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The Art of Outside

I call panic attacks “Hulking.” If you have experienced a panic attack, you know why. When your anxiety is sky-high, your body produces adrenaline meant to give you super speed or mega strength if you need to run or fight. The result is a racing heart, labored breathing, nonsensical thoughts, stomach unrest, and every other badness that you could possibly imagine. You feel painfully out of control, like you are becoming a huge green monster.

I developed a hulking disorder a few years back. It was not a case of the blues, stress, or just anxiety. It was full blown panic ragers, one on top of the next, hours, then days, then weeks. I went for almost a week of zero sleep. I tried every western and eastern therapy and remedy available, and I’ll tell you what, some of that shiz got weird. But none of them could shrink me down to my rational, normal self. It was excruciating.

One thing I discussed with my mother-in-law/therapist is that once you are hulking, you can’t fight it. In fact, fighting panic is a sure way to give it wings. The best thing to do is to breathe and wait it out, engaging in calming and semi-distracting activities.

I finally found some relief in the dirt. Literally, the dirt. Somehow, in the early hours of the morning, while running my hands through the cold damp earth, my heart rate slowed. I could finally catch my breath, cry, and feel real emotions other than panic and fear. My garden became a gateway to healing.

I haven’t gone full-hulk in several years, a feat achieved at least an hour of outside time a day (and a little friend named Zoloft). My garden is my sanctuary, but really, any outside activity–preferably surrounded by mountains–will do the trick. Hiking, mountain biking, skiing, rain-smelling, porch-sitting… it is all medicine for my soul. Being outside grounds me in the present moment. Because, almost always, in the present moment everything is okay.

The mountains were a natural backdrop for my book, Called Upon, because I love them, but also because the mountains are a place of worship and revelation. The mountains area a place of healing and a fountain of peace. My girl, Kaitlin certainly finds healing there. And trouble. Plenty of trouble too. But between healing and trouble, she really finds her complete self there.

Like me.