For the last year and a half I have been making a conscious effort to step outside of my comfort zone when opportunities arise. This includes leading a small group through Freedom Session, talking to the library about giving a talk in the fall, and being honest in this blog even when it leaves me vulnerable. Finding small and large (to me) ways has lead to many moments of deep connection with others.
This doesn’t mean that there are not times I want to run and hide. A trip to eastern Washington last weekend made me want to do just that. The trip began with my daughter being bitten by a tick and my inner panic about the possibilities of Lyme disease and associated infections. I tried to appear calm and comforting for my daughter as we dealt with the issue, but inside I was screaming. I know what Lyme can do and have seen the results of a similar infection in my own life. A few hours later I saw my first sign warning of rattlesnakes. OMG! By afternoon I was experiencing a full blown panic attack. I had another one a day later. A desert dweller I am not. I wanted only go to home to my side of the mountains where we only had to worry about bears when camping. You can’t accidentally step on a bear.
The trip was long and stressful for me. It also made me think. As a Christian, a health coach, and a mother society tells me that I should not have such weaknesses. Panic attacks, depression, and other mental health issues are not supposed to be a problem for one such as I. As a Christian I am supposed to find my strength in God and if I don’t then my faith is weak. As a health coach I should be meditating or breathing deeply, etc. No need for panic. As a mom, well, there is just no time for weakness.
How often do we, as women, find ourselves drowning in the world of “should” and “supposed to.” The messages of shame are all around us. For a while felt that shame smothering me and was sure I would never discuss my feelings of panic. I even hid it from my husband with dark glasses and music to cover my crying. Such thinking was a disservice to him, to you dear reader, and to myself.
As a shame researcher, I know that the very best thing to do in the midst of a shame attack is totally counterintuitive: Practice courage and reach out! ~ Brené Brown
Shame separates us from God and it separates us from each other. How can we create meaningful connections with one another if we hide the less-than-perfect parts of ourselves. Sociologist, speaker, and author Brene’ Brown defines shame as, “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.” The good news is that there is hope for all of us. By trusting ourselves and our community with our secret shame we can move beyond those dark fears and share the light.
In January I wrote that my word for the year was ‘connect.’ We are halfway through the year and I have witnessed and experienced many deep human connections made through vulnerability. Those willing to stand up and be seen, to share their innermost selves, exhibit a bravery that is awe-inspiring.
The song of one such woman was of great comfort to me as I tried to remember to breathe amidst my panic. “I Need You Now” by Plum was inspired by the singer’s struggle with panic attacks in high school. Her words reminded me that I was not alone.
I write this post today for that same reason. To remind you that you are not alone in your struggle and that there is no shame in reaching out. By doing so you may find that there is someone waiting to reach back.
- Deep breathing / biofeedback
- Uplifting music
- Essential Oils or plans (I walked with a sprig of desert sage)
I would love to end this by saying I will never again face the demons of panic or depression. I would also like to avoid all future autoimmune flare-ups. The reality is that any or all of these may rise again, but so will I. And each rise with make the next easier because I will have new tools and the memories of all of the times I have overcome.
I stand here reaching out that we might rise together.