We have been watching This is Us for several weeks now. We binge-watched the first half of season 1 in a couple of nights because we were hooked after the first episode. For those of you who don’t watch this show, if you are reading this blog you are on the Internet and I imagine you’ve seen someone talk about it at least. It has only been on for this first season and is currently running. Although I am not a big TV watcher and do not have much to compare this statement to, I do believe the writers of this NBC drama got something very right with this one.
The show tells the story of triplets (two of the three pictured here –no they are not biological siblings). The one on the right is Randall. He was dropped off on a firehouse door step in the 1970s by his father, his crackhead mother having passed away right after he was born just a few days prior. His father left him in a cardboard box on the doorstep and it wasn’t long before a fireman found him and took him to the local hospital. Meanwhile, in the same hospital a woman gave birth to triplets; one of the three babies was stillborn. As fate would have it, a baby in a box was brought to the hospital that day, so the baby in the box became part of the triplets and joined the family that day, too. Their parents called them “The Big Three”.
In this picture, the one on the left is Kevin. He is one of the triplets born this day. His sister, Kate (not pictured here) is the other biological sibling. The writers of the show did a remarkable job weaving the relationships of these three very different, yet strikingly similar individuals. The show utilizes flashbacks in every episode to deeper explain the life of Randall’s birth parents and the relationship of the triplets’ parents as newlyweds and through their lifetime.
When I watch this show, I find so many relatable themes and appreciate the messages hidden in the dialogue and dynamics between each character. I usually start crying within the first few minutes of watching, and have been moved by not just one or two characters on the show, but almost all of them at some point or another. It really is a feel-good show and I have enjoyed watching it each week.
The picture above is from a scene from last week’s episode. I won’t spoil any of the details of the episode in the event you haven’t watched it and think perhaps you will, but Randall suffered a panic attack in this episode. In this picture, his brother comforts him during his attack. As I watched this episode, my heart felt it would nearly implode with empathy as a wave of realization surged over me: I
AM WAS RANDALL.
I had my very first panic attack when I was in college at NC State. I was driving down Hillsborough Street on my way to campus for an exam. I had studied for the exam, and knew I would do well on it. But I was worried and stressed out about how tired I was and couldn’t stop thinking about rent that was due and life just simply seemed to overwhelm me at that very moment. Suddenly my chest tightened and I seemed to gasp for breath and I felt more afraid than I had ever felt before. I called my daddy and one of the only things I remember him repeating to me was, “Breathe, Candice. Just breathe.” He told me to look around in my car for a paper bag or something to help me breathe more easily. Of course I had nothing to assist with this, so I just pulled over and cried. And cried. And cried.
These have continued throughout my life, the most recent one being earlier this year. Yet for some reason I am able to say today that I suspect (and am so very hopeful) that it may just be the last one I will ever endure. I have grown as a person since my last panic attack — spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally — I have tapped into a part of myself that was guarded with lock and key. I have learned things about myself that were often hard to accept, yet rewarding to recognize in the essence of beauty. I have let go of fears, worry and resentment that unconsciously weighed me down. I have given my life back to God and accepted that I am not meant to control what happens to me, as my fate is written and was already unfolding. I have laid down my boxing gloves in the fight against myself and feel better and stronger and more capable than ever before.
As I look at this picture I am overwhelmed with pain for Randall and can empathize so wholeheartedly with his place in this moment. Yes, I realize it’s a TV show but this is real life, folks. People really do suffer from these terrible things: panic attack, mental breakdown, stress-induced trauma, nervous breakdown — call it what you will, but make it a point to be aware of your loved ones and offer support when you are able. Be understanding and don’t ever throw rocks. Support is critical to the delicate souls who suffer with these types of challenges in life and often times a genuine smile and a hug can make a really big difference in their day.
I share stories like this about myself in hopes of being a beacon of light for someone. Yes, I may make myself vulnerable to judgment and criticism, but I feel the overflow from my heart as I tell my stories and dwell on the possibility of positive impact rather than the fear of negative judgement. Through self-reflection, a whole lot of patience and the grace of God I strive daily to keep these fears at bay. Of course I have setbacks and I don’t always succeed, but I refuse to give up. Life is breathtakingly beautiful and it took me 35 years to realize this. However, this morning I was reminded that it doesn’t matter when you start, it only matters how you finish…