Monday, June 11, 2012

Fight or Flight

A few months ago Mike and I woke up from a dead sleep to a very frightening noise--our burglar alarm went off at 4 a.m., broadcasting a loud wail that they probably heard all the way in Delaware.  For whatever reason, I was convinced that it was the fire alarm (don't judge me, I've never had a security system in my house before) and proceeded to "evacuate" Clyde by putting my hands under his front legs and trying to walk him out of the bedroom door like a human.  (Yeah, I have no idea why I did that.  It was 4 a.m.  I was panicked.  What can you do?)
My efforts to whisk Clyde to safety were impeded by Mike, who had jammed our bedroom door shut so the murderer/burglar/psycho could not get in.
In my next genius move, I decided to walk over to the alarm, which said "Basement Window Open" and turned it off.  I was worried about the neighbors and just wanted to make the really loud siren stop.
Of course, as my very patient husband quickly pointed out, I just gave Mr. (or Mrs. ?) Creepy Criminal free access to our house.  Whoops.  Even worse, the security company was trying to call our land line, but since we only have a house phone downstairs in the kitchen, we couldn't get to it before it stopped ringing.
Being the kind, thoughtful wife that I am, I then encouraged Mike to go downstairs and investigate.  (Did I mention I wasn't really awake or thinking clearly at this point?)  After a few complaints and after handing me the phone to call the police, he walked downstairs by way of the kitchen, right past the knives to grab the nearest... rolling pin.
In the meantime, I called the police.  They asked me all sorts of difficult questions like, "What is your name?"  I didn't know whether to give them my name, or my mom's name or my grandfather's name (the former owner of the house), and then I couldn't decide whether I should use my maiden name or my married name.  I'm pretty sure any name at all would have caused a little less suspicion to our friendly local police dispatcher than my hems and haws as I willed my brain to start functioning and spit something out.
Eventually, the police were dispatched and after lots of scary shuffling around outside and Mike screaming, "Hello? Hello?" the police knocked on the door, checked the basement and discovered that the problem was not a burglar, but a faulty sensor.  After giving Clyde his daily quota of pats the kind and brave officers were on their way, leaving us to go back to bed.
There was just one problem... my body was not cooperating.  My heart was still pounding in my chest and my mind was replaying the events of the entire night over and over again.
The problem continued well into the next day.  I felt anxious and my chest still ached like I had just sprinted up 10 flights of steps.  I couldn't calm down or concentrate.
Any danger (or imagined danger) had long since passed... what was wrong with me?
Then at lunch I went for a run on the treadmill and after a few miles, I finally felt better.  It was as if the adrenaline in my body finally had a way to escape.  My chest stopped hurting and I could finally breathe again.
That's when it occurred to me that there really is something to that whole caveman "fight or flight" response.  The adrenaline pumping through my body needed somewhere to go... it needed to punch someone in the face or run away screaming, and until I gave it the outlet it needed to escape it just sat on my chest, weighing me down.
I guess the same thing happens to some extent whenever we get angry or anxious, even if it is over something much smaller than a burglar alarm.  Those feelings bounce around our bodies, waiting for some kind of physical release or response, and if we don't get one they just sit there wearing us out and weighing us down.  Until we can acknowledge those feelings and give them a real, physical outlet, we can never really breathe freely.

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