‘The soul has been given its own ears to hear things the mind does not understand’ – Rumi
I have panic attacks. Real sh*tty ones. I can’t breathe and feel like my chest is being bench- viced to half its size. My blood runs cold and out of my fingers. Then I vomit and my brain freezes, all the while trembling from head to crooked pinkie toe.
I never knew that they were anxiety attacks until about 2 years ago when I went to see a neurologist for my nausea and dizziness. After a series of blood tests and other examinations the doctors told me that I was experiencing a form of hyperventilation due to stress, most likely caused by some underlying psychological problem. The dirty word for it was panic attack.
Monique: Excuse me?
Neurologist: Yes, you are experiencing anxiety attacks which cause you to hyperventilate. Your breathing is shallow and irregular and that is what’s causing your nausea. Other than that you are perfectly fine Ms. Gajadhar.
Monique: No doctor there must be something you’ve missed. I’m having dizzy spells and that’s a physical imbalance right?
Monique: Well I’d like you to do some more tests. Steady my heart, replace my blood, rinse me out but please do not tell me that it’s mental.
Neurologist: I am sorry but we cannot fix it. There is nothing wrong with you physically.
Neurologist: Yes really.
Monique: So now what do I do?
Neurologist: Figure out where your anxiety comes from and deal with it.
And that was that. Here I was thinking I had grown into a woman of solidity and considerable equilibrium and this strange man tells me without much ceremony that I have to get a grip. I kind of thought I did but apparently my grip was too tight.
My panic attacks came out of nowhere. When I was doing nothing. Or let me put it differently; when I was engaged in activities that didn’t require a lot of effort on my part, both mentally and physically, like sitting, eating, peeing, walking, talking, writing and even sleeping, I felt a growing sense of terror take hold of me. They started to pop up when things seemed to be going great. The keyword here is seemed.
After a series of blood tests and other examinations the doctors told me that I was experiencing a form of hyperventilation due to stress, most likely caused by some underlying psychological problem.
On the outside things looked wonderful. I was in love and he was back in love with me. Again. We had finally found a way to intertwine our lives in a way that also left ample room for individual growth and dreams. We communicated accordingly. The kids were doing great and all of this was accompanied by a Bollywood dance group throwing coloured powder at our progressive family unit, every single morning at dawn, in acknowledgement of modern-day bravery. Picture perfect we were.
[Cough. Crickets. Frogs.]
Now, let’s tell the truth.
Everyone knows me as a girl that smiles all the time and who makes other people smile as well. It’s true. I am a dreamer, an optimist and a believer of all things magical, but my smiles also hide a fair amount of pain. So even though everything seemed fine, on the inside I was anything but, and as skilled as my acting was, it gnawed at my Moniqueness.
I had become the queen of pretending and even better at believing my own lies. And boy oh boy did I lie.
I genuinely thought I was doing the right thing. I believed that trying to stay quiet when people were asking the impossible of me was some sort of divine test. That it was a chance for me to be Dalai Lama-ish and love all and everyone. I thought I had found a way of dealing with my personal issues in a productive way, which was to not be overly dramatic and be kind to people even if they were towering assholes. In other words, deny my own feelings for the sake of peace. I was convinced I had it figured out but it only took one man and foolish emotions to summon back all my demons.
I fell into an emotional spasm and played the part of perfection. I was being sweet, smart and cheerful. I was pretty, airy-fairy and fully waxed. I cooked, cleaned and behaved like the perfect pretend wife he occasionally wanted to be around. I was never angry and consequently never screamed nor cried, and for someone that belongs to the emotionally outspoken this, (especially in hindsight) seems rather constricted right? Well it was.
He almost sucked me dry.
I’ve asked myself many times how this could happen to me and why I let it happen, and the answer came as brusque as an inadvertent fart. I was scared out of my mind to lose him. And to really cut the crap, I felt ashamed and a failure at love. It meant that even when I was being my generous self and had given my all and everything in the name of love, it (read I) still wasn’t good enough. And this realization triggered my first anxiety attack.
I genuinely thought I was doing the right thing. I believed that trying to stay quiet when people were asking the impossible of me was some sort of divine test.
All my life I was able to handle things far worse than something as trivial as a break up, but for some reason this situation got to me. I didn’t know what was happening to me but over a period of 5 years I changed from an energetic person into one that felt exhausted all the time. I couldn’t sleep, had nightmares and felt a sweltering sense of doom. I had inexplicable stomach aches, vomited unexpectedly and started sweating like a pig. My skin was dry. I had acne. My hair was falling out. I was a mess. It was time to calm the fuck down.
Yes, you heard me. It was time to get my act together and CALM THE FUCK DOWN.
What choice did I have anyway? Besides panic some more I mean? None. And to make matters worse, I had no idea how. I mean how can you in the midst of freaking out and sobbing like a baby compose yourself and calm the f*ck down? Well you can’t. At least I couldn’t. And everyone who says they can is a liar. Because if you’d be able to do that, you wouldn’t be panicking in the first place right? And this applies to almost everyone in the world with the exception of Buddhist monks. So to those that aren’t Zen masters, trust me, it will pass. And in the mean time I dealt with the unknown as best as I knew how.
The first thing I did was cry hysterically (yes, on the kitchen floor with excess snot running down my nose). After crying I yelled. At him and Him. Then I cursed and offered the world my personal list of most putrid words ever uttered. I thought I had to go from complete restraint to a full emotional outburst in order to heal myself. You know, let it all out. Vent. Release yourself from the agony that is heartbreak. But of course that never works. Not really I mean. You just run out of energy. And so did I.
My skin was dry. I had acne. My hair was falling out. I was a mess. It was time to calm the fuck down.
When I got to the point, where everything was numb and I didn’t have any tears left to shed (took me about a month), I was also composed enough to look at myself with clarity and rediscover a different me. I found out 2 things about myself. First that I was the only one who could put an end to this prolonged drama of an entanglement. Not he. Not they. I had to do it. Second, I was going to live. No matter what would come my way I knew I’d be able to handle it.
It doesn’t matter what might crack open a can of worms because cans of worms crack open and life will continue to unfold. It hit me one morning, after weeks of bawling, that I still woke up to eat and drink, pee and poop, go about my day, flop into bed, fall asleep and start all over again. I was coping. It wasn’t pretty, that I admit right away, but at least it wasn’t the apocalypse.
If this is what should happen then let it happen, I thought.
And that is exactly what I did. I let it all happen. I didn’t fight it. I simply surrendered. Because even on a bad day, a really bad day, I could still feel softness around me. So I offered the world my biggest smile and tried to be kind to those who hadn’t been kind to me. That was the only way to find some stillness when everything else was overwhelmingly loud. It was also the one thing that worked for me.
But it was hard. I am by nature an impatient woman. I’m loud and busy and all over the place so at first I didn’t handle this enforced self-reflection very well, but in time it opened my eyes to the life I had been living.
It hit me one morning, after weeks of bawling, that I still woke up to eat and drink, pee and poop, go about my day, flop into bed, fall asleep and start all over again. I was coping.
I’d been so scared of feeling powerless and being alone and not being good enough that the Universe gave me exactly what I feared most. Not to punish me, but to let me know and feel in my heart that I had never been and never will be powerless and alone and not good enough.
I AM WHOLE, PERFECT, STRONG, POWERFUL, BEAUTIFUL, INSPIRATIONAL, LOVING, HARMONIOUS AND HAPPY.
Repeating this, over and over again, every single day, gave me a sense of self again. I said it out loud and put emphasis on each word making sure that I felt it throughout every fibre of my body, giving it meaning and letting it become part of me. I needed to believe it. Why? Because I wanted steady happiness and not the fleeting kind.
Besides, God was trying to tell me something.
I had to listen. And it was nothing like a soft blanket of sound judgement that folds itself around you and saves your soul in an instant. Not even close. It was messy and never-ending and weak and pathetic. I didn’t know better. But I do now. I still have panic attacks but I handle them better today. I don’t run from my emotions but face whatever comes my way and accept it for what it is. I treat my panic attacks like the lessons that they are and thank God for my nauseating misery. I literally say, ”Thank You Bhagwan for giving me the opportunity to learn from this situation and strengthen my core, fill my heart with light and give my love in abundance.”
Sounds tacky? It probably is, but this tacky is my truth today.
And I’m not unique. Every single person will go through experiences that will mark their life and change their path from a walk in the park to a swim upstream or vice versa. Either way it’s never the situation that decides for you, it is always you who decides for you.
Answers come unexpectedly. Sometimes fully formed and sometimes in bits and pieces. They come when the time is right and often when you think it’s not. But believe it or not, you are always in control. Even if you think you are not. Always.
I don’t run from my emotions but face whatever comes my way and accept it for what it is. I treat my panic attacks like the lessons that they are and thank God for my nauseating misery.
You can read a bus full of self-help books, listen to our modern day gurus and seek therapy for mental solace but it won’t help a bit unless you decide to accept the pain, not deny what’s going on and face the truth about yourself. And yes that can be ugly. So?
Cut yourself some slack. Create some breathing space. Make room to wiggle a little. You don’t have to fix everything right away. The messy, never-ending, weak and pathetic bits are part of the plan, and that is also where the crux lies. You need it to grow your heart.
The moment you see that the world must throw things at you to strengthen your core, and that it is an opportunity to grow and better yourself, is the moment you’ll start to feel a new sense of power and possibility. Only then will you be able to stand up and redirect your life purposefully.
Looking back I probably should’ve asked for help sooner but I never realized that I was on a road to nowhere. You don’t know what you don’t know, right? I do my best to step into my authentic self every day but it is not easy. It took me a long time and a lot of drama to get to a point where I’d do things simply because it made me smile.
To choose something, not because it was expected of me or because I assumed it would keep the peace all around, but because I experienced true freedom of spirit was like waking up to a new me and seeing myself for the first time. To live out of sincerity had a curative power and it freed me of all my self made burdens.
You cannot hear what’s meant for your ears if you speak too soon, talk too loudly or say too much. Those answers will find you only when you are able to quiet the senses and seek inspiration from within. And if that sounds too fuzzy then don’t seek anything at all. Hush. Just shut up, don’t say a word and go from there.
Sending you a bucket full of ssshhhhh all the way from here to wherever you are.
Originally published at meandmrdarcy.com