Are you having a bad day? Well, this post may make you cry but it will make you feel better, too.
So, I have anxiety problems. Not like I used to. I used to be on a heap of meds and full-blown panic attacks with hyperventilation were a weekly occurrence. But I extricated myself (rather painfully, of course) from the situation (a hellaciously bad job) that was exacerbating my natural tendency to FREAK THE FUCK OUT 24/7 and I’ve gotten to a point where my life looks outwardly boring as hell but is, for me, delightfully low in panic-inducing scenarios. I have thus far been able to remain medication-free. (Though I try to remind myself that mental health fluctuates and there is a very real possibility that I will be back on meds again some day – and, furthermore, that regardless of what American society would have me believe there is no shame in being medicated for mental health.)
Being away for so long now from the onslaught of daily insecurity, discomfort, shame, lies, and backstabbing that was my job for 5-1/2 years has lowered my resistance to horrifying situations. Things that were once a part of my life (like being reasonably certain I was going to be fired, killed, or commit murder in the next five seconds) and which I was once numb to are now just as horrifying as they possibly could be (and probably more so since my flawed brain chemistry is super duper melodramatic and blows everything out of proportion).
So I was riding with Matt to a logging site a few months ago and we were in the dump truck and hauling the equipment trailer empty because we were going to pick up the skidder and move it to another job. This job was on a wicked steep driveway that winds its way up the side of a hill after a 90 degree turn off of a busy highway. This meant that we had to come almost to a complete stop to make the turn onto the driveway, thus losing all our momentum, and with the empty trailer acting as a giant anchor we spun out in one spot on the gravel driveway (just barely clear of the highway) at a 15 degree grade with a neighbor standing on the side of the driveway screaming at us and a busy highway behind us should we fail to move forward or continue spinning our increasingly hot wheels.
This scenario, while only mildly irritating to my husband, who literally laughs in the face of death, was too much for me. My brain collapsed on itself and I became an insensible freakshow of snot and tears and high-pitched noises. I was shaking so hard that it is likely I was the reason the truck finally caught traction and lurched forward.
I don’t remember most of the rest of the trip to the top of the hill. I don’t remember how long I sat in the cab, deaf to the concerned inquiries of the very nice people we were logging for. This was one of the worst panic attacks of my life – and that is saying something. At the bottom of the driveway I legitimately thought I was going to die and that made me panic, and that display of panic humiliated me which only upset me more. It was a downward spiral. An unending mental toilet flush.
Then Matt had a lightbulb moment. He opened the door of the dump truck, picked up the homeowner’s angry little Corgi, and tossed her onto the seat with me. This dog, who had until that day shown nothing but disdain for me and my staunch refusal to be herded by her piercing and unstoppable bark, was suddenly more concerned for me than anyone has ever been for any other being on earth. My welfare instantly became her #1 priority in life. She leaped into my lap and wedged her torpedo-shaped body under my clutching, jumping arms, and did her doggy best to hug me.
After a few minutes of unprecedented affection from this normally aloof dog I was all but cured. I stopped shaking, I stopped crying, and I was able to drunkenly clamber down onto the ground. I reached up to get the dog and she didn’t hesitate – she actually jumped into my open arms, totally certain that I would catch her.
She continued to astound all present by remaining by my side all day as I sat on the stoop of the horse barn and read my book. She hardly even barked and she refused to be called away when her owners tried to give her her lunch.
So, yeah. Dogs, man. I fucking love dogs.