My Darkest Secret

I read a lot of blogs, parenting blogs, martial arts blogs, blogs that simply chronicle the day to day life of someone who I have never met. Every so often a blogger reveals something to the entire Internet that makes me say "Wow. I would never write about that." I like to keep my posts safe, comfortable, essays that for the most part show off all of my strengths, preach about my fabulous opinions, or if I have to show weakness, than at least make it funny. Yes I did make that mistake one time while walking home and Maya didn't quite make it to the bathroom. Yes I do sometimes scream at my child. But mostly, I am freaking awesome.

And I am, pretty damn awesome that is. And 99 percent of the time I walk around feeling confident, relaxed and really really happy. I love my life. I love everything about it. Honestly. And this is the me you will see all of the time, because even if I am not really feeling it, I am really good at faking it.

So this post is hard for me to write. Really hard. But today, I am going to be brave. I am going to be honest. I am going to talk about that 1 percent. The times when I am not myself. Like today. Perhaps the act of writing it down will give me perspective. Perhaps one of you will read it and say yes, that's me too.

I have occasional panic attacks, usually when I am trapped somewhere like on the subway between stations or in rush hour traffic. I am terrified of flying.  I don't really like elevators. But I ride the subway every day anyway and I do not take the stairs. Why? Because the only thing worse than being afraid is letting your fear control your life. I would get on airplanes more but they are so damn expensive.

The panic attacks are not my secret. They are infrequent,`no big deal,  usually I just ride them out and wait until they pass. But every so often, like once a year or sometimes even less, I get caught in a true anxiety cycle. It lasts about a week and is almost always brought on by a minor illness (like a sinus infection) that lingers a bit too long for my overactive imagination. I start to get tension headaches. My nights are restless and long. My appetite dwindles. I begin to see the slightest dizzy spell as an indication that I have brain cancer. My mind races and my body reacts. I worry about ridiculous things like dropping dead suddenly, while walking to the store, and dooming my four year old to a life with no mother.

I don't like to talk about this part of me because it embarrasses the hell out of me. I am a fourth degree black belt for chrissake!. What kind of warrior has anxiety? I should just be able to breathe deep and let my overwhelming Sensei chi create instant calm. I have fought through hell.(His name was Paul Williams.) How is it that after 23 years of karate I still can't get my overactive brain to shut up?

In case you are wondering, I know exactly where this all comes from. On Saturday, November 20th, 2004, my husband and I (and two other black belt students) showed up to take karate class and discovered the body of our instructor. He was no longer alive. People are appalled when they hear this story. They wonder how we ever dealt with it. We just did. You know how it is, you've all been through something horrible. You cry or scream or stuff yourself with brownies and then just do what you have to do and eventually a year has passed, two years, three and you have dealt with it. You moved on.

Although sudden to us, Shuseki Shihan Oliver's death was not sudden. He had a long standing heart condition. He just never told us about it.

Finding a dead body is not my secret either. Most people who know me know this story. They know that it is why I will call Matthew over and over until he answers his phone and if I can't reach him I lose my s--t. They know that it is why I freak out whenever anyone I know is in the hospital. They know it is why I freak out whenever my neck is stiff (meningitis!) or when my stomach hurts (bleeding ulcer!).

I guess my secret is that I am not perfect. (Pretty shocking, I know!) That I know all my katas like the back of my hand and can fight a 250 pound dude without batting an eyelash but sometimes my own thoughts knock me on my ass. That usually, when I can't sleep I just watch reruns of Friends and when I feel nauseous I just take a Pepto Bismol and be done with it. But every so often, when I haven't slept well, or something hurts just a bit too much, when I'm just not seeing the world as clearly as I'd like, I lose my way a bit.

Like today.

A good friend of mine recently described her own periods of anxiety as an opportunity. An opportunity to know yourself better. An opportunity to work on dealing with difficulty. An opportunity for acceptance. So I am going to take this opportunity to let down the wall for just one minute.

I know this feeling will pass. I got through it last time and I will this time too. But this time I am putting it out there, yes on the INTERNET, for all of you to see. My biggest secret. Not so when you see me you feel sorry for me. (Please don't, I'll be fine.) But hopefully so you can take something away from this. That nobody's perfect. That being a mom often means the homework is all done, the laundry folded and the dinner on the table is veggies and grilled chicken and something with kale and quinoa and other silly healthy words. But sometimes you serve takeout pizza and put your kid in front of the TV for an extra hour just so you can lie down next to her and be comforted by the smell of her hair. And being a black belt often means flawless techniques and the will to move mountains. But sometimes you just push up as far as you can and wait for class to be over.

And its all ok. Sometimes in the quest to be warriors, we forget that being strong does not mean being unaffected. It means that you keep getting up, no matter how hard it may be.

Thanks for listening. Now please delete this from your IPhone and go back to picturing my flawless kata.


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