Monday, October 1, 2012
On the grounds of the Appalachian Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - September 19, 2012
Just over a week ago, I returned home from my wonderful getaway to Maggie Valley, but it seems like the trip happened in another lifetime. I knew that I was returning home to a hotbed of stress in my own life, but didn't anticipate the role that my health would play in my ability to deal appropriately with that stress. Some of it, I can write about - some, too personal to share. I'm making every effort to use this period in my life to evaluate, learn and grow. I find it interesting when roaming around in BlogWorld, to find that it isn't just me. Seems a time when so many are struggling in ways that seem (to them) simply beyond their ability to cope or care. Blogging becomes far less frequent and when posts do appear, the stories are gut-wrenching. It parallels our real lives in so many ways because you want to help, but realize that this is where blogging has its limitations. It isn't real life and our ability to truly help each other when the going gets REALLY ROUGH is very limited. Some may disagree and that's o.k., but I'll repeat something I've said many times......please make sure that you have friends in real life to whom you can turn when "life" threatens to drown you.
As for me, the life lessons are coming so fast, I can't possibly write about them all, but thought I'd briefly flesh out the "claustrophobia" thing I mentioned previously in the hopes it might bolster me as well as encourage someone else.
In the fall of 1985, I traveled to an away football game. My Tennessee Volunteers were playing the Florida Gators, a rivalry already in place that has done nothing but grow in subsequent years. Florida's stadium (which looks NOTHING today like it did then) was small, dark and consisted of narrow ramps leading up and into the stadium. Following the game, while exiting the ramps, my friends and I got caught in an escalating rampage of celebrating fans that can only be described as terrifying. We could not get out and I was very nearly knocked to the ground. It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life and since that day, I have been extremely claustrophobic. I have no memory of being concerned about tight spaces before that time, but since then, cannot handle being in any type of place where there is no escape or where I am surrounded by walls, people, doors, etc. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Point is, the feeling of suffocation is VERY real.
But over the past few years, I have noticed that it's getting WORSE. And as much as I've fought to understand, control or even overcome the panic, I can't. I despise it because it effects my quality of life. In a moment of amazing clarity, thanks to my blogging friend, Karen Anderson, and an incredible post she wrote while I was in Maggie Valley, I think I might have had a breakthrough. Karen, whose blog I've been reading for a long time, writes one of the most honest blogs you'll find about her struggles with weight and self-acceptance. She writes HARD stuff and I am so grateful that she isn't afraid to put her own weaknesses out there in order to help others. This isn't the first time something she's written has been an "ah-ha" moment for me. In this post , she says this very candidly about a phobia of her own, "I have long suspected that this fear is not literal, but rather that it’s the container in which I put generalized anxiety because if I didn’t have something in which to contain it, it would spill out or explode all over the rest of my life."
It was as if the heavens opened up and music began to play. I don't think I've ever had a moment of realization so clear. My claustrophobia, although very, very real with an identified source behind it, is also not literal - it's the container in which I put stress/anxiety in the hopes of keeping it boxed up. Like Karen, I am well aware that I live (if you try to convince me otherwise, you are a contributor to the very thing about which I'm talking) in a state of low level anxiety. I don't like it, but it's just the way I'm wired. It has taken a lot of years and a lot of tears to understand that the basis of the stress is the understanding that I am a true radical and that I march to the beat of a different drummer. I think differently, I have odd personality traits, I am an introvert, my ideas of friendship/relationship are different than most females and the ways in which I choose to spend my time are just unusual. But that's not where the stress/anxiety lies. I'm o.k. with who I am and pretty much always have been. I'm happy and I'm content. I wouldn't want to be any other way. The stress comes in the fact that I don't expect anyone to change for me, so why must you expect me to change for you? And why, when I'm NOT like you, when I say "no, thank you", or perhaps, choose not to participate in something YOU organize, or simply not answer the phone when you call for the 85th time to discuss the weather, must you decide that a) I don't like you, b) something is wrong, c) I'm arrogant, d) sick, e) I should change, f) I don't want to be friends with you, g) I'm not a team player, h) yada, yada, yada?
Karen goes on to talk about how long she resisted seeing the anxiety/stress in her life in this way, "But as it turns out, what I see now is that I could not – WOULD NOT – acknowledge stress in my life. I resisted it. I mean how could I be stressed out? I have a wonderful husband, no money worries, no children. I’m a successful writer and author, and I am launching my Acceptance Whispering practice. I have fabulous friends and a full, wonderful life.
Acknowledging that I’ve been a big ball of stress for pretty much my entire life would seem to contradict all of that, right? Or maybe acknowledging it would come across as being ungrateful? Or whining? Or weak? Or as if I am blaming someone? Or all of the above?"
Reading Karen's words during a deluge in Maggie Valley on a day when I was supposed to be hiking, but instead felt the walls closing in on me, brought a clarity which I pray sticks with me for a long, long time. With the exception of the words about being an author, her words fit my life to a "T." At that very moment, I began a private journal. Every time something occurs which causes me to feel "claustrophobic," it is recorded in that journal. As of this morning, there are 21 things in the journal. Sadly, I cannot share them here as they are simply too personal. What I CAN share is the fact that I still have a long, long way to go, but feel as if I've made great strides in identifying what the real "issues" are, determining when compromise is needed, letting go when not, and perhaps as Karen says, "relaxing into acceptance." I'm not sure the walls will ever stop closing in on me completely, but I'd like to think that this is a start.
If you don't read Karen Anderson's blog and feel as if your weight issues are tied to much deeper things than food, I highly recommend that you begin reading her words. Don't just start with her most recent post, but go back and systemically work through the whole blog. You will not be sorry. I have made her aware that I have have quoted liberally from her September 17 post and YOU need to know that all words in red are copied from that post. Please give her credit for that writing. No way could I have said it better.
Do you have a "claustrophobia" that is not a literal fear? Think about it - share if you can.