I spent some time outside of the big, busy, never-ending city.
I felt it was time I gave myself a small break. What I didn’t take into consideration was, “Where ever you go, there you are.” I was feeling super overwhelmed and it was building and building and building… so I thought, “HEY CANDACE! LET’S GO CAMPING! NOTHING IS STRESSFUL ABOUT THAT. IT’S JUST YOU AND THE TREES.”
Fast forward to camping day. I realized the act of organizing, packing, playing luggage tetris in the car, the 6 hour drive would not – in any way – help me in my quest to decompress, relax and discover my true inner zen. By the time we were on the road – packed to the brim including an overly anxious chihuahua (like mother, like son?) – I had already taken my daily dosage of sedation.
[I must also add that before we were even able to leave the city limits we ended up double parked in a bike lane (PLEASE I KNOW THIS IS HORRID). I stayed in the passenger seat as a few needed items were retrieved. I ended up being told off be 2 officers and watched them write a ticket as a frantically texted “POLICE HERE, TICKET HAPPENING” as I mouthed, “I CAN’T DRIVE” to them.]
We arrived in the rain. The rest of the night was a blur. I just wanted the air matress in the tent. Sleep. It’s cold? No cares here.
The next couple of days I tried. Hard. Tried to what? Relax. Is that even possible? Trying hard to relax? Even though I was grateful to be away with friends, I struggled. I found myself in a grocery store one day looking at beer and the next moment I was out in the car using breathing techniques and playing real tetris in order to thwart a growing attack.
I am continuously amazed how my panic attacks increase in frequency during times which should be less stress.
My weekend came to a head when we decided to rent kayaks. At first I said no as I have a bit of a fear of deep water. But after everyone pushed off I felt left behind and bit of a wet towel.
I quickly changed, took off my shoes and jumped into the last kayak. I headed out looking for the rest of the group. I padded and couldn’t find them. I stopped paddling and just floated there in the sun. I was debating on what my next move would be. That’s when I also had a moment to remember the reasons why I didn’t like deep water. And then I noticed how far I had paddled. And that I had left my phone and my medication in the tent. Well then. I froze. Now what? I breathed in – and started back. I focused on my paddling. Which was the best way to paddle? What angle would benefit my speed? I focused on my footing. How much pressure do I need in my feet in order to paddle faster? I focused on the giant waves from the passing boats. I noticed the tents along the shore and the osprey flying in the sky. I noticed the islands. I felt the warmth of the sun on my face. I was suddenly back at the shore of our campsite.
I had made it. No Tetris. No medication. No panicking. Nothing.
I decided to go right back out and find everyone. And I did. We all came back together.
My reward? I nap in the sunshine.
If only I could take that paddle, those waves, that concentration back into the city, back into everyday life and use them as a focus when things get scary – when my breath gets deep – when I start to fall into the trap of the attack. To remember that the water isn’t so deep and that I have the mind to steer myself, paddles or not, back to safety.