Unmasking

I write this sitting in my backyard on a warm breezy fall afternoon. The setting is ideal. My demeanour calm and collected. I pride myself on how well I can hide the inner turmoil at times. I’m reluctant to admit how difficult the last few months have been and how the culminating eruption took me out. 

The pandemic has triggered intense fear and panic in me. Even though in my day-to-day life I am safe and healthy, the looming uncertainty has made me hyper-vigilant. Going to the grocery store is no longer a simple errand but a running checklist of safety: don’t touch your face, dodge anyone getting too close, be alert of exposed noses peaking out of masks, sanitize multiple times, wipe down all surfaces and handles and pray that this wasn’t the trip that you’ll regret making. (My goodness I wish I could approach simple tasks with reasonable caution.)

Throughout the pandemic I’ve experienced shock similar to what you would experience if you were in a car crash. With little warning my body goes into a painful internal panic. When this happens there is not much I can do to talk myself out of the experience. My ‘thinking brain’ is paused while my ‘fight or flight brain’ sorts out the threat. (All this happens inside of me despite the fact my present situation is fairly safe). 

The embarrassment came when I was surrounded by a small group of individuals during a training session. Externally, my appearance professional, my facial expressions hidden by a mask. Internally, I was managing waves of panic. A walk with a friend during a break would surely settle the monsoon. Unfortunately it only paused it for a short time. Red lights flashed all around me. I decided to forfeit the embarrassment and, with permission, I left the training before the eruption.

The panic erupted, and along with it came shame. There was no hiding that I was not okay. I felt weak and vulnerable and had to settle my fate – a sense of safety, recovery and healing first. I will return. I am not the sum of my anxiety. I am healing. 

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