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Panic as a Gift

If I ever had a panic attack previously, I’m not sure I acknowledged it as such. I had one last week and it felt awful. My heart was racing on a random Tuesday, and it took what felt like hours for it to beat at a normal pace. H (my therapist) said if I was running a marathon, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Too bad I was just at home, eating dinner with my husband (K). Missed opportunity I suppose to run and perhaps actually win a race lol. Instead, I took the opportunity to tune into what I was feeling and intentionally care for myself. It took a while, but I did.

Afterwards, I thought about what may have caused it and as I spoke about it, I could feel myself getting angry and resentful. It started with an abrupt ask from a family member a couple of days prior, for what would normally be considered a joyful celebration. Anyone would have been honored to be asked (as our society tells us) but I felt the ask was sprung on me and that I had no choice but to comply. Now that I had agreed, I couldn’t go back on my word….could I?

According to H, I’m supposed to think about what I need this week, what is best for me. If it is best for me to say no to something even after I had initially said yes, that is considered ok. WOW! What a concept and where has this permission been all my life?!

Growing up, I’ve always been “voluntold” to participate in various engagements and activities. I had zero say and as a result, did what others expected of me. I knew what I liked and disliked but had minimal control in the direction my own life took. The worst of this was knowing that I had no voice and no agency. As a child, I often felt unsafe in my surroundings and placed with strangers who were supposed to take care of me but did not have my best interests at heart. Things happened to me that scared and confused me. It was no wonder that at the age of 16 I ended up falling ill with a rare form of ovarian cancer. I’m certain it was the constant stress and volatility my short life had endured at the hands of my parents and strangers. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on my worst enemy and now that I have children, I protect them completely, unapologetically. K and I both do. We’ve both experienced the sheer cruelty and twisted intentions of the sick and the unwell who walk around this planet forcing their ways on the vulnerable. I never liked humans very much. I don’t think I ever will.

So clearly, I was triggered in a big way by the ask and to be able to work through that with the help of therapy and self-care will be a game changer for me. Previously I would have dismissed the emotions raging inside of me. Forgot about it, but the body never forgets. Sooner or later, if you want to live a peaceful life with meaningful relationships, the kind that nurture and nourish you, you’ll have to deal with what your body is telling you. At the end of the day, dealing with these complex feelings and triggers are what holds us all back from the life we want to live and the one we currently do.

I’m going to be a maid of honor for a dear family member and friend in July. That was the “ask.” I’m excited because in the end I choose to be. I could have said no and changed my mind if I still felt overwhelmed. It would have been uncomfortable to go back to her and say, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m the best woman for the job.” After discussing it with K and H and figuring out what my capacity is and what feels manageable, I no longer feel as if it was forced on me. Most importantly, I now know that I always have a choice to live the life I want while taking care of me. It’s not selfish to put myself first but it does require that I give myself back the control that was taken from me as a child.


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