We've all felt the day to day "pandemic anxiety"—where we worry when we see a grocery shelf go bare, about school, our kid's social lives, our social lives, which variant is around the corner, if our masks are good enough, I could fill paragraphs with the worry.
This week I'm in Pittsburgh visiting my brother and I have to say, I had some anxiety leaving the farm!
Tuesday evening arrived and I was happily finishing packing, checking off my list, and just getting it done when I felt this dread and then pressure in my chest.
"Hmmm, either I'm having a heart attack or a panic attack." Having had many panic attacks in my life, I figured it was some unconscious panic popping up.
Ahhh...pandemic anxiety...the gift that keeps on giving.
First line of defense is GABA, nature's Xanax.
While I waited for that to kick in I continued to pack and talk to myself, "Ok missy, what's going on with you? What's the fear here?"
Good question. I paid attention to my inner monologue for a bit to see what was going on and found The Crazy Brain Squirrels were on overdrive, swinging from the rafters and shrieking, "OmigodOmigodOmigod...whatifWHATIFYOUDIE?!"
Ok. Got it.
A long time ago I learned a really important lesson—how to tell the difference between my Inner Voice and The Crazy Brain Squirrels aka anxiety:
Anxiety sounds and feels like squirrels racing around in my brain—on speed. "OmigodOmigodOmigod...whatifWHATIFYOUDIE?! What if you leave your family without a mother, wife, daughter, niece, sister? What if you slide off the road and they can't find you in the snow? What if you..." and on and on and on.
While my Inner Voice sounds very, very calm. It's that Still, Small Voice within. My Inner Voice is grounded and certain. She knows what needs to be done and all I have to do is listen.
I've been hearing Her since I was 9 years old. I first truly heard the DIFFERENCE between the two back in 2000. I was 31 years old and a whitewater kayaker. I was standing at the muddy edge of a flooded river, listening to The Crazy Brain Squirrels chant. I had paddled this river at flood before, so this wasn't a new experience. A flooded river is, as you can imagine, much different to paddle. There is nowhere to rest in an eddy, the river surges and flows in what looks like slow motion but isn't at all. The water feels thick and is full of mud and debris.
A whole tree floated by while I watched, root ball still attached.
And somehow, through the Screaming Squirrels predicting my drowning, my Still, Small Voice came through clearly, "You need to run shuttle." For non-kayakers that means, stay off the river, help run the cars to the bottom and stay down at the take-out.
My Inner Voice didn't scream. She didn't hyperventilate. She didn't predict the worst. She told me what to do. Calmly and with certainty.
I didn't listen. But after the first set of rapids and feeling the power of that surging water, I told Brad I was pulling out. He came with me, we shouldered our kayaks and walked out through the forest, slipping and sliding on the wet and muddy leaves.
It wasn't until much later in the evening that I remembered Her voice and realized that even though I didn't listen, I learned a valuable lesson:
My Inner Voice sounds completely different from anxiety.
And so back to my Tuesday night panic attack. I sifted through The Crazy Brain Squirrels screeching about my demise and listened carefully.
"Is it safe to go?"
And then this little download:
"When was the last time you traveled a long distance by car by yourself? (I think 2011.) Ever since the beginning of 2020 you've been with your little family of 3. Day in and day out. For 2 years. THIS is why your body is worried, she's entrenched. Not because something horrible is going to happen."
Ok then. After 30 minutes, the GABA still hadn't done it's job (rare) so I took a quarter of an Ativan, finished packing, and went to bed. The next morning I was just fine. I hopped into my rental and started off on my 8 hour trip.
All was well :-)
In my work with anxious clients, I have found that EVERYONE'S anxious voice sounds very different than their Inner Voice. The trick is finding the cadence, the wording, and most importantly the FEELING in our bodies when we hear the two. This is a learnable skill. Promise :-)
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