I could feel my heart racing. I had been having heart palpitations for a few months now but this was different. It felt like my heart was going to explode. I laid in bed on a Sunday night listening to my heart do what felt like summersaults and back flips inside my chest. I was sweating profusely, my muscles were clenched and sore all over my body. I felt my neck tighten, with the same feeling move up to the left side of my face. Like someone had their hand around my throat, squeezing. I didn’t know what was happening and I was starting to panic. Did I need to call an ambulance? Do I need to run upstairs to my parents and ask for help? I thought to myself “What if I’m sick? What’s wrong with me?” over and over again. My mouth went dry and all of a sudden I felt nauseous. I got up out of bed, feeling dizzy, and ran to the toilet thinking that I had to throw up, but nothing happened. I got back up, still dizzy, nauseous, sweating, sore, throat still clenched and I walked down the hallway. I closed the spare bedroom door to my nieces room on my way to the living room so I wouldn’t wake them up.
When I got to the living room, alone and in the dark, panicked and crying, I began to do the only thing that I knew to do. I began to pray, asking God for help. I felt the heaviness of the fear and panic lift. I shuffled back to bed and cried some more until I fell asleep.
The next morning I made an appointment with my doctor. I wanted to tell her what had happened and see if there was some explanation for having a panic attack like the one I experienced. I had never had one before and I wanted to put my mind at rest. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something more serious. She wasn’t able to see me for a week. That was a very long week for me. Even though the initial panic attack was over, it still took that entire week for my body to be rid of the symptoms from it. For the tight muscles to relax and the tightening and numbness around my throat to go back to normal. The night before I went to see the doctor I was so worried about what she might “find” or say about it that I got myself worked up again and cried. To my mother. Yup, I’m a 36 year old woman and sometimes I still need my mommy.
The following week I finally got to sit down with my doctor. She is a sweet but also a rather serious, quiet, Indian woman who has known me and my family since I was practically an embryo. I told her what had happened the week before. I also told her what I thought could have caused it. You know, in my professional opinion. And by professional opinion I mean, the symptoms I googled on the internet. Do yourself a favour, don’t ever google possible symptoms of anything on the internet. Just don’t. You’ll want to. But just don’t. It won’t ever turn out like what you thought. It’ll be worse. So much worse. Googling symptoms on the internet is a deep dark rabbit hole to infinity of catastrophic proportions. One minute you’re completely healthy and a few strokes of your keypad later, you’ve somehow contracted diphtheria. I’m telling you for you’re own good. You’ve been warned.
She checked me over and put my mind at ease by saying there was nothing out of the ordinary. There was nothing wrong with me from what she could tell. As soon as she said that the flood gates opened and I cried with relief. Then she asked me, “So tell me, what is going on in your life?” That did it. Out came the waterworks…again! I completely broke down in her office and explained everything that happened this past year in one giant gasp of breath in between sobs. “My ex husband took my kids out of my home and now we’re going to court over it and I had to pay for a lawyer which emptied out my bank account and I had to give up my dog cause he got sick and I couldn’t afford him anymore and now my nieces are living with me because my sister is currently homeless so now I’m working a second job for the summer just so I can pay my bills because my first job isn’t giving me enough hours.”
She simply just looked at me, head slightly tilted, with barely an expression on her face except for a quiet “MmHmmm” under her breath. As if to say, “well, there you go.” She also sent for me to get my blood tested. For everything. Not because she thought I was sick but simply to “put my mind at ease”. I left her office and went to get my blood tested. They took four tubes of blood from me. (Did I mention I’m not a fan of needles?) Then came the fun part of waiting over a week to go back to the doctors office to find out the “results”. I tried everything that I could to keep my mind from wandering and over thinking about it. It wasn’t easy but I was thankful that I still had a job, the gym, books and my family to keep me busy.
When I finally was able to go back to see my doctor for my blood work results, my heart was already pounding. What was she going to say? We sat in her office and she went down the whole checklist with me. So, guess what? The diagnosis: I’m a giant ball of stress! A healthy one, mind you, but a ball of stress none the less! Everything came back saying the exact same thing: I’m a perfectly normal, healthy woman who just happens to be going through a lot of different things that were piled on top of each other with very little to no breathing room in between. Things that I thought I was “over” or “passed it” when really I had just suppressed it, thinking that I was gonna be strong and not allow it to get to me. But in trying to be a tough girl, I think what I ended up doing was avoiding the inevitable which was, really feeling my way through it. I had become almost numb to this past year at this point. I was just trying to get through the rest of this year without any more bumps or bruises but I wasn’t helping the situation by pretending that it still didn’t sometimes hurt.
And the truth is, most of the time I really am fine. This past year hasn’t been my favourite. I wouldn’t have chosen it but it really is going to be okay. And under the circumstances I am doing more than okay. And I know, ultimately that God is still in control which is all I need to know. However, it’s also okay to acknowledge that there are still some days that are harder than others but instead of pushing it inward, it’s so much better to just let it out. I had been under so much pressure and didn’t even realize it until I couldn’t take it anymore and my body decided to let me know in the form of a panic attack.
After my doctors appointment and my “official” clean bill of health, I went home so happy and so relieved that I did something I hadn’t done in a while. I actually made the time to sit down to write and record something for the first time in months. And it felt great!
In that moment I realized that I had stopped writing like I used to within this past year. I’ve been writing regularly as usual on my website of course but I’m talking about my other writing. The really personal stuff. My song/poetry writing. But more specifically songs. The thing that has always been my creative outlet. The thing that always got me through tough and good times alike. I had virtually stopped doing the one thing that had always allowed me to express myself. No wonder my emotions were all pent up and ready to burst! I hadn’t let any of it out. I usually write like crazy, especially when I go through stuff but I had barely written a handful since this year started.
I say all of this to say, do the thing that sets your soul on fire. You know, that thing that makes you feel alive. The thing that calms you, that speaks to you, that allows you to express yourself. That thing that brings you peace and makes your heart smile. Whatever that might be for you. Whatever your outlet is, it’s there for a reason. It’s there to help. To heal. To breathe life back into your soul. Talk about it. Sing about it. Write about it. Draw or paint about it. Hit the gym and give it all you’ve got. Get out of the house and go be one with nature if that’s your thing. Just don’t keep it in.
I have a renewed love for writing again that I haven’t felt very much in this last year. I allowed it to be diminished by my circumstances. I also have a renewed sense of hope for the future and wanting to embrace all that life has to offer. In other words, I want to do all the things. Soak up all the good stuff. Life isn’t all that I want it to be right now, but it isn’t all bad either. Sometimes it takes a wake up call to realize it.
I honestly think in some way it’s the thing that makes us feel alive that ultimately can help bring about healing where and when we need it most. Because only then can we close one chapter and begin a new one.