• Jonny Stax

Calling In Sick

Written September 9, 2019 in Chicago then finished in Iowa November 22, 2019.

I called in sick the other day for a fundraiser with a group of people I have had on my calendar with anticipation for weeks. I even stayed the weekend in Chicago for it. And then, I got sick. Well, I went for the play and stayed 30 minutes into the after-party. So, officially, I made an appropriately timed unicorn experience. The trouble lies in leaving early and why.

My anxiety levels had been so high all day. I could count the reasons, and I think the most important one for me to know right now is this: I lessened my resistance to anxiety by not keeping up my practices. These practices include: lowered sugar levels, exercise, morning and bedtime rituals, alone time, and more. I lessened my resilience to anxiety attacks.

So, I left early. This time I mentioned to a couple of people I was talking to why I was leaving. Similar to how I might have mentioned I was feeling nauseous. Which is when it struck me. My anxiety is a condition that I need to manage and treat. It’s not that I’m less than (sturdy, present, chill, etc.), it’s just that I have a condition I like to manage for serenity purposes.

Now, if I can stop beating myself up for missing the party, I can sleep well. Time to change the story so I can change the end. Maybe I can change the start again.

My first memory of an anxiety attack is sitting in church with my mother during a Sunday night service. There was never a great attendance on Sunday night, which left plenty of space in the pews. The pastor was giving his talk - a more informal approach than Sunday morning. I was probably around 9 or 10 years old. I don’t know what triggered it, but reality became like a rubber band - the distance between me and the pastor grew to a mile and then back again. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. Mother didn’t know what to do. We went out to the lobby so I could calm down. I don’t remember much after that, but that is when the anxiety attacks began. I also know that this is about the time I became aware that something was different inside me than other people.

About six or seven years ago, when I went back to therapy to fully go after healing and recovery (well, actually I wanted a life coach to help me manifest my professional visions and discovered that there was much healing to do before I could), I decided to go after my anxiety as I went after the healing from my trauma. You see, not only did I live in the closet until my mid-20s, but I was sexually abused from 16 until 23 by men in the church who took advantage of my isolated and confused state. I figured if I was going to go deep with my healing, I might as well go after my anxiety. So, I followed the tendrils of my anxiety to their root core.

Then I set out to unravel those tendrils and build new pathways toward serenity. I think this year I got past my anxiety and discovered an immense sadness and exhaustion. So, now I need to integrate those experiences - two that I could not allow myself to feel for fear that I would become immobilized and not find my way into the life I envisioned for myself. I found this poem from Rick Fields in Pema Chodron’s “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change” that lets me know what the journey entails:

This world - absolutely pure

As is. Behind the fear,

Vulnerability. Behind that,

Sadness, then compassion

And behind that the vast sky.

Candy Cotton

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