In the last few months, I’ve:
- moved to a new country, where I know no one but my husband
- left the job (and friends!) I had for nearly five years and started a new one
- spent several days sitting next to my grandma at the hospital while Grandpa (successfully) fought a series of potentially deadly illnesses
- started planning a work trip to Ethiopia
- finished rewriting a novel
- built a new website for myself.
While all of these things – except Grandpa’s brush with mortality – are exciting new adventures, they also come with lashings of stress. Last week, the stress finally caught up with me, and I had a bad anxiety attack.
I found myself waking up at 1am several days in a row, panicked, struggling to breathe, and obsessively composing emails in my mind. I completely lost my appetite for food and coffee – something that’s only ever happened when I had the flu. I was so weepy that I started crying when I was walking through a store and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” came on because I was suddenly heartbroken over Patrick Swayze’s death.
Worst of all, I felt terribly guilty about it. My heart kept telling me “You’re being ridiculous. You’re so lucky. Millions of people are facing actual tragedies.” But my body and brain kept freaking out.
I even found myself accidentally walking down one of my town’s two red light streets (yes, we’re a small Dutch town, so we don’t have enough prostitutes to occupy a full district) and saw a bored-looking middle-aged woman wearing a poorly fitting teddy, sitting in a window behind a row of dildos. “That could be you,” I told myself. “Your work doesn’t involve real dildos, so get over yourself.”