This story is partly about handling severe anxiety and partly about the unconditional love we humans receive from dogs. Sometimes I think we really don’t deserve them. I’m so glad they don’t agree.
So the other night I was on day two of what turned out to be a three day migraine, and as I laid my head down on my pillow in hopes of plunging quickly into a deep and healing slumber, I plunged instead into a full blown panic attack. Yes, I know how these things work. But I was still sure I was going to die.
Fortunately, I’ve learned in the last couple years that EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), or tapping is something that works well for me, so when I realized my anxiety wasn’t going away on its own, I opened the YouTube app on my iPad and did a quick search. Normally I go straight to Brad Yates’ channel because I’ve used his guided tapping videos for anxiety and panic a few times and they’ve done the trick. But for some reason, this time I decided to browse a little, and I ran across a great video by Megan Buer.
Buer’s video begins with an explanation of what is actually happening in your body when you have a panic attack (very helpful), next goes through a tapping exercise, and then wraps up with the advise to the viewer to get up and walk around, stomp your feet, etc., to help release some of the adrenaline your body has been saving up.
Something in this message clicked and I remembered one of my last sessions with my therapist, where she had wanted me to whack a large floor-cushion with a hollow plastic bat. While I was beating the crap out of the cushion, I was to scream and shout at the cushion as if it were my offender and say all the things that were bottled up inside me: all the reasons I was angry, all the ways I had been hurt. Just let it all out.
While I agreed this would probably be an effective way for releasing anger, I was not willing in that moment to do that exercise in front of my therapist. I don’t lose my shit in front of anyone. Not even my therapist. I may bawl like a baby, but I don’t show anger. I don’t scream and shout. (OK, full disclosure…my kids experienced me losing my shit a few times when we were growing up together. But…)
So I went home and did the therapy on my own. It was the middle of the day and I was sitting in my sacred space whacking a cushion with a plastic stick. And it really did help. So I’ve kept that one in my back pocket for when nothing else is working.
So on this night — as I was mid-panic attack — and after completing the Megan Buer EFT video, I decided it was a good time to beat up a cushion.
I stepped into my meditation room, got myself seated comfortably on the floor, and proceeded to whack the hell out of that cushion! And it was helping.
But then something happened. As the static began to clear from my head, I noticed the familiar sound of the doggy door clicking as one of my babies headed outside. I continued whacking. But then I heard something else.
My babies are both beagles; a male and a female. My female is a barker. Several times throughout each day and evening she will launch herself off our living room couch and dash through the doggy door to shout her warnings to…the person walking down the street…or the dog in the yard next door…squirrel in a tree…whatever. This happens a lot. I’m used to it.
My male, on the other hand, is generally quiet, and only joins in the neighborhood announcements in special circumstances (not sure what defines special, but he is selective about which events get him off the couch). My male — Mr. Boo — was my first adoption and has always been mamma’s sweet, sweet boy. My female, aka Miss Missy Miss, is a bit more independent.
And as I was thwacking that stick against that cushion on that night, I began to realize that the alarm sounding in the back yard was different. It wasn’t my outspoken girl. It was my sweet Boo. And he was not just barking. He was howling.
I stopped to listen more closely. There was not a peep from Miss Missy Miss. I popped my head into the hallway and looked down the stairs. Missy was curled up on the couch, looking up at me, confused.
Suddenly, my problem wasn’t such a big problem anymore. Mr. Boo was worried about his mommy and wanted everyone to know things weren’t OK! My heart sank. I ran down the stairs, and as I hit the bottom step, my sweet boy came around the corner, very tentatively, squinting up at me. He had noticed I was no longer shouting and was coming in to see if I was OK now.
In that moment, I was overcome with something different than anxiety. I bent down to pet my timid little boy and reassure him everything was going to be OK. Mommy had just had a little anger to get out, but she was OK now. I sat down then on the couch and hugged and cuddled each of them. They are not official therapy dogs, but they are my therapy.