Not every day, but more frequently than some, I end my day with a sobfest-style panic attack.
Panic attacks are different for absolutely everyone. No panic attack for me is the same, though I’ve definitely caught on to my triggers and repetition of behavior. For me, a panic attack feels like I am simultaneously pushed to the floor, insulted, and left alone – when none of these things have actually happened. My heart pounds, my entire system of emotions feel wired to explode at any second, and any sense of positivity and security flies right out the window. A trigger for me might be an abruptly rescheduled plan, negative feedback on a paper from a professor, or even the fact that I don’t know what to do with my free time. Recently, I've developed a very annoying and frequently occurring sense of claustrophobia, and find myself embarrassed by how anxious I feel entering packed and vibrant social situations.
My reactions to these circumstances are powerfully irrational, and I often find myself unable to stop the internal pressure from building up inside of me. I am taking steps to take professional care of myself, but while the panic is still here, I want to share what has worked for me to come out of it when it arrives.
The most intense panic attacks for me have usually happened at the very end of the day, after closing my door and finally being alone to process and listen to my thoughts. I would argue solitude is one of the most powerful places we can put ourselves. When you have nothing else to distract you from how you truly feel, how will you truly feel?
In those moments, as I notice an onset of panic, I sit down on my floor, close my eyes, and let it happen. Yep. Step one: let the feelings be felt.
Many coping mechanisms I have found myself pursuing – bad eating habits, antisocialism, mania and trying to do everything at one time – have been like band aids to deeper feelings I haven’t allowed my body to feel. I avoided listening to what God was trying to make me understand by distracting my conscious with anything I could put in front of me. And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, what’s usually left is the original feeling I needed to feel.
Letting myself sit and cry – like really, ugly, puffy cry – felt so uncomfortable for me the very first time I consciously let it happen all by myself on the floor of my room. It’s a feeling we tend to reserve for “appropriate” times, like when tragedy strikes our family or chaos truly erupts our lives. What I hypothesize has forced our generation into a mentally misunderstood epidemic is the uncomfortableness that comes with feeling “sad” for the sake of feeling sad. Social media and subconscious mental clutter pesters us with how we aren’t good enough, skinny enough, strong enough, tan enough, smart enough, accomplished enough, or even imperfect-enough (it happens). We are being manipulated by people who don’t even intend to manipulate us, because of our mere exposure to what everyone else’s life is “like.” As we’ve aged, and have had to make big kid decisions about how we want our own lives to go, suddenly, we are faced with an emptiness in not knowing who we truly are if we aren’t comparing ourselves to something else.
I feel these senses of incapability to define my own self if I'm not comparing myself to something (someone?) else. It’s a paradoxical way of living. And what happens when I let myself be still, quit comparison in its tracks, and look at what my own heart is feeling… It ends up feeling sad.
Maybe I’m alone in that constant comparison, but it drags me (without me even knowing it) and pulls me into the lie that I need to chase something, or else. What about who Chloe is, all by herself? What does she want? Where does she want to be, and what does she want to be doing while she’s there?
Not answering these questions puts me into a state of panic, as I realize I have no answer. So, in those attacks, when something goes wrong and I spiral into not even knowing what is “right” is anymore, I let myself sit in that pain. If I disregarded it and carried about with a nighttime routine I learned on YouTube that I don’t actually want to do, I miss that moment to get to know my heart, and listen to what it has to say. To an outsider, I look exactly as I look: really, ugly, puffy crying. But to me, I am in a state of newfound compassion, ready and waiting to learn what I need to learn from what my own self is trying to tell me. After releasing that pressure to myself by myself, I open the conversation to the only source of advice I know will truly hear.
Step two: talk to God. I sit on my bedroom floor with my hands wrapped around my knees, I bow my head, and I tell Him I need Him back. Why? Because depression, anxiety, panic… it’s all a result of me giving the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27), pulling me from my only true source of good and fulfilling life.
No matter how far from the Lord I am feeling in the moment, I tell Him I want to draw near to Him. That’s it. It’s so easy, I get mad, because I regret not saying it sooner. I tell Him I miss Him, I’m sorry for pretending I don’t need Him in my life, and for the forgiveness and grace to come near to me again. And you know what? It always, always happens. (James 4:8).
Step three: a reminder from yourself to yourself of everything going right. By now, I’ve usually breathed through a lot of the panic, and I’m ready to feel a little bit healed. I uncross every limb that’s been tightly wound, breathe in, and breathe out, and start listing out all the things that I love about my life. The people that I love, the things I love to do, the places I’ve been, and what's yet to be lived. I just remind them all to myself. Over, and over, and over again.
After even just one minute of focusing on gratitude, I feel so. excited. to get up. I’ve cried, I’ve filled my faith cup back up to the brim, and I’m excited to wake up tomorrow and see where He leads me. I remember what I love about this life, I know that whatever triggered me into an irrationally dark pit did not, in fact, require that reaction, but it’s okay that I'm still figuring out how to handle it all. I don’t have to hustle. I don’t have to run fast. I can take moments to be still, to connect with the Lord, and try again tomorrow.
Isn’t that beautiful?
Friend, I don’t know where you’re at. I don’t know if you've ever felt a panic attack before – and maybe you’re just freaked out by everything I described. I guarantee you know someone dealing with a battle, though. A battle through anxiety, an eating disorder, depression, addiction, divorce, miscarriage, loss…. Maybe even just really dull, really unmotivated daily life. These things make up our lives, whether we wish them upon anyone or not. They happen. By God-given circumstances we are thrown, sometimes, into pits. We are pushed, challenged, questioned, neglected – for reasons we often feel we have absolutely no control over. The purpose, I believe, is to return us to Him. And when we are filled with Him, we stop feeling as empty from everything else.
Everyone you know is dealing with something. Me? I panic. What about your neighbor? Your sister? That barista? The teacher you’re talking to or the client you’re about to see? What about your cousin? Your roommate? The guy that annoys you at work, or that women that sat next to you on that plane?
Explore compassion for those around you, ask your friends to talk if you feel like they’re slipping, or look yourself in the mirror and ask your heart what it needs.
Above all else, remember Who gave you this life in the first place. Crave Him, look to Him, and trust Him – He led you here to lead you back to Him.
Sometimes all I need is a really long walk and a hug. So I do it for myself, by myself, to heal myself, from myself.
Let's disrupt what it means to read about corners of this Earth online. Raise your hand if you want to see perfectly edited pictures of bloggers living their best life in every dang city you never even thought you wanted to visit. Oh, you don't? Me neither.
I asked on this Instagram post for ideas on how to share about travel without cluttering the Internet with another blog post no one wants to read. Here's what some of you said:
What I learned? I'M NOT ALONE. I don't want to read about that restaurant a brand sponsored someone to visit, a park that's not actually as beautiful as it's portray to be, or day-trip that's not worth my time (and $$) to explore. And as a content creator, I don’t want to put out content that I don’t want to read. Insert: a dilemma I’m determined to solve.
Sharing about cities matters to me because it’s a huge part of my life, and I really, authentically come alive wandering new places and taking pictures of everything in sight. Anyone who’s travelled with me knows that for sure. (As annoying as it is to those who don’t like snapping pics, I appreciate the friends who let me do my thang. Lolz.)
To keep my blog real, I can’t help but crave sharing about those experiences, so this is what I’m going to do.
These field guides will hopefully serve you as a space to read very honest and raw perspectives on one person’s journey through one particular city. I would never encourage you to visit somewhere I don’t believe is beautiful its own unique way, and I would never share detailed tips that aren’t worth your time. To keep things efficient, effective, and entertaining, I plan to curate the following deets (in case anyone cares):
Beyond my #1 recommendations, I’ll also include honorary mentions I've experienced and would recommend as well.
The best memories of my life through all my travels have always been the afternoons of autonomous and spontaneous decisions, made in the moment, by me and the people I was with. So take my advice or leave it – because traveling is most appreciated when it’s experienced by YOU.
This is going to be a work in progress type of goal for me, but I'm excited to see what I can produce if I at least try to share my experience in certain cities without forcing upon you an envy for a reality that isn't really real.
First up? Palo Alto, California - my literal home away from home.
Palo Alto, to me, is familiar, kind-hearted, surrounded by greenery, and filled with motivating people. Having visited the Bay Area every summer since I was born, rounding the corner to my grandmother's neighborhood, riding my bike to the local park, and shopping around Stanford University makes me feel at peace and outside the chaos of metropolitan life.
The city is completely flat, pedestrian- and bike-friendly, and healthy. If someone doesn't work for Google or Apple, they probably are still in high school or pretty close to retirement. Funky stores stand next to chain boutiques, open-air downtown windows keep people alive and laughing, and every other corner has some sort of outdoor pop-up concert by someone in a family folk band. It's a type of tranquility I don't experience in Atlanta, and the weather blows my mind every. dang. time.
Visiting Palo Alto is definitely for more of the homebody visit-your-working-friend type, but it's prime location gives you one-hour-away access to the city of San Francisco or the cliffs of Half Moon Bay. I encourage you to eat, shop, walk, bike, and hang at a coffeeshop to pretend you're founding a start-up, too. Pack for 70 degree weather every day of the year, and leave room for Stanford memorabilia. When you get back home to humidity, you'll thank our Creator for crafting perfection.
Where to explore?
#1. University Avenue, Downtown Palo Alto
Stretching from Lytton Plaza to the intersection at Cowper
Ideally, block of your Saturday morning, on an empty stomach, to visit the most perfect, local, weekly farmer's market and just begin exploring. Meander the stalls, try every white peach sample, purchase some lavender essential oils, and end with a cinnamon apple crêpe (well, #glutenfree me goes for the loaded matcha açaí bowl nowadays). This market has as much fresh honey your heart could ever desire, and there's usually a local musician wowing the crowds with ukelele delights.
2. Shoreline Lake
3160 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043
Tips: Sunset. Bring a kite and a picnic (In-n-Out?). Walk along the main trail until the hilltop clearing. HEART EYES.
3. The drive toward Half Moon Bay
Through Portola Valley, along the Pacific Coast Highway
Tips: Afternoon drive, late afternoon adventure, clam chowder in downtown Half Moon Bay, drive home during sunset. Bring a jacket because it's colddd. Northern Pacific beaches are fun to explore but definitely not for basking in the sun.
4. Stanford University
20 Palm Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
Tips: Drive down Palm Drive. Admire the main quad. Relax by the many many fountains. Grab a smoothie from Jamba Juice. Buy a keychain. Pretend you're a real student. Lol.
5. Santana Row
Walk from one end to the other
Tips: Hot chocolate from Cocola Café. Outdoor chess set. Amazon Books because where else have you seen a full store ? Sugarfina. Two-story H&M. and... PRESSED JUICERY *swoon*.
6. Town & Country Village
855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tips: The perfect Sunday afternoon spot to stay for a while and stroll. Have your dad hang out at Books Inc., send your brother toward the toy store, and link arms with your mom to walk straight for Sur La Table (after coffee from Peet's of course).
6. Stanford Shopping Center
660 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304
Tips: Kara's Cupcakes. Urban. SoulCycle. Market across from Max's Opera Café. Take an Insta in front of the veryyy realistic mural art, then walk across the street to Nordstrom and have yourself a frigin day.
Where to eat?
4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306
A local California chain that we'd visit daily if we could is Hobee's. The atmosphere is comfortable - not too fancy, not too casual - and filled with decorations and featured photographs that bring about a sense of camaraderie for the employees, regulars, and newcomers alike. It's homey, and taking a seat at a table surrounded by my family, ready for hashbrowns and fruit, is a type of contentedness I don't find often.
Opportunities range from classic eggs and bacon, to hashbrown skillets with avocado and salsa, to piled high pancakes, and really fresh fruit. Try a smoothie if you're ready to devour it on top of a hearty breakfast. And their coffee cake? Like... world famous I'm pretty sure.
Oh and get this: bring in a picture of you wearing a Hobee's tshirt in front of a famous monument and they'll post it on the wall - and give you a free meal. Are we #sold yet?!
photo by Hobee's
2. Cafe Borrone
1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Tips: On a nice day, sit outside. Pop into Kepler's next door if there's a wait to sit. Get ready to read a handwritten menu posted above the register, listen to the courtyard fountain, and thrive.
photo by Zagat
3. LYFE Kitchen
167 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tips: Full disclosure I've only been here once. All I remember is how frigin trendy-millennial-intolerance friendly-vegan it was, and considering my obsession with all things trendy-millennial-interolerance friendly-vegan ? This was added to my suggestion list.
Photo by Margee Drew Designs
4. Max's Opera Café
Tips: Fun fact, this is the cafe that baked my parents' wedding cake. Therefore we return, often. They have a gluten free menu, and also, their desserts are literally famous. That's all you need to know.
5. Asian Box
855 El Camino Real #21, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Tips: Asian-inspired fast casual bowls where everything. on. the menu. is. gluten free. HELLO ?! Consider me sold.
Where the locals hang?
#1. Bell's Books
536 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301
It's hard to explain how absolutely precious this used bookstore is. My dad has stopped in this hideaway haven every time we've come downtown, and for good reason. With two stories of Beauty and the Beast level bookshelves, old-fashioned methods of organization (post it notes and chaos), and the sweetest and most dedicated employees, Bell's continues to stand my family's test of time as a treasured spot to seek out every summer we can. I don't usually end up buying anything, but roaming the store and grabbing a postcard at least makes me feel like I'm intellectual enough to be there. Because really, who doesn't love quaint little book shops on tiny side streets...
photo by Bell's Books
2. Rick's Ice Cream
Tips: It might look ordinary on the outside, but the thiccness of Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream is well worth the long waits and below-average aesthetic appeal. I don't even want to recommend a flavor because you'll just have to try them all out for yourself.
3. Mitchell Park
600 E Meadow Dr, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Tips: Think, quintessential playground + long running trails + neighborhood library + picnic space + outdoor concerts + tai chi clubs + water fountains + more playground equipment. Hashtag, ideal suburban family-friendly paradise..
Where to sip some coffee?
#1. Blue Bottle Coffee at HanaHaus
456 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Okay hold me back before I move to Palo Alto for the sheer existence of this coffeehouse-meets-coworking-space-meets-heaven. I can't begin to explain how aesthetically pleasing this spot is but hopefully one picture can do it justice. Tucked away from the main downtown street, HanaHaus is technically a coworking space at which entrepreneurs, etc. can pay to work and network. Outside HanaHaus's specific space, however, is a Blue Bottle Coffee café, with outdoor and indoor seating featuring string lights and local art. Safe to say I absolutely thrive every time I visit, and will literally never stop recommending it to anyone who asks. Grab a drip, stay for a bit, and then head out on your way to continue exploring downtown Palo Alto.
Photo by Hanahaus
2. Starbucks on Middlefield Road
2775 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94306
Tips: Okay yes Starbucks shouldn't be considered trendy enough to be recommended as an ideal coffeehouse on vacation, but this spot has an ivy-lined, adobe brick wall and outdoor patio space that I cry happy tears about every dang summer. Do not underestimate the power of a chain café.
And that concludes my very first Field Guide!
HEYO. I'm Chlo.
So the basic gist is I’m really just tired of comparing myself to perfect people on the Internet, when I know for a fact that "perfect" doesn't exist. This here is a snippet of my inner thoughts and tidbits of experience, based on my twenty-something years of good ole fashioned, really really messy life.
My wish is for this blog to serve the small voices inside all of us that might have forgotten what being honest online can look like. Leave the hustle behind you, because this here is about HEART.
If you happen to not like what you're doing this season
My 2018 Intentions