I have been terribly ill, bed ridden for the most part of the last week. Illness brought on by the sudden change of seasons here in Sydney. And a night out drinking in the cold and rainy weather… Not terribly smart!
Things slowly settled and I became somewhat functional at least, able to get out of bed and move around – and to be heard! Yes, my voice returned finally as well. Things were looking up.
After four days off I decided it was time to return to work. I was still tired but I was surviving. And whilst people could tell I was ill, I soldiered on.
But then something strange happened…
Whilst I was stood, waiting for our next flight to arrive (I work in passenger services at the airport), something inside changed. In an instant.
As the plane pulled up, I felt a tremendous sense of panic overwhelm me. I felt adrenaline surge through my veins and a cold chill come over my body. My heart rate began to pick up. I became unable to stand still. Simple interactions with others, let alone conversations, now seemed impossibly hard. I wondered if they could sense my panic? But soon concluded this was invisible to everyone accept me.
It became harder to breathe. The bottom of every exhale seemed to begin the process of what felt like my first ever breath. It was like I hadn’t taken a breath in years! This process repeated over and over.
My heart rate and the cold flushes continued. I held my hand up to eye level and noticed the tremor. I threw it down and pretended I didn’t notice. I suddenly felt like I was no longer present in my body. I felt like all of the world’s sounds had been dulled down and the colours drained away from my surrounds. Things seemed to be moving in slow motion, except for my heart. Things were no longer moving in crisp motion. Instead they became blurred and lagged behind the present moment.
It was all very weird. It almost felt dream-like. But this was no dream. If only. Life suddenly felt like a rather pointless endeavour. I felt flooded with regret and a feeling of worthlessness. My aspirational endeavours suddenly felt like they were all in vain. My talent and ability to execute them? What talents and abilities! I began to question everything about myself.
I paused, realising what was happening. I continued in my attempts to fill my lungs with oxygen. I continued to speak and act normally, as normally as I could, with those around me. This was all I could do. I knew what was happening. This was an anxiety attack. I have had many before. There was no trigger. Not this time. Sometimes there isn’t anything specific that sets it off. It just happens.
I finished up work an hour later, still feeling an overwhelming sense of uneasiness. I got in my car and drove home. All I desired at this point was to curl up in bed and fall asleep. I just needed some me time. Some time to recharge. Some time to refocus. I knew this feeling would pass soon enough.
I arrived home and bumped into my housemate. A conversation ensued. We spoke for thirty minutes or more. I can’t remember what we spoke about. But before I knew it, my feeling of anxiety had passed. My heart rate had settled. The adrenaline release had ceased and I began to see value in life and in my dreams once more. Things were back to normal.
As it quickly as it had all begun, it had wound down to a close. The world was a richly colourful and beautiful affair once more.
Anxiety is scary sometimes. It is irrational. It is overwhelming. And it can come and go at any point. It is something with which I have learned to live. And yet it does not define me. And I do not need to be lured into the belief that the thoughts and feelings I have in these attacks are true and accurate. They are not. They are what they are. And as meditation has taught me, I do not need to attach myself to any one of them.
Instead, I am defined by the beliefs and attitudes I decide to be true for myself. These can be anything. And anything that comes and contradicts these deeply woven beliefs is politely – sometimes forcibly – shown the door.
In this I find my power.
Anxiety will likely always play its part in my life. But that’s okay. It has taught me a lot over the years and has equipped me with many skills and perspectives for which I am very grateful.
We all have our struggles. And this is just one of mine.