Sunday, December 29, 2013

On Asthma, Panic Attacks, and Enoughness

I had asthma as a kid; I was around 8 or 9 years old when I was diagnosed. Up until that doctor visit I was unaware that something was wrong and my body was not functioning as it should. I thought everyone experienced wheezing, a tightened chest and closed airways when it was cold outside or when they ran and got their heart rate up. I just dealt with it because I didn’t know there was another reality.

I experienced some shame around my asthma. I was the only kid I knew who had it, and it prevented me from being able to do what other kids did without breathing assistance. I also got made fun of, called a dork, for needing the assistance. It’s not cool to be the kid who says, “Wait up, guys!” as you get left in the middle of playing to take some hits off of your orange pocket-sized inhaler. I’m sure there were times I chose not to help myself in moments I needed to out of fear of being the center of a joke.

Oh, kids.

I grew out of my asthmatic condition around college. I could go for a run without my throat closing or worry that someone would find me unconscious in a gutter because my esophagus failed me somewhere around mile two. I recall feeling a freedom from not being reliant upon a plastic tube to bring me back to normal breathing capacity.

While that aliment got nipped in the bud, in my mid-20’s I developed what I now know to be panic attacks.

If any of you have experienced panic attacks before you know all too well the sheer terror of not being able to breathe and the cold adrenaline of panic as your body closes up against your will. It got to the point where I was having these episodes multiple times a day.

I would be in the middle of grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and the first spark of panicked adrenaline would hit. Immediately it felt as though the store got infinitely smaller with the walls closing in, my heart would start racing, and my head told me there wasn’t enough oxygen for me to breathe. Tears, sobs, and hyperventilating proceeded.

Some lasted less than a minute, some lasted up to half an hour. I couldn’t control them and I never knew when one would visit.

My panic attacks got to the point where I was scared to leave my home. It was debilitating. While these episodes were happening I was in the process of grieving two decades of pain, shame, and my severe lack of self. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, and the panic attacks were a result of me working through things I had stuffed into the darkness and hadn’t wanted to face. There was a reason for them. Internally I believed I wasn’t okay.

Through seeing specialists I began to learn how to talk myself out of a panic attack. It all revolved around one thing: reminding myself to breathe.

“There is enough oxygen to breathe. Take a deep breath. I am okay. Breathe...” was my mantra to myself.

It took a long time for those words to sink in and for the panic attacks to cease. I didn’t always believe my own words but I said them anyway. Slowly, they began to grow further and farther between, and eventually they became so infrequent I forgot about my fear over them. I still experience symptoms of attacks to this day, and when I feeling it coming on I engage in the same self-talk. It works. Now I have the gift of bringing myself back to center... back to the freedom and reality of enoughness. My body was simply responding in suit to what my insides believed.

There’s not enough. There is. 

I’m not okay. I am.

It’s incredible how interconnected our hearts and our bodies are and how they influence each other. We just need to be aware, attuned to our hearts, and with loving gentility remind ourselves that everything is okay. Someday, we will start to believe it and experience life a little differently, with a little more focus and intentionality. Trader Joe’s won’t seem like such a scary place and we will find strength from within to take care of ourselves.

So for today... just breathe.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fangirl of... Me

I am meant to be a communicator, you see.

If I were meant to be a graphic designer you better believe that this would be one pimped out motha’ and it would look like Pinterest and Anthropologie had a lovechild that married one of those pretty-faced, half-shaved headed hipster girls. However, since you theoretically have vision as you read this, you can see this blog is simple and very unpimped.

It is my naked words on a nearly blank page.

I should state that I am a jealous fangirl of the artsy, graphic design tribe. I want to be a member of that tribe (sinfully so) and whip up object of visual stunningness as easily as breathing.  Alas, I belong to a tribe of words and concepts. That is breathing to me. True, I cannot make my words appear pretty on my own but I can inspire worthy ideas.  Communication is where I find myself living in a flow of freedom and where my natural joy spills out and onto [web]paper.

The sad yet brilliant truth is that for years of my adult life I have robbed myself of the freedom and bliss of being who I truly am at my core. Or, rather, allowing her to be seen. I have pulled away from tasting the sweet deliciousness of a life fulfilled and I have allowed the opinions of others to dictate my actions and influence beliefs about myself.

Don’t be so direct.
You don’t tell enough stories.
Careful... you may ruffle feathers.
Tone it down.
Leave that part out.

All of that dysfunctional headchatter has been born out of a deeply rooted fear of not being accepted, and while some of those things have actually been said to me, and I have not been accepted by others before, I am the only one who has the responsibility to push past that. I have been feasting on a buffet of fear, with a main course of envy, a side dish of shame, and dessert smacking of little to no self-confidence. That particular diet and my ability to bend myself into a human, codependent pretzel doesn’t work for me anymore. I don’t have room for that.

So here I am, writing, which I am already cautious about, and with an unpimped blog, which I am certain I will be judged for. Audaciousness. This is me stepping out and doing what I know to do. What I need to do.

I want to write the way I imagine an artist creates.

I want to step back from a finished piece and sit in the awe of my own self-making, drinking in the beauty of something that came from within me with all of its raw, vulnerable originality.

I want to bask in the glory of “yes, I did that,” and celebrate my humanity and perfect imperfection.

The most important person to please with my work is myself. Anything outside of that is simply the icing on a made-from-scratch treat known as my handiwork. (And someday the presentation of my words will look more... pimped.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

On Acceptance & Grief

“I have some bad news about Madison,” he said on the other end of the phone. The minutes following held shock and grief.

I’m not ready to let her go.

My furry, glorious, feline companion of over two and a half years is dying of kidney disease and kidney failure, which is death by dehydration. There is nothing I can do about her pending death and there is no cure. The little light of my life is facing something I cannot save her from after she all she has walked through with me. Now I am forced to consider what life will be like without her while she is still here.

In some ways I am grateful to know about her condition because it allows me to be present and truly cherish each precious minute with her.

But I hit moments of resistance where I don’t want to accept reality.

I sat with her on the bed today, petting her and begging her through tears not to leave me.

Life with Madison has gotten more complicated. Vet bills, multiple medications, prescription cat food, and a daily IV are a part of the picture now. She requires specific attention each morning and evening. The living room has become a sort of cat hospice area filled with her blankets and all of her life-sustaining substances that remind me of what is inevitable. While I’m able to provide dietary changes and administer IV fluid therapy, which enhances her quality of life, I still have to wrestle with the pain and discomfort of what’s happening for her.

The truth is that I don’t like what this situation brings up in me. I struggle through thoughts that I am not a good enough parent or that there was something I could have done to prevent this. It’s just not true, though. So, I’m forced to accept myself and the reality before me. I have the choice to embrace the grieving process and feel it all, accepting that I can’t change it, and to do the best I can to be a good parent till the end.

And that’s a brave thing to do.