I cannot always pull myself up out of the rabbit hole of disturbing and frightening thoughts and I cannot always rely on others to pull me out either. I have had dreadful thoughts lately. Thoughts that I can barely reveal to myself , let alone to my spouse, my children, my family. Thoughts of darkness and death. Dying and what really happens at the end. I am Catholic and I totally believe in heaven and purgatory, but this transition terrifies me. Will it hurt? How painful will it be? Will I even know the difference since I don't remember the nonexistence that was there before my existence? I start down that rabbit hole and go all the way down, to the wretched bottom, gasping for air and becoming hyper-conscious of my heart and how it beats and oh my goodness, is it starting to go faster? Is it skipping beats? Oh no, maybe this is it!
I actually had these thoughts on New Year's Eve. As the clock ticked down to midnight and the New Year, I honestly questioned whether I would just die right there on the spot. I try to assuage this fears by remembering that while I was under anesthesia for my stereotaxis ablation (for my atrial fibrillation) that apparently my heart stopped and I didn't remember a thing, nor did I feel a thing. However, that's not enough. I obsess over these feelings. Even now, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to write this piece without starting the spiral.
Apparently, the spiral is the commonality. The commonality that links all those like me who suffer from acute anxiety and panic attacks. Something I had never experienced until the night before Thanksgiving. Something I couldn't even identify as that at the time. I have sought (almost wrote seeked, for shame English major!) out mentors and people that listen well. I have talked over and over with my spouse. One of them is in my husband's RCIA class (he's converting to Catholicism after 9 years of marriage). She is a team leader and she has helped talk me off the ledge, when I was starting to spiral and I had tears in my eyes and thought I was going crazy. She reminded me that Jesus is there in every moment. My guardian angel is there. To seek them, turn to them, instead of wrapping myself up in the fear. It helps. Praying the rosary on the way to work each morning helps.
Trying to give myself up to the Lord is difficult and frightening. I've never been great at praying. Brief moments of lifting thoughts up to God constitute the majority of my prayers. Even then as I am praying I can feel myself focusing too much on my fear.
I've taken up meditation. I try to meditate 15 minutes a day, during my morning break at work. I currently switch between one of 3 mantras. "Inhale Peace, Exhale Love", "Christ is my Center", and "Ever Faithful, Ever Loving". Meditation does help, but sometimes even that isn't enough.
So, I broke down. I did something that I have never done before. I hadn't done it, because I grew up thinking that I would be weak for reaching out. I would be looked at as even more nuts than most people probably already think that I am. I talked with my PCP about it and she prescribed anxiety medication. She also recommended several different therapists to try. She explained that anxiety, like cancer, can go into remission and that therapy and medication can help abate the fear and give back control.
I am ready to fight this thing. I am ready to spend more time with my husband and my kids and enjoy the day. I am ready to not want to curl up in a ball and sit all day long. I am ready to let these avenues of support open up and help swallow that fear whole, after being flooded with positive light and faith.
God of mercy, God of eternal love,
Help me to raise my cries to you. Help me to seek you in desperation and pain, in joy and solace.
The leper's faith was enough for him to be healed. Let me also seek that healing in my heart, so that I can give more of myself to you.
Mary, help me to emulate your beautiful example of obedience in doing God's will and not my own.
Lord, grant all my friends and family grace and blessings and thank you for the blessings in my life.
Tonight, in the shower, I sat on the floor of my narrow tub, letting the hot water pelt the end of my nose and my eyelashes and flow over my lap and legs and feet. As the water pelted me I asked myself what I wanted from this moment, this day, this life. As the water washed away the fear trying to set up camp in my gut, I felt strong, because I knew what I wanted. I wanted to choose joy and not fear.
I hope all of you understand that reaching out for help is not a bad thing. It isn't taboo. We all need help. We all need support. Please, if you have anxiety issues or feel depressed, see you doctor and ask for recommendations for a licensed clinical social worker or other therapist to speak with regularly. You are NOT alone.