Yesterday I made it home after spending five amazing days at the lake. For the most part I was unplugged and relaxed; enjoying time with the people I love most in the world. I spent my days floating on the lake and exploring the woods with my children. My nights were spent laughing around the campfire with my sister and her family. It was peaceful and calm, a place where there should be no room for anxiety, but anxiety doesn’t care if you’re on vacation, anxiety is a jerk that way.
Give me my mood swings any day over anxiety. Anxiety leaves me feeling powerless and out of control, but that’s exactly what anxiety is for me a loss of control, or perceived loss of control over a situation. My anxiety usually starts with something very small, for instance this past week I was plagued with, what if I forget to take my meds? That one little thought had me spun within minutes. As I lay floating in the middle of a serene lake, which is surrounded by forest, warmed by the sun and listening to the sound of loons calling and birds chirping, my peaceful lazy thoughts were interrupted with:
“Oh NO! I forgot to take my meds this morning. How could I forget my meds? Did I take them last night? What time is it? If I don’t get back to the tent and get my meds I’m going to pay for it. How long has it been since I took my meds? I’m sure I took them last night. Oh no, did I take them last night? What if I didn’t take them last night? How long till I start to get rampy? The whole trip will be ruined if I start to get rampy. Why is this sun so hot? God, those loons are annoying. I bet that lady over there isn’t a slave to meds. She looks so calm and peaceful, where is my peace? What are the kids doing? Where are the kids? Here I am floating in the middle of a lake and a bear is probably eating my kids. I’m sure they’re with my sister, but what if she thinks I have them? I’m a terrible mother. I need to take my meds. I’m packing up and going home. I have so much work to do, why would I come out here?”
Boom, there it is. One little thought about my meds and all of that happened, within about three seconds my thoughts were racing. My pulse skyrocketed and my breathing turned to gasping. I could feel myself headed toward a panic attack right there about 200 yards from shore. Just as I was about to dive off of the air mattress something clicked and I stopped everything. I closed my eyes and forced myself to feel the sun on my shoulders, I took a deep breath in through my nose and smelled the fresh water; I tilted my head and listened to the loons calling to each other. I was present in that moment and instantly my heart stopped racing. I could hear the kids laughing and when I opened my eyes they were playing in the shore. My sister was pushing the little ones on an air mattress and she was happy. We were all safe and I knew my meds were up at the tent right where I left them. I still had no clue what time it was but I knew I had taken my meds with breakfast and was certain that I would take them with dinner, like I always do.
Looking back I know that it was the break in routine that set off my little fit, even though it was a much needed break, and a good break, it still messed with usual day-to-day. I bring on most of my anxiety myself and I’ve learned to work most of it out with the help of mindfulness and grounding, but I’m not going to lie, it’s still a real pain in the butt. Had I not been able to work that out it could have been a deal breaker for the rest of the time there, and I forgot to mention, that was only the second day. The rest of our trip went smoothly, but that anxiety just doesn’t care if I’m on vacation or not, it’ll try to mess everything up any chance it gets, I’ve just got to stay on top of it because life is too short and too sweet to let it throw me off balance.