caught off guard to fight the feeling of losing total control. I have never really experienced something like this, since I am usually able to get ahold of my emotions before it gets to this point. I think I must’ve blacked out for a few minutes, but I remember sobbing and trying to catch my breath while pacing the floors of the structure, feeling so terrified, alone and lost. I call a close friend and she attempts to calm me down. I then call my sister and she is able to stay on the phone with me until I get safely into my car and am breathing normally. Her calming presence knows empathy more than an average 18-year-old which I am forever grateful.
It’s now March, my mom is again at the same hospital. Every time I visit her there I have to overcome my fear of what that garage means to me. It’s a pit, a void where I might lose myself if I don’t fight to maintain reality. This entire month has been a blur. A string of slow days oozing together into the next, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Don’t get me wrong, there have been happy days, but it’s hard for me to pick them out from the bad ones. A mix of insomnia, sleeping too much, and feeling sadness in my heart like I have never felt before.
I just read an interview with Stevie Nicks in Rolling Stone where she describes her eight year long battle with Klononpin. She talks about how she lost those years to the drug and what she could’ve been doing if she would’ve been present in her life during that time. Although I’ve never taken that drug or built a dependency in that way, I know what it feels like to not have control. And that’s what I’ve felt for the last 6 months- but if I’m being honest with myself, much longer. Stevie has always played a role in my life (although I don’t know her personally) I feel like she’s been guiding me through various highs and lows for a long time. One of the last good memories with my mom that felt “normal” was two days before this last Christmas, I was driving her from Ventura to Los Angeles for a doctors appointment. We were both upset about the timing during the holidays, but knew it was necessary because of her rapidly declining health. It had put a dark cloud over the entire season that was our favorite time together as a family. There was a lot of tension between us in the car ride, until I realized Fleetwood Mac Rumours was in my car’s cd player. I pressed play and she and I started to sing along to every word. She told me the story of her buying the record when she was in college and how the group had influenced her 20s so heavily. I saw her light up in a way I hadn’t seen in a long time and saw the shackles of her illness fall away for just a brief hour and a half long car ride. As we moved along with the music, I think we both really believed in the band’s powerful lyrics. Ones that are meant to help through times of heart ache and pain and uncertainty. It was healing for both of us and a memory I’ll cherish for a long time.
Tonight, I went to visit my mom after work. This was my first real day back at a “real person” job for over a month, after coming to the realization that I have to pull myself out of this Klonopin-like self induced fog. I thrive when I’m working on lots of projects and have real attainable goals. Last week, I had a conversation with my dad and he said in a stern voice, “Aly, you need to focus on your career because it’s what’s important right now.” He wasn’t devaluing how I have been trying to help my mom for the past month while she’s been in the hospital, he just saw me losing focus and ultimately myself.
After checking in at the hospital, I marched down the long newly shined eggshell yellow linoleum floors with the sound of my heels clicking during each stride I took down to the ICU where my mom is. I knew she hadn’t had a particularly great past few days health wise, so it might not be the best visit. But nevertheless, I drew in a long breath (as I always do right before entering the floor), pulled my shoulders back and pushed through the heavy double doors into her unit. When I got to her room, I was met with a weak “hi sweetheart”- something I’ll never get tired of hearing. I immediately started telling my mom about all the new ventures I was working on and reassured her things were good “on the outside.” While I watch her struggle with things like having a strict fluid intake and diet restrictions, I try to distract her with things she might find interesting, and try to keep the conversation as positive as possible. I am barely able crack a smile on her face, she has had a hard day and has been extremely tired. I describe to her the warmth and brilliance of today’s LA sunshine and we talk about how it will be even hotter tomorrow. She eats dinner and I realize it’s getting late and I need dinner myself. As I go to leave, stroking her forehead and peppering kisses on her forehead like she would always give me growing up, she asks, “hey, do you want this Rolling Stone?” I take it and point out Stevie’s name on the cover and she explains that she doesn’t know who any of the other artists are that are featured. I chuckle as I notice Ed Sheeran on the cover and I say goodbye and walk back down the long hallway to the elevators all the while reading Stevie’s interview. She stands in her affirmations and is unapologetic about her womanhood, sexuality and the struggles that come with that. I reach the elevators and a man is there waiting as well- I can feel him looking me over like a piece of meat. I pay no attention to him and continue reading. We enter the elevator and he reads my name tag and says that he thought it said “angel” because that’s what I am. I don’t respond. I exit the elevator and thank my long limbs for carrying me swiftly away from this 5’3″ elevator creep. I cross the street back to the parking garage and am able to play back in my head where I am parked and feel a wave of relief wash over me when I see my Camry waiting for me, just where I left it.
Everyday is filled with new challenges, and finding small victories are essential to keep on keepin’ on. I’ll consider this a victory for today, thanks for guiding me, Queen Stevie.