What a year, am I right? After a quick poll of my friends and family I’m quite certain that 2018 lasted a decade rather than the regular twelve months. We’ve had intrigue, disappointments and all kinds of losses across the globe – I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a stretch of time like this with so much destruction. While I’m working on being thankful for every day, this one almost did me in. In all honesty, I’ve had more anxiety attacks in this year alone than all of the years of my life combined. They’ve not only come on often, but they’ve come on strong. With today being the kind of day that can spark the sort of gut-churning anxiousness I’ve dealt with, I thought it would be a good idea to talk openly about how I’m getting through it.
First off, it’s confession time : I’m deathly afraid of bees and wasps. I’m talking freeze in place, frantic breathing, praying to the ancestors and anyone who might be listening to keep me safe from the pain. There hasn’t been a time when I’ve come face to face with something that stings without making a fool of myself. I got my first sting this year – go figure! – and it was just as awful as I’d always feared. My hand swelled and I was forced to walk around the Ren Fest (don’t hate) with an ice pack and beer to numb my throbbing ego. But, do you want to know the wildest part of all? I didn’t die. Thankfully, I’m not allergic to bees or wasps, so the likelihood of that is slim, however I always thought the pain could kill me. Now, I’ve got a little scar that only I can see and a good set of pictures of my swollen hand which I will spare you from looking at. You might be wondering why I brought up the bees, right? Well, surviving that experience prepared my closest confidante to help me better than I could have helped myself.
The last time I was debilitated by a panic attack I was overcome with worry. What would I do for work? I could I continue on this path without a clear finish line? What would tomorrow hold? All these questions swirled and swirled until I collapsed. I couldn’t see straight, couldn’t fill my lungs; it was as if my body was shutting down on me. My partner, the steadiest ship on raging tides I’ve ever known, bid me focus on my breathing and remember – of all things – the bees. We closed our eyes together, and he began to speak about a bee hive. He spoke about the fear that overcomes me when I see bees, but to remember how the fear is rooted in what I believe could happen. By remaining calm, breathing in, and focusing on my breathing in all those times I was able to walk away without being stung. After a few moments of this seemingly counterproductive meditation I was able to rest for hours.
Panic attacks begin when your mind swirls and curls up on itself, usually brought on by your fears and anxieties. Fears, like mine of bees, are not invalid. They’re rooted in the fact that bad things do often happen. I believe in acknowledging what turns our blood cold so that we might learn how to overcome it. However, I never thought focusing on what I’m afraid of could lead to peace. Panic attacks, like my fear, are warning signs. Signs that you’ve got to slow down, or talk, or change course. Just as you stop and let the danger pass in a the company of a bee, it’s good to listen to your body and stop in the midst of mental chaos.
If you’re feeling anxious about the new year, then I suggest a reassessment of how you view the future. For many of us, this is an ending. In our minds, time pauses, there’s a red tape we run through, then we become brand new people. But, that’s not how it works, my friend. You don’t have to change your life in a day, nor could you if you tried. You don’t have to eliminate your sorrows and claim 2019 as the year that you were eternally happy. The key to happiness is accepting you wont always be happy.
Joy is transient, but so is pain.
The new year, and every day, can be an opportunity to recommit to your healing. It doesn’t have to be an ending, or a beginning you’re setting yourself up to fail at, but a chance for you to redefine what your needs are. I think it’s worth it.
For my last post of 2018 I want to end with a thank you: if you’ve only stopped by for this post, if you’ve subscribed, commented, liked, or just nodded at me in the distance – thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope to see you tomorrow.