I mean here I am Friday writing about and talking about how amazing of a release silence is. Sounding like the professor of silent studies or something… What happened next no one could have predicted. Although I probably should have given my record.
So we get to the tent it is lovely surrounded by trees, creeks (criks) and nothing. This was exactly how I pictured it. So we go to dinner hang out around town and head back to the tent. We lie down for bed and it is quiet #goals. But not like normal quiet where you can here the constant white noise of traffic or quiet but you can hear a fan. This was like high definition type quiet. This was exactly what I wanted until it happened.
Then as my husband Jordan snoozed off the anxiety started to kick in. It was slow rolling as I lay there started with the thought of kidnapping, then turned into a mass murderer coming down from the hills and all the way into a bear attack because you know my mind is just running the show. Then the rain started. Then the wind started. Then cars were pulling up with headlights all aglow on the side of the tent. My life was ending one way or another in that tent and I couldn’t stop myself from visualizing every instance. As my mind raced the stories grew bigger and scarier and more dramatic. My husband rolls over because he can feel the anxiousness radiating from my body at this point. He says to me, “Hanna, we can leave we can find a hotel we do not have to stay here.” I look back at him in disgust. “Like seriously bro…I just did an entire blog post on the importance of silence. My brain is just going to have to suck it up.”
So he rolls over and falls back asleep. My brain would in fact not suck it up at all. Actually the thought of me demanding it do so must have set it off spinning further and faster than it was before. All of a sudden I dream up likely the most realistic death possible. Gas leak from the heater. I roll over to Jordan almost out of breath I say, “does it smell like gas in here?” He says, “no, Hanna are you sure you want to stay here.” At that point my thoughts went from the only thing spinning to the entire tent spinning. Cue full blown panic attack.
I stand up and let Jordan know I think I need some air. I stick my head fearfully outside of the tent and breath in deep. There was no gas smell, there was no murderer outside of the tent, and there were no bears. Within one minute I had seen first hand out how wildly out of control my thoughts had gotten. Once I had caught my breath I laid back down. More car lights, a weird sound coming from outside and the wind was setting me spinning back to where I just was. Since leaving was not an option I was willing to put on the table, I had to take control.
I grabbed my mind by the hand and we started taking an intentional walk towards rest. “Mind,” I would say in my head, “You can’t keep leading us down these crazy paths.” Then the wind would pick up and I imagine the entire tent lifting up of the ground and blowing away. “MIND…”
Ok, what works. What works. What works….
Meditation. Lets do that. It is the last option. I realize I am one more panic attack away from us just packing up and leaving South Dakota altogether…This HAS to work.
So I start counting. Staying awake only makes the anxiety worse. I focus all of my attention on the number I am counting. 10. Deep breath in and out. 9. Deep breath in and out. 8. Deep breath in and holy shit what is that sound what is… is that the zipper of the tent, someone is coming in we should have brought a gun or knife or anything. Can my husband fend off a murder? Can he fend off a bear? shit oh shit. Start over.
10. Deep breath in and out. 9. Deep breath in and out. 8. Deep breath in and out. 7. Deep breath in and out. 6. Deep breath in. WIND oh my gosh the wind again. “Hanna, you have control this is testing your ability to stay in control.” “So stay in control.” I say to myself. Stay in control. Start over.
10 Deep breath in and out. Only focus on the number nothing else. 9. Deep breath in and out. 8. Deep breath in and out. 7. murderer…stay in control. Start over.
10 Deep breath in and wind. Fuck. Stay in control. Start over.
10 Deep breath in and out. 9. Deep breath in and out. 8. Deep breath in what comes after 8. Stay in control. Start over.
10 Deep breath in and out. 9. Deep breath in and out. 8. Deep breath in and out. 7. Deep breath in and out. 6. Deep breath in and out. Sleep.
I would wake up and use the same strategy two more times to will myself back to sleep. I write this because I went into my vacation as a champion of silence and in that silence feared a defeat but still found a way to limp across the finish line. It is not about beating your opponent all at once. As much work as I had done with my mental strength in a true test we all falter. You can’t lose at life. You win by continuing to move forward. By the end of the first panic attack old Hanna would have been booking a hotel. This one was just as wounded by the fear but found away. Limping, broken, bruised but learning with every step forward.