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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Trying to Be

I was reflecting this past couple weeks on the last year.  This year has been full of ups and downs.  It has been nearly a full year since the traumatic incident that caused my anxiety.  I have found out many things over the last year.  One of the hardest lessons to learn was that getting anxiety is like opening Pandora's box.  Once you have released it, you can't ever shove it back in the box and close it.

There are certainly days better than others and days worse than others.  I can tell though, that the good days far outweigh the bad ones most recently.  When I first started having anxiety, it was so bad that almost every night when I got home, I immediately got in the bathtub or went straight to bed.  It was much easier to sleep than to stay awake with my thoughts.

My main anxiety has been over death and dying.  I wrote about this in my previous post, here.  The traumatic incident was me thinking I was having a heart attack and/or some other health-related issue while on the way to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving last year.  (I have a heart condition and a pacemaker.)  I found out later that it was apparently a panic attack.  It didn't matter, because after that I could think of nothing else than my death and anticipating it.

I have had several health issues the last year and each time something happened, I would instantly sink into the anxiety abyss.  It has only been through a combination of therapy, meditation, and working out that I have finally crawled out of the black hole.

I still have some things to work through, namely my vertigo issues.  I am terrified of heights and always have been, but the last year has taken that to a whole new level of anxiety and fear.  There are times that I cannot even watch commercials that show outer space or that one commercial where the people climb to the top of the tree or the other one where they hang off the side of a cliff.  Ugh.  The two or three weeks leading up to Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk between those skyscrapers in Chicago, that commercial was nonstop and I nearly fainted every time I saw it.  It was agonizing!  My husband and I were out to a bar, watching the World Series, and that came on and I instantly had a huge pit in my stomach and practically threw up from anxiety.

I have reached a lot of small turning points over the last year.  I have realized that not every pang means I'm dying and I really need to get up and get moving whenever I start to feel anxiety.

One of the biggest turning points has come within the last few weeks.  A young lady in my community, 15 years old, has been fighting an inoperable brain tumor for a year and a half.  Her family had a Facebook page set up for her that they updated frequently with any concerns or triumphs.  Sadly, she passed away last night.  They knew the tumor had begun growing again and were going to try to hang on and get her into a clinical trial in Michigan, but she took a turn for the worse at the beginning of this week.  This girl, who was just a beautiful young woman, had so much courage and strength.

She would talk with her mother frequently about death and purgatory.  (She's Catholic, as am I.)  She met with her priest and prepared herself in every way.  She seemed to always have a smile on her face and never got discouraged.  She even made it to church last Sunday, in her hospital bed, after being sent home under hospice care.  When she started drifting in and out of consciousness, they had the priest come in to perform last rites.  They said that she was more awake and alert yesterday, but was comfortable.  This young woman bravely headed into the great unknown with true dignity.  I know Jesus welcomed her home last night.  I cried this morning when I checked Facebook, knowing that I would probably read the news of her death.

This young lady has taught me more about living and dying than I have probably ever thought about.  She was 15 and I am 37.  She lived her life so fully, anticipating the worst, while I have been so hesitant to do so, fearful of the unknown.  I am so privileged to have, in a very tangential way, been there through her experience.  I know now that I need not be so fearful.  Mighty Moe, as she was known to her friends and family, showed me so much through her courage and her fight.

We all have heard that we need to live life to the fullest.  We don't know how long any of us have.  It's true, it is so, so true.  I have also realized that I shouldn't stop to think about my ending, I have to make this tenuous middle part worth it!  I am so thankful for the lesson Morgan taught me about dying, because it has made me want to live my life more exuberantly than before.

If you are the praying type, please say a few extra prayers today for Morgan's soul and for the peace and comfort for her family and friends during this time.  Thank God for giving them so many blessings and so much grace to be able to bravely face this time in their lives and to help Morgan transition peacefully to Jesus's loving arms.

"Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep.  Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell.  And when you get angry, get good and angry.  Try to be alive.  You will be dead soon enough."--Ernest Hemingway 

(Hemingway is the man!  He's one of my favorite authors.)

By the way, you know what was at the bottom of Pandora's box? 


Mlada said...

So beautiful! Anxiety really is a pandora's box, but I'm glad you're learning to focus on the gift at the bottom and not all the nastiness you have to go through to get there.

Janelle said...

Thank you Mlada! I have definitely learned a lot throughout this roller coaster ride. It makes it easier knowing I am encouraged and supported with love and kindness by you and all of my friends!