There is a word that we’ve been hearing or using since the day we were born. The word itself is only a word. It has meaning though. There is a connotation to this word that might not be altogether positive but yet, this is only a word. It’s a necessary word too. The word is “Stop.”
Aside from the traditional uses, I use this word for myself. I use this word when my thoughts tend to run away. I use this when my fork runs away with the spoon and next, my thoughts are crazy. I’m jumping to conclusions. I’m overthinking and overcomplicating. My fear receptors overreact. I am in full-blown anxiety mode and all I can do is fall to pieces. Ever feel this way?
Did I ever tell you about the time I had an anxiety attack on my way to work. I was on the bus. We were stuck in traffic and I was sitting in a window seat. The man sitting next to me was not overly intrusive. At least, not intentionally. He was just a man on the bus. He was only someone looking to make his way into work, the same as me or any one else.
My thoughts took a turn. Aside from the traffic, now I was going to be late. There were problems awaiting me at the door. I had projects that did not work out so well. I had bosses that were unhappy with me and co-workers that were looking to take advantage of someone else’s downfall. Namely, my downfall. I was in the middle of different changes in my life. My diet had changed and my focus on nutrition was different. This meant that my go-to foods and comfort foods were off the menu so-to-speak. I was thinking about everything and anything and stuck in a place where I had no control. I had music in my ears. I was trying to find something good to listen to and calm down. I was trying but unfortunately the walls were closing in on me. And what’s more is this was summertime. The bus was not overly warm but the bus was not comfortably cool either. I could literally feel the heat from the man’s body as he sat next to me.
I have certain thoughts which I face on the bus. I am one who tries to respect personal space. I do this because first, I do not like touching or bumping into people I do not know. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I do not like being touched, bumped or kicked or elbowed by strangers sitting next to me. More and more, this was the situation. In the midst of my attack, I swore it was as if the world was doing this to me on purpose. Intellectually, I understand this is not possible. The world is not against me. However, panic and anxiety attacks have nothing to do with our intellectual mind. I couldn’t stop the wheels from turning in my head. Suddenly, everything turns inwards and irrational. Deep down, I know this is all irrational thinking. I understand that thoughts are only thoughts. Feelings are only feelings and neither are true or false.
Mindfully, this was not my first panic attack. However, I can say that this was my last one of its kind. To paint the picture; the bus was crowded. All seats were taken and perhaps there were a few people standing. We were in stop and go traffic. Each time the bus stopped, the bus jerked, which meant the man sitting next to me would somehow bump me or be too close. I was looking out of the window because I was trying to fold my body towards the wall. Perhaps if I did this, the man on my right would not touch me as much. I didn’t want to feel the heat from his body anymore. I didn’t want his elbows to bump my ribs. My thoughts became nearly aggressive and almost hysterical or violent. I didn’t want this, I couldn’t take this. In fact, I snarled and through grinding teeth, rather loudly, I growled the word, “STOP!”
The poor bastard to my right almost had a heart attack. I am not a big man but I’m not small either. More to the point, I was much bigger than him, and yet, he was taking up way too much space for a little man. He apologized very quickly, in fact, I apologized as well, embarrassingly too, and then I pointed towards my earbuds; as if to explain that I was listening to something that provoked me. Needless to say the man leaned away from me the rest of the bus ride.
The word “Stop!” is a powerful one. I have to say that I felt better. I have to say that it’s like a child in my head, running crazy and throwing a fit.
And to this I say, “STOP!”
Years back, I was in a fancy shoe store. There was a little boy, running all over the store, grabbing shoes and throwing them to the floor. He was laughing. He was running and his mother was chasing him. I’m not too clear on what she was saying. The boy was hyper to say the least. He didn’t grab every shoe on the rack but it was enough to make everyone try and stop him..
I was younger then too. I was old enough to be an adult but still young enough to have “Crazy” in my veins. The women who worked in the store were somewhat quiet and clearly upset. The mother of the child was certainly embarrassed and humiliated.
I don’t know why or what triggered this but as I was waiting in line, I found myself in close proximity near the young boy, I shouted the word “Stop!” I screamed this in a deep demon-like growl. Not only did the boy stop but so did everyone else in the store. The boy’s look was shocked; as if something tragic had happened, like he was about to lose a limb or something. The mother was able to grab him and she and the boy walked out of the store. The boy was nearly crying but he was mainly shocked into submission. The women that worked in the store thanked me and so did the stock boy that had to pick up all the shoes.
I view this as a symbol of my anxiety attacks. My thoughts and my mind are like that little kid in the store, shouting out and reaching for attention. I compare this to the unresolvable tantrums in my mind; to which, the voice of reason is me and my adult mind. This is the rational part of my brain; also known as my frontal lobe.
The emotional mind is all about thoughts, feelings, predictions and opinion. The frontal lobe is the adult. This is where plans and strategy take place. This is me saying “STOP!” and putting that crazy little kid back in line.
It’s a great word.
By the way, I have improved with the attacks. I have moments when my anxiety is exceptionally high and uncomfortable. Sometimes, the mind needs the adult to step in and tell it to “STOP!”
As for my last big anxiety attack; I was in a cramped space in a crowded Chinese food joint, downtown in New York City. The food was not particularly great. I was struggling to manage my anxiousness. And of course, who sits next to us? A large, dirty, blonde haired woman who spoke like an angry trooper. She cursed and she swore. She was eating little drumsticks of chicken with grease on her hands and face, double-fisting with chicken bones in both right and left hands, continuously feeding her mouth. She would bite the meat from the bones and throw the bones down onto the plate. Meanwhile, she sat across from a skinny little man (She was twice his size) and complained about a date she went on. Her fingernails were long and yellow with dirt beneath them; as if to be stained by nicotine and seldom washed.
I wanted to scream stop then too but to be honest, I think I would have had to fight this woman. And she was a ringer for sure. I’d have had to fight for my life because this lady would’ve played for keeps!
Now, I offer this with a sense of humor. However, there is something to this word “STOP!”
Think about it.
What’s the one thing we want when anxiety hits?
We want it to stop, right?
We’ve been using this word for a long time. It’s a good word. I use this word too. I think about the red stop signs on the corner. I think about the word and how it is spelled “STOP” I let this translate. I let the adult mind take over and quiet the child that wreaks havoc.
I say the word “STOP” out loud. And sure, maybe the man on the bus thought I was crazy. Who knows? Maybe I am crazy. Or, maybe it’s like what Manson said when asked if he were crazy. To this Charles Manson replied, “Or whatever that means. Sure, he’s mad as a hatter. What difference does it make? You know, a long time ago being crazy meant something. Nowadays, everybody’s crazy.”
Crazy or not, the man has a point . . .
The one thing I learned is crazy people do not think they’re crazy. They think they’re sane. It’s the rest of the world that’s nuts. And stupid people; they don’t think they’re stupid either. No. They think they’re smart.
And me. I’m not crazy. I’m not stupid. I’m only a man in the world that has learned to live through struggles and challenges. Does this make me crazy. Sure. I’m mad as a hatter but what difference does it make? Nowadays, I can use the word “STOP!” and learn to go on about my life.
The only person that will ever free me from me is me.
I learned this.
This is why I use the word “STOP!” because now that I know this, I can learn to use it to my advantage — and improve.