I fought a panic attack this morning. Fortunately, it came while I was writing and I was able to apply The Work to it. For those not familiar with the process, The Work, a process created by Byron Katie in her book Loving What Is, is four questions and a “Turnaround” of a fear or other unpleasant feeling.
“Is it (the troublesome thought) true?
“Do you know for sure that it’s true?
“How does this thought make you feel?
“Who would you be without this thought?”
Then the thought is turned around, to an opposite idea. For example, if I were doing The Work on the fear of losing my job, my Turnaround might be “I’m not losing my job,” or “I’m getting a promotion and a raise,” or “I’m going to find a better job.” (This process works best by writing down the questions and answers.)
I have applied this method many times and it has helped me tremendously. There are other things I do to get back to a state of peace and joy. I drink water. I pray. I ask for prayer. I do something physical. I tap.
This morning I could feel a panic attack coming on. I put on worship music, got some water, tapped and the applied The Work. I realized that there are two things I fear the most – losing my Muse and living in a constant state of fear or sadness. I fear losing my Muse because she gives me direction and Purpose. I’m afraid of going back to a life where others decide things for me. I’m afraid of going through a life where I have no direction and I just try to get through each day.
I also fear being fearful. I fear the dread, the panic and the sadness. For better or worse, I have experienced some very painful panic attacks over the last two years. They come from the mind telling me that I will go back to the way of living I had before I met my Muse. When I get in this state, the emotional pain is all consuming. I can’t even describe it, but I have been privileged to have a first class ticket to the gates of emotional hell. Imagine having your mind closed off to all stimuli except fear and dread. There might be music playing or good things around you, but you can’t see them. You might be functioning outwardly, but inwardly all you want to do is get away from everything and everyone. What you want more than anything is relief, as if you were suffering from physical pain.
There is a physical aspect to this. When I’m in a state of fear, both adrenaline and cortisol are coursing through my body. Someone helped me realize that my birth mother, due the conditions of her pregnancy with me, may have flooded my little body with a lot of adrenaline and cortisol of her own. She was most likely a Muslim girl who would not only have to give me up, but was also in a state of fear, stress and heightened alert for fear of being killed as a pregnant, unwed Muslim girl. She probably had this for most of the time she was carrying me. This may be one of the reasons I have so much adrenaline in me and it may be why I have such a high metabolism. It may also be why I fight fear so much. It’s chemical.
Still, there’s good news in all of this. First, I now know what I’m fighting. While in the midst of it, I am still mentally cognizant of what it is and I know what I can do. I’ve actually had these before I met my Muse and I didn’t know what they were or how to deal with them. They felt like black depressions or complete helplessness. The attacks are different now, because I feel like I have something to live for, a Purpose I haven’t had for years.
The other good news is that the flip side of these attacks is that, as I said, I have Purpose now. I have dreams now. Yes, the thought of losing these things sends me into a horrible panic, and I need to get this healed, but at least now I’m fighting for something. And this fight, my Muse, and my house on the beach have all made me healthier and happier. Now I can Get Started and Keep Going.