It has been exactly one year and 12 days since my very first (and only) ever anxiety attack. There it is. Out there. Yep. I lost it, big time! You may judge away, but there is something big to be gained by the universe slapping its hand across your cheek so profoundly saying “Snap the F*%k out of it! This is not where you need to be.” Yet now, even 377 days into the recovery of my body and mind, I am left with the sense that once you cross the line of exposing your body to extreme stress, it is very, very difficult to get yourself entirely back across again.
It was awesome (powerful awesome, not good-time awesome). I recall gasping like a fish out of water with no ability to take a full, deep tidal breath. I know breathing. It’s my career. This was overpowering and all-consuming with cardiac impact and a sweet shot of adrenalin to shake me through the aftermath. My dear colleague talked me through it, asking if we needed to walk the 50 metres down the hallway to the ER. I refused to be seen by co-workers in a state of complete lack of control. I remember a dear voice across the room saying out loud “Christy, this is insane. You need to walk away from this.” Sometimes, the challenge is not the work in front of us, but in the walking away and letting go. Seated on a comfy, reflective couch 2 months later I found the causation explanation I was so desperate for. Sometimes our deepest fears pop up like whack -a-moles in our daily lives. The foundation of our coping is shattered by a side-impact, unexpected.
But this story is not about cause, it is about affect…because that is how I am left. Affected. Where I once felt great satisfaction in accomplishing multiple tasks on a busy afternoon between racing to taxi around small family members, I am now unexpectedly left fluttering, nauseous and distracted. There is a new baseline. A new me. More reflective yet more fragile. More wise, yet more wary. There is no way of going back.
Involuntary change is challenging regardless of the intensity and impact to our lives. Change casts the shadow of our underlying fears. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being unworthy. So much fear underlying so many of our everyday actions and always, always hidden in our words. There are so many things to be afraid of and we learn of many of them very young. Born bold, resilient and spontaneous, we learn hesitation, humiliation and loss as they pound us and shape our bodies into our adult forms. What we may not fully realize is that these sculptures of self are still pliable after all these long years. Call it personal growth, call it neuroplasticity, call it a mid-life crisis if you will. We know that there is more to do and more to be because we feel in our core that glimmer of radiant light that is wonder. We remember bold. We remember feeling so light and unencumbered.
My steel tight grasp on my path through life has been wrenched free, leaving a void where there was once surety. I have a new normal and weave this into my family’s everyday lives as best I can with the skills of grounding, calm, meditation, and self-preservation. Some days, that is enough. This week, I struggle to breathe…to cope and move forward without collapsing into a teary mess. I continue to unearth and deconstruct my fears as I struggle to accept that there really is no version of me that I will get back. There is only the me that I will become.