“”Those of you who have read my book Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love will know that one of the most powerful qualities that I wrote about in that book was courage. This chapter has resonated with many readers and one of them – Jessica Perini – has been inspired by it to create a stunning visual “”postcard”” to send to friends.””
“”Jessica tells her own story below of meeting the extreme challenges of panic attacks and agoraphobia. Her own story of persistence, courage and insight is absolutely worth reading. But I also felt so uplifted by what she had created through her stunning images and quotes from my book that it seemed perfect to post it here on my website and share it as widely as possible. Please feel absolutely free to send this PowerPoint postcard on. That is Jessica’s wish – to spread hope and courage as widely as possible. Thank you so much, Jessica!””
Here is Jessica Perini’s story:
“”Up until ten years ago I travelled the world. I remember the last time I caught a plane I had this thought: ‘This is so simple it’s just like catching a bus. How much easier can travel be?’ Then everything stopped. Agoraphobia and extreme panic attacks struck me down at a time when I felt my life was just beginning to flower. I had a new career as an editor in a publishing house, I had a new boyfriend. Then bang, like lightning I found myself on the couch, shaking so hard I felt my heart would stop. I had no idea what was happening to me. Weeks later I made my first tentative steps out into the world. I remember it was a mild day. As I stepped outside the flowers of the purple jacaranda carpeted my way to the park.
“”In 2001 I was hopsitalised for extreme panic and depression. I could barely put a morsel of food in my mouth. My greatest fear when I realised that I would not die was that my spirit might die. I was frightened that I would lose hope. But then a surprising thing happened. I met all these people who were in terrible agony, the pain of schizophrenia, the yoyo world of manic depression, and in every single one I saw something incredible. The spark of life. Within four days I was eating again and running creative writing workshops. I’ve never laughed so hard and for so long as when I laughed with those people. I made friendships there that I still have to this day.””
“”My life is now filled with all my passions, writing, photography, bush regeneration, organic farming, it really is a very full life, much moreso than it ever was before the panic. I still don’t travel but I appreciate every step outside my door, every flower in bloom. This manifests itself in my macro photography. I can’t say that I’m cured, but I now have so much more compassion for myself. When I stumble and panic makes its way in I know that this too shall pass. I have given up asking why all the time. That only takes me further into my pain. A lot of the time all I need do is recognise it and name it. I just say ‘pain’ or ‘sadness’. I can’t say I have much hope of a cure. That sounds almost sad or defeatist, but it is not. The other night I had another bout on the same couch as ten years ago. My limbs shook so hard I felt like I was having an epileptic fit. Only this time I just accepted the pain. I had no way of knowing I would come out of it, but I felt something. Maybe faith. Something. A deep calm underneath the terrible trembling. It has made the recovery so much quicker this time around. I don’t need to learn these lessons again because I know them in my heart. I am so much kinder to myself than I ever was.””
“”I made these PowerPoint slides to say ‘thank you’ to all my friends who have shone their light on my world so often. Not through acts of great heroism or pulling people out of burning buildings. Just by getting on with their lives. Sometimes for those who have agoraphobia this means just leaving the house for a few hours. I know they won’t win awards for bravery for these acts, but they are incredible heroes in my eyes. I have so much appreciation for their enormous courage and I just couldn’t say it any better than Stephanie did in Forgiveness and Acts of Love.””