Inspiration Song & Lyrics
You might be a big fish
In a little pond
Doesn’t mean you’ve won
‘Cause along may come
A bigger one
And you’ll be lost
Marilyn Manson – Great Big White World (Warning: Explicit)
In space the stars are no nearer
Just glitters like a morgue
And I dreamed I was a spaceman
Burned like a moth in a flame
And our world was so ******* gone
I’m not attached to your world
Nothing heals and nothing grows
Because it’s a great big white world
And we are drained of our colors
We used to love ourselves,
We used to love one another
Uncomfortable in My Own Skin: Reclamation Project II – Lost
Space between engulfs
Do stars yearn for something close?
Touch me; bring me home
I don’t know the exact age I had my first panic attack. I have not had any in the past year since I have been focusing on my health with my lifestyle change; I used to have them very frequently. Because of this shift in my life, I can look back and I now know I had them regularly in college. Looking further back on my early childhood, I feel pretty confident that I was having them as early as 5-7 years old.
Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, are periods of intense fear or apprehension of sudden onset accompanied by at least four or more bodily or cognitive symptoms. The most common symptoms may include trembling, dyspnea (shortness of breath), heart palpitations, chest pain (or chest tightness), hot flashes, cold flashes, burning sensations (particularly in the facial or neck area), sweating, nausea, dizziness (or slight vertigo), light-headedness, hyperventilation, paresthesias (tingling sensations), sensations of choking or smothering, difficulty moving, and derealization.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night as a child paralyzed by fear. I tried to communicate my distress to my mother, but there are not words for the crushing feeling of annihilation I was feeling. The closest I can describe it goes like this:
Imagine you are floating in space. You are very, very, very small in the universe. You are far, far away from any stars or warmth or light, and you can sense your smallness as you float alone in the black void. It is like you are less than zero, and infinity is standing on your chest.
I yearned for human touch when I felt that way. Sometimes I would wake up and crawl and lay on the floor outside my parent’s bedroom. Sometimes my mom would hold my hand for a while.
I started the project with some very small piecing. I used a very small scrap of Kona Snow to form the center of the piecing, and then added in a bit of Kona Corn Yellow and Buttercup. The width of the yellow strips finish out at 1/4-inch wide. Next I added in Kona Delft and Cornflower (finishing at 1/2-inch wide) before surrounding the piece with Kona Black.
I wanted the small piecing to have sharp corners to represent the harshness and pointed fear that accompanied my early panic attacks. The very small sliver of white in the center is my sense of self, floating in space, surrounded by the small dim glow of hope and my call for help.
I started quilting with 50wt Aurifil 2130. Using my free motion foot on Olive (my Bernina 820), I created a tight spiral over top of the piecing that quickly enlarged out and away. I then came back with 50wt Aurifil 2692 and went back and forth over top of the same spiral to obscure and darken in on top of the bright yellow. Then I filled in all the negative space with a shifting series of quilting patterns. I chose to quilt directly on top of the piecing to continue to obscure and hide the brighter parts of the quilt.
I think the back of the quilt is just as effective as the top of the quilt. The quilt finished at 23.5-inches square and is bound with more Kona Black.
I hope that you never experience the sense of unreality or how quickly things can spiral out of control in a panic attack. I have felt my heart skip beats (I wore a heart monitor during my senior year in college). I have been shaking so much that I was convinced I was living through an earthquake.
I hope that you never feel this lost.
If you do, please reach out and know there are willing hands extended to help guide you home.
34 thoughts on “Reclamation Project III: Lost”
A dramatic visual portrayal!
A beautiful quillt with real meaning . I’m sure your panic attacks were so frightening as a child and they will have compounded the anxiety – fear – anxiety cycle . It is brave if you to replay these . X
I really had no idea what was happening then and only as I am dealing with it all now am I realizing what I went through then.
I had my first panic attack in 2006. They came out of nowhere, fast and hard. I couldn’t explain what was happening or why. One day a friend — who did not know what I was going through — called and started talking about her own issues with anxiety. I cannot explain the overwhelming sense of “someone understands” that hit me in that moment. Your quilt is an extremely accurate visual of how I felt before finding help. I’m happy you are able to express your emotions through your quilting. I love that you can turn all these emotions into works of art.
Yes, finding someone to explain or understand is so incredibly powerful! I am glad you had such a good friend there for you.
Happened to my mum when we were on holidays in Chicago attempting to cross a bridge over the river. She hit the ground beside me trying to breathe and luckily I knew she was prone to them or I would have been panicking too. Even though I had an understanding of what was involved I never appreciated the fullness of it until that day. Thankfully they don’t come as often for her now. The big black nothingness trying to overwhelm the light is a really good analogy.
I am glad to hear things are more settled for you mom now, too, Ruth.
I`m finding your reclamation quilts interesting and a little unsettling… but that`s what good art is supposed to do, right? Unsettle you,,, make you uncomfortable… make you think. I wouldn’t say panic attacks are a regular feature of my life, but from the few I’ve had, I think you’ve summed up a lot of the feelings in this quilt. Here’s to fewer moments that feel like this quilt and more hands to hold you when they do present themselves.
Thanks, Jenn. I have not had one in about a year now… And that is a huge blessing.
Wow this one is powerful. I agree the back is just as effective as the front, and it’s interesting how there is no sign of the pieced self from the front–like the nightmare of completely disappearing or being forgotten. It occurred to me only recently that I very occasionally have very mild panic attacks. Where you said “infinity standing on your chest”, that is how I feel, if only for a moment. M grew up with panic attacks, but I don’t think he’s had any since college. I love your quilting on this one, and how you mostly covered the white line, but it still draws the eyes to the center.
Wow, your description of the back made my chest right. Yes exactly and how scary.
Your quilt absolutely nails that emotion. Anxiety attacks are a terribly hard thing to explain, it’s this crazy feeling that you’re the only one in the room but everyone is looking at you – while you are at fault but in no way in control. I’m glad you are able to reflect on your emotions so elegantly in both words and your art and as always, thank you for sharing your story. It will be an important read for someone, even if you never know whom that someone is 🙂
Yes, they are crazy hard to explain. I tended to get them at night as I was trying to fall asleep, which makes the experience that much more surreal.
Panic attacks are a terrible thing to have to live around. My heart goes out to you Yvonne. Your description and the way you have portrayed it in this quilt help me understand better how it must be to be in the grip of the attack. It is so awful. I hope these life changes you have made continue to be a great help in preventing them.
I hope so, too!
A powerful quilt with beautiful quilting, Yvonne. I have suffered depression, but have only had a mild panic attack. They are debilitating. Quilting keeps my depression under control. I’m so glad to hear you are also doing better.
This past year has shown me the quality of life that is possible panic attack free. It has been enlightening to feel the difference and start understanding more about assumptions I have been making…
I remember getting panic attacks when I was little, maybe 11 or 12. They were always at night before I fell asleep. My family went through a time where several family members passed away over a very short period of time (I think we went to 7 or 8 funerals in the span of 10 months or something crazy like that). I remember thinking about dying and would start to hyperventilate and get all hot and cold, crying and not being able to explain to my mom what was wrong. As an adult, I’ve been lucky to not experience anything like that, but I admit that I avoid dwelling on my own mortality for any length of time otherwise I can feel my heart rate increase and I feel like that little girl in the dark. Thanks for sharing your story.
Wow, that sounds like a tough time. I completely understand about not being able to describe what is going on. Glad you haven’t had issues since.
I can relate. Your quilt captures that feeling perfectly. Looking for that one little corner of safety/sanity to hang onto until the world settles back into into its place. At the same time, trying to hang onto all of the pieces of yourself so they don’t go flying off into space. Huddling in fetal position, wrapped up in a comforter so only your nose peeps out so you can breath.
Glad you are gaining control over them – panic attacks are more than just “a case of nerves.”
Thank you; it sounds like you have experienced something too similar. I hope you are well.
I’d like to comment, but there are no words coming. This has pulled me deep into thought and I have yet to surface. I love this series…well done.
Thank you, Carole. It is nice to know the series is thought-provoking.
Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury tells the story of a group of astronauts who have been ejected from their spaceship and are drifting helplessly away from each other in various directions (thanks to inertia). Bradbury is my Number One Favorite Science Fiction Author, who uses space and sci-fi as the backdrop for describing the human condition. In this short story (his main medium), each astronaut has a different view on floating out into the unknown, with the narrator inescapably floating/falling towards the earth, caught in its gravity field. They have communication for a short while and are each coping with their condition differently as they float away to destinations unknown. I would like to think that this quilt would represent Bradbury’s words, just as they do your own. That he could’ve looked at it and said, “Ah, that’s what I was writing about exactly.” For example, “Space began to weave its strange voices in and out, on a great dark loom, crossing, recrossing, making a final pattern.” – Ray Bradbury, Kaleidoscope, 1951 from “The Illustrated Man”. If you go read it, please note that it’s sad, spiteful, touching, ironic, and wonderous all at the same time, but that’s Bradbury for you. He writes to make you think, to evoke emotion, and to entertain. Kinda reminds me of your blog!
That sounds like a fascinating book. I will definitely consider it. And thank you for such high praise; to be even associated with someone who obviously inspires you is a wonderful thought.
To say that your Reclamation project is inspiring would be an understatement. I believe I experienced my first panic attack about 3 years ago and now deal with anxiety that varies on its strength. I am so happy and proud of you for taking the steps you have taken towards working out all that you are working through (starting with selecting your different career path, etc.). This is an amazing story that is unfolding and an even greater story is waiting to be told by you!
Thank you so much, Megan. I hope that you are able to find ways to help alleviate your anxiety, too. 🙂
Poor thing! I have never experienced such attack but I have been so stressed out these days and I feel like total outsider. I have to force myself to do things as I just feel I rather hide under the rock somewhere. I was thinking about turning that in some sort of project so I can rid of it. I’m trying to fight it but it is not an easy task.
Wow. What a powerful and meaningful quilt.
I have never had a panic attack. I get weird heart beats now and then but, having had it tested, they are just weird and not dangerous.