Thursday, June 29, 2017

A getaway with a dose of anxiety

I'm no stranger to panic attacks. I've had my fair share of holding a stranger's hand while locked in the back of a Hagglund, seeing the look of alarm on friend's faces when announcing the urge to take my clothes off while enclosed in a gondola, having Kylie talk me through an episode on the Wild Arctic flight simulator, Jason holding my clammy hands in a crowded elevator. But March was different. Out of the blue I had a full blown panic attack while driving down the road on our way to Colorado. My head was clouded, my chest was tightening, I couldn't breathe, I needed air, Jason thought I was going to jump out of the car. It really scared me (and the rest of the family). In the past I knew that my trigger was claustrophobic situations so I tried my best to avoid them, but this left me feeling helpless because it was like nothing I had experienced before. I was a little on edge for a while and my anxieties began to heighten but I was okay. And then we got in the car to drive to Utah in May and before we got out of the neighborhood, I was hit with another attack. And then it hit again while driving down the freeway. Jason pulled off an exit and I found myself crying on a park bench while the kids looked on in fear as we all tried to process what was going on. That trip, although very memorable and fun in so many ways, was really hard for me. I felt so fragile like I would break at any moment. I had another attack driving home and knew I needed help. I seemed to be okay when we were at home so after consulting with my doctor he prescribed a refill of my situational medication for when we traveled. I felt good about that, I really wanted to avoid getting on daily medication. But then it got worse. The more I thought about it, the more I fed the beast and it took on a life of it's own. It's hard to describe feelings of anxiety until you experience it yourself. It's not like just a nervous feeling or a pit in your stomach. It gets in your head. It's a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. A feeling that you are trapped in your own mind and body. A feeling that you could break at any moment and never recover. I worried about what this meant for the future. I would lay in bed at night feeling suffocated. I tried to put on a happy face at Chuck E Cheese while celebrating Ryder's birthday, but inside I just wanted to claw my way out. I loved camping at the lake, but the truth was most of the time I wanted nothing more than to just go home to my safe spot. I struggled going to the school to help out in the classroom. Waves of anxiety would wash over me as I chopped the salad for dinner. I sat in Sunday School with a real fear that I would never be happy or feel normal again. I never wanted to leave the house because I didn't know when or where another panic attack would happen. Jason knew I was struggling but didn't know how bad it was, I didn't want to scare him so I suffered in silence. One of my loves in life is traveling but knowing we had this trip to Canada planned just paralyzed me with fear. I finally opened up to my sister about it and she recommended that I research ways to cope with anxieties. This was the first article I came across and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I sat reading and rereading it with tears streaming down my face. It replaced my feelings of being broken with a sense of empowerment. It made me realize that my mind is what got me into this mess and I can use that same beautiful mind to get me out of it. It made me realize that I am stronger than this. I know that chemical imbalances and things beyond our control can lead to anxiety and depression and that this may not be the answer for everyone, but this for me was such a tender mercy and came right when I needed it most. Slowly I have been getting back to normal. I still carry my valium with me wherever I go and I still have moments where I feel those anxious thoughts creeping in but I have the tools to work through it and I can finally say that I am back to "normal". And I was finally able to get excited about this trip. And thankfully because it was absolutely amazing and just what I needed. Banff has been on my bucket list for a while now, ever since the turquoise waters of Moraine Lake graced my pinterest feed. When Troy and Sam visited us in April we hatched the plan to do a babysitting swap. We were dropping Kylie off in Flagstaff for EFY and then drove to Mesquite to drop the boys off for a fun filled week with cousins. We drove to Vegas, slept for a few hours then were up at 3:45 to catch our 5:30 flight to Calgary Canada. Calgary was just a jumping off point for Banff, so I wasn't prepared to love it so much. We ate some Pho, walked around the beautiful riverside parks, commented at least a dozen times about how I would run these trails ever day if I lived here, caused a traffic jam in the parking garage (tourists), made Jason take pictures at the Peace bridge, scouted out the best ice cream shop then ducked out of the rain to eat it in the car, and finally made our second attempt at watching Doctor Strange before calling it a night at like 8:30. 

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