This morning I was so angry, hurt, and flustered, that I had my first panic attack. Don’t judge… Even Jesus got angry (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 3:5; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22). His was a righteous anger. He had contempt for deliberate sin and a blatant disregard for the rights of others. My anger wasn’t too far off the mark.
20/20 hindsight, this was interesting. I didn’t know it was coming but I quickly realized what it was. I was stuck between my anxious panic and the scholarly clinician in me. I realized what was happening and still I could not stop this emotionally overloaded train wreck. My breathing took on an eerie effort of its own. I labored and puffed to catch a breath I knew I already owned. I kept thinking in my head to ground myself and alternately marveled that “the doctor” could not reinforce her own tried-and-true advisement. I looked at the carpet and tried to identify things in the room to distract my panic and the second phase hit.
I held up my hands to actually look at my fingertips because they started to prickle. It wasn’t just any tingle. It felt like the blood at my fingertips was pounding like stormy raindrops. For a brief second, I think I could hear what sounded like the muffled tap of rain on a roof.
Then, only in my fingertips, I felt what I can only describe as painless electricity as I labored to breathe. I was present in the room and at the same time I wasn’t. Nothing else except the “tingly-pounding” at my fingertips and the will to control my choo-choo train breathing existed. The clinician trapped inside noted that there was no pounding heart. I remember thinking it was odd that I didn’t feel my heart wasn’t pounding, at all. There was nothing but a surreal weightlessness.
There was obviously too much oxygen intake because I started to get woozy. I purposely adjusted my position in the bed so that I knew that “I” was still here. I’m not sure how much time passed between when I sat up to simply breathe and its onset, but I didn’t want a third phase. I willfully slowed my breathing and finally took ownership of my freefall. When I started to settle back into my body, I grabbed a hold of my anger and anchored myself in its heavy weight. I laid back in amazement and shivered for several minutes afterwards. I wasn’t cold. I never broke a sweat. Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think that I’ve ever been that angry in my life. It was pure, eerily calm, unfiltered emotion. It was all I had and all I felt.
I had another topic in mind to post until this happened. Nothing ‘just’ happens in our lives. I believe that by divine ordination or self-choice, we can use all of our experiences (good and bad) to become better people. That’s Romans 8:28. Because of this morning, I have to believe I’m a better clinician. “This” is what my clients have been experiencing. My clinical sympathy has osmosed into empathetic experience. It has to be horrible to live at the whim of such an altered state. Add to that, it’s unpredictable!
I write because I’m grateful for my anger. I own it. It saved me from spiraling out of control. I understand it’s hard for some people to move toward negative emotions. However, this experience taught me willfully processing such information is essential. To move my mind away would invalidate something that was a hard truth for me. It would negate the logic of “my” experience. To ignore the pink elephant in the room is hard. Especially when it’s YOUR elephant.
Easy to say and hard to do but you have to engage negative emotions. They’re usually indicators. The emotions that drives your panic are telling you telling you something so important, so monumental, that your psyche is having trouble embracing such a huge truth. I need you to understand this information is not to make you feel bad about yourself. Paradigm shift how your mind evaluates such information. Such emotions hold underlying knowledge you need in order to avoid having to re-experience future calamities. Why continue to engage in a lie when the truth is so freely evident?
This engagement is especially true if the information being given is a misperception. Triple that if the foundation of your anxiety is based on someone else’s lies or misperceptions. The answer is to either embrace the truth and be accountable for your negative and/or ignore the lie. I hate to make it seem so simple but it is. If you’re anxious about what you can control, you’re wasting energy. Sadly, the reverse of that is also true.
If what you need to embrace is a hard truth. It just seems logical that you accept it and move on instead of ignoring it and continuing to expose yourself to hurtful situations or people. The good news is that even when the truth hurts, you still have ultimate power and control. That control is only for what you’re accountable for contributing to the situation, but that’s not the lie anxiety will tell you. Based on this morning’s snafu, anxiety will tell you to fall apart and spiral out of control because you have no control. It magnifies the negative and ignores the logic of reality.
For example, someone you want doesn’t want you. Did you ever consider that it’s because the cosmos knows there’s someone better? No, let me guess? You’re taking their rejection as an absolute truth that there’s something wrong with you. I’m also guessing you never considered rejection is protection? Maya Angelou once said when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Not only is she right but you should also (from a distance) thank them for their truth. The first time that person’s reaction to your innocent acceptance/act was hurtful, mean, vindictive, abusive, philanderous, or negligent, why Love would you believe that you’re the cause for their choices or reactions. True love is simple. It’s not algebra where two negatives make a positive.
Want to know the most important thing I learned this morning? Your anxiety is telling you something. Listen.