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don't panic {3/28/13}

Kelley Clink

I know I haven't written in a while, but I have a good reason. Four weeks ago I had hip surgery, and I've spent the last month focused on my body. Healing takes a lot of energy--both physical and mental--and I haven't had much spare brain power. Plus rehabbing is really, really boring. Seriously.

This week, however, has been a little more exciting. First off: I got my stitches out. The scars are actually quite beautiful--delicate pink dashes and dots, like the story of my pain in morse code. If I can figure out a way to photograph them without getting too scandalous, I'll post a picture.

Secondly, I started coming off crutches. Having been prohibited from engaging my hip flexor for three weeks, I've basically had to learn to walk again. The first few days were surreal: my rhythm was totally off. But I gradually began to trust my body more, putting more and more weight on my leg, easing into the bending of my stiff joint. On Tuesday I took my first steps without any crutches. On Wednesday morning I walked the length of the house.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was back on both crutches.

This is just how it goes sometimes, I know. The old cliche: two steps forward, one step back. Don't panic, I told myself. 

And then I panicked.

This is one of the problems with having a history of anxiety and depression. The more we practice a behavior, the more often we engage a set of responses, the deeper they become engrained. Over time, depression becomes a neural pattern. So to does anxiety. The more we panic, the more we panic. 

The good news is that we can change. Of course it takes practice and patience. Both of which suck. But it gets easier--I think. I hope? Well, it must, because here I am, 24 hours later, not panicking. 

Or panicking less, anyway.

I'm finding, and have been throughout this month of recovery, that awareness helps most of all. If I can acknowledge my anxiety for what it is--a feeling, just a feeling--it doesn't last quite as long. I can give the fear and frustration space, like a child crying out a tantrum, and then I can validate them. You are right, I can say. This is hard. Life is hardAnd then the anxious, fearful thoughts quiet down, and I can hear the rational, steady voice that has been there all along.

Maybe the more I practice, the faster the rational voice will come. Maybe panic won't always be my first response. Maybe it will. For now, at least, I am not panicking about panic. And for now that is enough.

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