Thought I'd share a pretty picture before getting into the "real" post... :)
Let me just start by saying that this is a somewhat difficult post for me to write. I'm writing it because I know that other people deal with this, so I feel like it shouldn't be pushed under the rug. If I'm not honest, what am I? So... here it goes.
For the past few days, an unwelcome guest has come back into my life.
It's not a who... it's a what.
It's anxiety. Anxiety accompanied by pesky panic attacks. Real ones. Not what people say they are having in passing.
I've been lucky though. Compared to some people, what's happened to me has been been mild, but that doesn't make it suck any less. Even as I write this, I feel a ping of embarrassment... like I'm weak or I'm whining by sharing. However, I know I'm not the only one who deals with it. In fact, I'm far from the only one, and it should be okay to talk about it. It shouldn't be looked down upon or something to feel embarrassed about.
My mom has dealt with it before (and I don't think she would mind me sharing this since it could potentially help someone else not feel alone), and for a very long time I thought it wasn't real. I honestly thought it was all in her head.
And then it happened to me.
Imagine how your body would react if you walked into your dark house one night to find someone holding a gun at your face. Your heart would start pounding, you would start breathing hard (or maybe not at all), you might feel faint, you might want to run, or you might start to shake. For sure, you would feel sheer terror, or at least be very afraid.
Now imagine feeling that for no apparent reason. It happens while you're walking into the gym or when you're standing in line at the grocery store or while you're watching your favorite show in the evening or when you wake up in the middle of the night. You feel out of control and afraid. Then, you start to feel more afraid because you don't understand why it's happening for no apparent reason. Suddenly, your logical mind's lightbulb goes off.... Oh, I'm having one of those spells! However, that doesn't change the fact that your heart is still beating so fast it's hard not to hyperventilate, and you still have the urge to run away. You simply have to remind yourself to breathe in and out slowly and that it will soon pass.
I'm not sharing any of this for sympathy or pity or anything like that. It's just something I feel strongly about sharing because I don't want anyone to ever feel like they are alone. It's simply something I've been dealing with for the past week or so, and it's on my mind. It had been a long time since I'd last dealt with it, so I was hopeful it wouldn't come back. I had no such luck.
Being here on this island "alone" (even though I have friends, I don't get to see them everyday, and it's never the same as having your family), dealing with some things by myself in the past few weeks when I really would have appreciated my spouse's input, worrying over my "fur babies" not feeling well, not being able to communicate with my husband or know where he is, missing my family, and feeling very alone on my anniversary was just a little much for me. Maybe I'm weak, and maybe I should be able to deal with all that, no problem, but it just wasn't sitting well with me. I was having a difficult time.
After dealing with lots of anxiety from stress over various issues and a few episodes of panic for a week, I had to take my sweet Murphy to the vet because of some complications from an ear infection (common with those long, floppy ears). The vet was super nice and did a thorough exam. He noticed some swollen lymph nodes, a tooth that wasn't looking so swell, and potentially some tonsil issues... in addition to the heart murmur that little Murph has. (At times like that I wish I'd had him his whole life so he could have had better preventative care, but that's another story entirely.) I had woken up that morning with a very anxious feeling, and after that information overload from the doctor (and probably from locking my knees), I literally almost passed out in the vet's office, and I had to sit down to regain my equilibrium (I never do well with ANYthing medical-related). I know to some people that sounds so silly, but when I'm so alone here, Murphy is my family that keeps me company, so worrying if he would be okay and if I would have some astronomical vet bill to make him okay was overwhelming. After that visit, the vet referred me to another vet that I had to see a few days later.
As you can imagine, I was a little worried (call me the crazy dog lady... I'm cool with that). The appointment happened to be on our anniversary, so between the worry over my furry family and my hubby that I hadn't communicated with in a while, I was beyond anxious. Basically, I was a wreck before I left for that second appointment. Really, I just needed a friendly face and someone to talk to. I texted my mom, which helped, but then I had to go. I said a little prayer that my anxiety over life in general would ease soon. I was tired of feeling faint and like my heart was fluttering away from me. My anxiety continued until I sat down and waited to be called back. Then, this super sweet lady I'd never me sat down beside me, started loving on my Murphy, and talked to me. She asked me about Murphy, where I was from, what I did, and all the usual small talk. Then she told me that she, herself, had a Cavalier that she loved to death. We chatted easily for probably 20 minutes until we were called back. As I was walking back, I noticed I felt fine. I wasn't shaking, I wasn't anxious, and I didn't feel nervous anymore. The simple kindness of that sweet stranger made my evening so much better. (Then, after hearing the second vet tell me Murphy didn't look as bad as the first one had said, I felt SO much better.)
Moral of this story: (Well, there are actually two.) The first is that God works in mysterious ways. He sends comforts in unexpected ways. In the past, He sent little Murphy my way so I wouldn't be here alone, and then He helped me to meet a few wonderful friends here. The other day, He sent a sweet stranger to talk to me with kindness when I needed it the most. All we have to do is ask and trust in Him. The second moral to this story is that you never know what the person beside you is going through. A kind smile or a polite conversation could make all the difference in the world for them, so never underestimate the power of kindness.
If you or someone you know deals with these issues, please remember that it's not something you can help. No one would ever choose to feel that way. It's not something to be embarrassed about or kept "hush hush." I'm so lucky to have a wonderful family that will talk to me whenever I need it, will support me, and will make me feel better. I only wish everyone had that.