The fog rolls in at 7am. At first it’s far away, vague, “what is this?” You become wary, uneasy, because it is coming towards you rather fast and from all sides. Oh dear. Before you know it, it’s all around you and you can’t see two feet in front of you. You’re not sure where you are and if you take a step in the wrong direction, you might fall off a cliff.
7am and my heart is pounding. It pulls me awake, like someone poking me and very politely reminding me that I have to be on stage in front of thousands of people in five minutes to give a speech about the socializing habits of penguins — something I’m sure I am extremely unqualified to discuss. I’m sweating and icky and uncomfortable. My chest is tight and I’m shaking inside.
It’s not the first time, of course. The first time was much scarier. By now it’s more of a bother than anything else. Not this again, I’m tired, I was hoping to sleep well tonight.
When I come back from the restroom and stumble into bed, my partner stirs. “Are you having trouble sleeping again?” In his gentlest, most caring, slightly sleepy voice. So I tell him all about the fog. I tell him it’s okay and it’ll pass eventually, but that’s not good enough for him.
“I want to help,” he says. “I want to help.”
He strokes my stomach and even though I am barely aware of the touch, even though I can’t see through the fog, it makes me happy. How about that? I didn’t use to think panic attacks and joy could occur at the same time. But they can. They can and at 7am that day, they do.
7am is very early for us night owls. We may have gone to bed at 3 or 4.
He offers to make me some tea. My partner. And that’s what he does. We both get up and I sit on the couch while he goes into the kitchen and brews me a peppermint.
“Do you think you’ll be able to go back to sleep? You seem pretty awake.”
No, I won’t be able to go back to sleep. It’s too late and too early at the same time.
And then to my surprise, well, no, not surprise. It’s more like an emotional realization. And then to my emotional realization, he pours himself some cereal, turns on the PS4, and sits with me.
At 7am, both exhausted, we play games and have tea and cereal together. He could go back to sleep. It’s obvious. But he doesn’t. Willingly, he lets himself feel a bit worse so that I can feel a bit better.
That is love.