There’s that old saying about how ‘it never rains but it pours,’ and while I often think it’s true that troubles and trials seem to come in number rather than singly, I also tend to think that’s the sense we get because everything subsequent event’s difficulty is magnified by the one that preceded it. And of course, in a more literal sense, since moving to Texas five years ago during a period of general drought in the region, I would be inclined to say that it seldom rains enough here, let alone pours. Much as I might find minor inconveniences and even annoyances brought on by a rainy day, the more so if it’s stormy, I am glad enough of the needed moisture that I don’t hang onto any grudges against nature’s outpourings. Even on that persistently blinding, bleary day of storms when I took my turn driving toward home at the end of last year’s summer road trip I was more grateful than hateful regarding the dousing we received, and that’s going some for a nervous driver like me.
I am reminded these days, though, of the original frustrated character of the proverb and am working not to get sucked down into such a mode myself. There have been little hints from my mind and body that perhaps the decade-plus of grand good health and wellness I’ve enjoyed upon being treated for and generally freed from depression and anxiety and the nasty physiological symptoms thereof may be, like the moon in a spooky campfire tale, on the wane. I’ve avoided thinking about it much not only because it’s an unpleasant prospect in itself but also for superstitious fear that just contemplating such a thing makes it more possibly true. And at first, it was just those little, nagging bits of something that I couldn’t quite define as backsliding: a hint more tension when riding in the car, a touch more touchy about unimportant problems in the day-to-day, a stomach-ache when I get worried about a deadline….
But when we were at the airport the other day, waiting to board a perfectly ordinary flight to go to the familiarity of our own home after ending a week of (for me) unfamiliar and exciting travel that should have been the tough part of the equation if there were any, I had the horrible experience of an emotional meltdown in a panic attack. It’s been so many years since I had one that I almost didn’t realize what was happening and thought I had simply gotten a sudden illness of a more ordinary kind, and that would be irritating enough in its own way, but when I did connect the dots and know that I was losing all sense of control and well-being, the drop down that well was swift and obliterating. I am relieved that it was a relatively short-lived event, and I doubt many around me knew anything untoward was happening, but inside, I was a morass of terror, unable even to speak in quiet gratitude to my spouse for his patience. In the end, I got on the plane and, once there, cocooned with my scarf and went to sleep as quickly as I could, and that was that.
The speed and intensity of the attack, however, were enough to convince me that it’s now time to see the doctor and discuss what to do before I fall as far, and for as long, as I had in the past. I have no use for being that powerless and miserable shadow of myself ever again. I hate feeling almost perpetually nauseated, often breathless or dizzy, ice-cold and then broiling hot and then ice-cold again. I loathe feeling like I will burst into absolutely unwarranted uncontrollable crying at any moment. I abhor feeling like a useless baby. I despise feeling so sick and enervated and exhausted that I can barely lift my arms, no, can hardly croak out a word without wanting to keel over. I reject that version of me!
During our lovely week in Puerto Rico, it rained one day in the intense and intimidating and glorious way that a tropical shower can do. It was pouring thoroughly enough that we waited until the hardest pounding let up a little, popped open our umbrellas, and headed out knowing we’d get good and wet. I was glad of wearing both quick-drying summery clothes and open, flow-through sandals, because even with our umbrellas in full bloom and the rain somewhat lessened, within about two blocks’ walk we were seeing rivers race down the street and right on up over our feet. By the time we stopped in a coffee shop not so many minutes later, we were pretty damp all over and soaked up over the ankles. It was warm weather, and the rain dried very quickly indeed, and of course we long for that sort of bounty for our Texas landscape, so we rather enjoyed the novelty of it all. But I’ll admit that even knowing that the rain’s a tiny price to pay for the generous greenery of the tropics, I was delighted to see the sun again as soon as it arrived.
I can’t say what is the benefit of going through the floods of depression and anxiety. I can only hope that at least it teaches me to be more mindful of the many blessings I do have and to fight my way back up and out toward them as quickly as I possibly can. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will also be more sensitive to others’ struggles when I have been reminded how hard it is to keep perspective when one’s own brain and body absolutely refuse to bow or to cooperate with the tiniest and simplest, most logical of requests. All I can say for certain is that I am not planning to lie back and take it. You’re gonna rain on me, eh? Bring it on. Getting out my umbrella, yes. Digging up every resource I can find or imagine, done and done. Climbing up the side of the well with my own fingernails if I have to, rather than falling farther into it, see ya on the other side, pal. Bring it on.