Today I went snowshoeing up Artist Point in the Mt. Shuksan/Mt. Baker area.
It was absolutely gorgeous and we had lovely weather.
I love being in the outdoors, moving my body, and seeing new perspectives of this massive, breathtaking world. Being in nature is something that usually calms me and gives my life meaning.
However, I have struggled with panic attacks and severe anxiety in the past, and I felt a bit of it come back today.
I was completely calm until we reached our destination, sat down, and surveyed the expanse of snow and rock before us. We could see for miles. All at once I felt utterly exposed, vulnerable, and up too high in the air to be safe. My heart began to race and my chest seized up.
I haven’t had a panic attack in years, but the old fears quickly rushed back into my head. I’m going to have a panic attack and lose control, I’m going to faint or cry or throw up in front of everybody, I’m going to die up here on this mountain. Yes, it escalates that quickly. And it feels so real and terrifying in the moment. When I begin to panic, I feel as though I’m on the edge of a cliff and I’m slipping off. I don’t know what will happen if I fall off the cliff, but I can see the precipice as I lose my footing and tumble towards it.
I forced myself to take deep breaths, to close my eyes, to engage in small talk with the person next to me as a distraction. These are the steps I’ve practiced many times before.
Then a powerful thought entered my mind entered my mind:
Only I am causing myself to panic, nothing else.
When this popped into my head, I realized how silly it is that I’m so afraid of panicking. Panic is something that originates in my body, is contained in my body, and ends in my body. I’m not necessarily saying that the key is to control it. Rather, it is only a feeling and an experience, and it will pass. And no one dies from panic attacks. Seriously!
Also, If I had to die– and it happened outside, on a beautiful mountain, I would not be unhappy with the location of my demise.
So I calmed down, breathed in the mountain air, and told myself everything would be okay.