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Adventures in Mindfulness

Katie Estes is a freelance designer, art director, photographer and stylist. She sometimes writes too. 

Crushing Truths When You Have Nothing Left

Katie Estes


If this place is so beautiful then why do I keep thinking about all the ways to die? I'm not sure a person could try to stay more alive. I'm using books as bookmarks in my self-help stack. My browser has tabs with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield left permanently open. I've bounced around to so many beautiful places I don't know where to go. 

While on top of this beautiful mountain taking pictures of Clementine's ears, I remembered this anonymous quote: 

"If you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph."

I'm terrified of losing so much, just look at my Instagram. Photographs and film are the only art I've ever felt. They help me feel, remind me to feel. Sometimes I'll look at a sunset and not even know what to do with it if I don't take a picture. Perhaps all this beauty is insinuating that I learn to love myself the way I do others, animals and landscapes. That perhaps sitting on earth so grand they make an entire TV series out if it, means nothing if it ends in fluid and consistent tears for entire afternoons. In the exhales between sobs I vacillate between how much I want the pain to stop and how heartbreaking it is that I can't love myself. 

Logic only gets me into trouble here. I've already lost everything, so why does it still hurt so much? That I actually do have an answer for and that answer is complex PTSD. For awhile that made me feel better to just know, understand a little tiny bit why I can't process things like seemingly everyone else can. Unfolding logic says go get treatment (I am,) but this is a special affliction that affects every little thing. Like decisions for example. It's nearly impossible to make them. The future is, on a good day, an exciting prospect that holds promise. The next it's a debilitating sentence that I have no control over. I know this is what mindfulness is about, sitting with these feelings. But I have a very special mind that overrides body and spirit. It convinces me that every negative thought is real, has happened and will happen. After that it tells me what little value I have, with vivid memories as proof. Mindfulness is probably the only reason I've eaten in the past couple of weeks. 

For a month the sky has been falling in chunks while I dodge the big pieces and think about how to avoid the future ones. Usually I can hide behind something, cynicism, a boyfriend, or run somewhere, but everything, everything caught up with me and it's not pretty. It's fucking gory. The weird part is people saw me this time. A friend, who had been there, asked what was wrong without running away from the discomfort of being around someone who is suffering. Which made me cry harder, for the next month. It was a release valve that made me look at how much I was actually hurting and carrying around for 33 years. I told people. Like my friends scattered across the country. And that helps, that support, but there are more moments when the phone is deathly silent, promising to remain that way forever. That's when I feel an aloneness that I can't address. Don't have the tools, the instructions. Just me and a handful of people that care but don't understand.

That's when that quote above resonates hauntingly in the back of my mind. I used to not take pictures of myself. I didn't care about losing myself, I wanted to. There was a period where I couldn't look myself in the eye in the mirror because I was ashamed of feeling. I do now. I selfie. When I swerve because I'm driving the car I love too fast, I'm scared, even though I sometimes fantasize about getting in a wreck. When I slip on an icy trail, hiking alone with my dog, I'm scared, even though I think about what would happen to her if I were gone. Patty, that hunk of dog was the only thing I had for awhile keeping me going. I wonder if she worried about what would happen to me when she died. 

Let it be known I'm active with intensive therapy and pursuing various methods of accessing my innards. I'm writing this in effort to purge, but also to state the facts. Too much swept under the rug makes for a catastrophic future. Thank you to the people that have met my burden with kindness and understanding even if you didn't really know what to say. I now echo that sentiment to myself.