This afternoon a neighbor came by to bring me flowers, and I had a panic attack.
I was sitting in my grandma’s old La-Z-Boy, editing a manuscript, when the screen door rattled with repeated knocks. A pause, and more loud knocks. On the main door now. I almost jumped out of my skin and left it there on the recliner while my spirit slipped out the window and up into the spruce tree.
Intellectually, I realized someone was at the door, it was a little after noon, and probably not a cause for alarm. But my intellect was not in charge. In defense of my panic, the knocks were kind of aggressive, but still.
Working to slow my heart rate, I opened the door, and there stood one of our neighbors, who lives in a house next to our apartment complex, with a handful of orange and white blossoms. “Want some flowers?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said, surprised that the crisis I feared actually involved a thoughtful gesture and a handful of posies. “Thank you so much.”
In the kitchen, my hands shook as I cleared pieces off of the lower parts of the stems. I let the leaves fall to the ground, a bright pile of green on the cream colored kitchen tiles. I filled a vase with water and set the flowers in it. Aren’t they lovely?
I sat back down in the La-Z-Boy.
What is wrong with me? I wondered. This was not my first freak out of the week.
Just last night, at around 10:30 p.m. someone else in my neighborhood let off an alarmingly loud series of what were most likely fireworks, and all I could think was gunshot. All I could feel was fear. An urge to get away from the windows. A sense of waiting for something terrible to happen.
When Mike got home after having a beer out with a friend, we hugged and I felt my body stiffen, noticing the tightness in my hips and protective of the knee strain I somehow acquired last week. He tried to help me adjust my stance, and even that led to words and tears. I was just so immensely tired of being tight and on edge.
All week, I’ve been thinking about – and to be honest, lamenting – how sensitive I am. After a bodywork session on Wednesday with the gifted Lori Krampetz, I felt both grateful for her support and disheartened at how hyper-sensitive my body is in so many places right now.
She reminded me that lots of factors could contribute to the sensitivity and the activated nerves, that we humans are complex.
Aren’t we, though?
As Lori worked on my knee strain, she showed me how I could lightly push into the strained area, then release pressure, but keep my hand there to reset my limbic system, to calm down my nerves.
This helped enormously. Before the session I hadn’t wanted anyone, let alone myself, to touch my knee. I’d been bracing against all of the pain – past, present, and future. No wonder I was tense.
After the flower-induced panic attack this afternoon, I wandered around my apartment, feeling into the rattled feeling, almost numb at the news of this tragedy in Nice, wishing for a solution to the tremendous violence we humans hear about, witness, or experience first-hand, daily and daily and daily.
I remembered my session with Lori and found a sliver of comfort in her suggestion to put my hand where it hurts, to press into it, just a little, and then stay with it. Since I only have two hands, it might take a while to cover all of the places I have to cover right now. I’m starting with my knee.
Next my heart. And on from there.
What we’re finding out about violence in the world each day can leave us all in a constant state of bracing against pain, of always anticipating attacks instead of allowing for kindness. And who can blame us?
But I don’t want that constant on-edge feeling for me or you or anyone in the world.
I also just remembered that at our session, Lori added that while it worked for me to do this practice on my own body, that it was more effective for someone else to do it.
I wonder how that applies otherwise. Yes, I can be gentle with and present to my own pain, but how might I do this for others? What occurs to me is this:
- Gently press into the pain: ask a hurting someone how they are and encourage them to answer honestly.
- Release pressure: wait for a response without pushing further. digging into the pain won’t help.
- Maintain contact: hold steady. don’t run away from silence, or tears, or expressed frustration. be a witness until someone else’s pain can calm down.
I’m going to try it, because I’m not sure what else to do. I’m going to try it, because something I learned long ago is that we’re all connected, that how we treat each other matters.
Will you join me? Will you ask me how I am and let me answer from my heart? Will you stay with me, even if it’s uncomfortable, until I can reset?
If you can, if you will, I will be grateful and I’ll offer the same to you. And if you happen to bring me flowers and I look alarmed, please be patient. I’m a little rattled right now.
Thank you so much for reading. You might notice that I don’t have a space for comments, but I’m certainly open to conversation about what’s written here. If you’re so inspired, feel free to start a conversation with me via the contact form on the homepage of this site.