A New Year, A New Perspective

I’m feeling a little under the weather today, and though I am completely aware of the reason why (*wink*), I am still left to face the failings of this mortal body. Last night was quite an event, celebrating the oncoming new year with so many incredible people, it’s hard to imagine anyone could have had a bad time. And yet, for most of the night, I found myself in a less-than-happy place. Why you ask? Yes, why would someone, surrounded by true loved ones, in a house so much like home, and in an especially extroverted environment, find themselves having an unfortunate evening?
The truth is I honestly don’t know. I can’t say what triggered it, and I haven’t a sense of when it started, but something in me just snapped and I found myself plummeting furiously into a panic attack. I knew this would dampen the mood of the party, so I removed myself to the far living room, where I lay down on the couch and commenced with my three step recovery process: Breathe Deep. Seek Peace. Beat Free.
But as I got going, I found it became excessively hard to get passed step one, Breathe Deep. Despite a pretty lengthy pass at it, my breath remained stubbornly short and compressed. So I started improvising new phrases to chant to myself, hoping to shake myself out of it. ‘I can get myself out of this,’ I would repeat. ‘There is no reason to panic.’ But no matter how many times I said these, and how fervently I meant it, the crushing anxiety remained.
It’s almost worst to feel such panic without knowing the actual reason for it. Usually when a panic attack hits, I can identify what caused it. But this time, I really couldn’t understand what the source could be. Nothing around me would have created such a negative feeling, and I can’t imagine anyone at the party having triggered it. So I was left bewildered and panicked for no good reason.
The rest of the party passed in relative struggle, as I tried to rejoin the festivities, and my anxiety drifted in and out and up and down. I felt like a ship rocking on dangerously stormy seas, powerless to the swell of the waves that sent me headlong into loneliness one minute, and an incredibly deep conversation the next. And through it all, the only thing I could be certain of was the proof that my own default methods weren’t working. Just breathing deeply didn’t work. And chanting motivational phrases with it didn’t help. Distracting myself in good conversation did help a little, but only fleetingly, and before long I was sunk down again in my dark abyss.
The only thing I found that finally did seem to have any lasting effect was when I sat down in the presence of someone calming, someone I wouldn’t find annoying. Now I am a very social person yes, and I tend to get along with everyone easily, but that does not necessarily mean that I don’t find some people’s personalities more or less exhausting. And when I’m in a particularly touchy mood, as in a panic attack I definitely am, I really cannot stand being around someone who would try pepping me up or asking a lot of questions. In that moment, I needed to just be, but not alone. I needed someone next to me who could just ‘be’ with me, just sit there and be for a while.
And what do ya know? There were very such friends at this party that could be that! I sought the company of each individual at different times throughout the night, as soon as I’d found myself able to bear company at all. And then we’d just sit, and maybe exchanged a few light words, but mainly we just sat and were. And wouldn’t you know it, but I started to feel better. With the help of these, and some extremely supportive words and caresses, I began to feel myself resurface. It was slow, so slow that I also can’t really pinpoint the moment I felt fully restored. But it did happen. And believe me, though I have not sufficient words to express, that I had never known such relief till then.
I was submerged in darkness for so much of the party last night, sunk so deep down under cold and fear. And through trial and error I found it far too hard to get out by myself. But eventually I did find peace, and it came in the form of friends’ support and the ability to just be present. I had to get over the idea that I was burdening others, that I was the only one I could rely on, that I alone had to overcome this struggle. And as I did, I found hands reaching out to lift me from the depths, and a powerful pull from their presence. Once I did, I found that I didn’t have to compromise any of my dignity, or admit any defeat. I didn’t feel pressured to force conversation or find words that weren’t there. And most importantly, I didn’t have to feel bad about myself for accepting that I was not meant to suffer through this alone.
We none of us are meant to suffer through the toils of this life alone. Just as our worlds are all connected, and the truest of our love is universal, so too our chances for survival are interdependent. On the dawn of a new year, and a new stage of my life, I also found a new perspective. I was reminded through this experience, this overwhelming new years celebration, that my capacity is only greater strengthened by the support of my community. And with the challenges this coming year will no doubt present, I know the power to be present with this knowledge is going to be paramount. I may not have all the answers now, and I may not be free from these panic attacks yet, but I finally feel hope is on the horizon through the combined strength of the community I build around me.
As you are reading this, I hope this speaks to you too, as you search for new perspective in the onset of this new year. In particular, I pray you know that I would be honored to be a part of that same community of strength for you. And above all, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of mine.
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