I’ve waited 2 1/2 years to be able to say what I’m about to say. For 2 1/2 years I let this gigantic fear weigh on me, hold me down, keep me from living life with the peace and freedom I deserve.
Now, the storm is over.
One morning in June 2017 I set out to the DMV to get the title of my dad’s car transferred to my name. Why was I doing this?
Because 2 months prior my dad took his last earthly breath.
I was so physically and emotionally weakened by grief. To get in the car and drive 45 minutes to his local DMV itself was a feat.
But it didn’t feel that way, because as I traversed the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge that connects our counties, I experienced the unexpected.
As I began the ascent, out of nowhere my heart started racing uncontrollably. It felt hard to breath. I was driving but I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. It was HORRIFYING. Only when I got to the top did I start to calm down.
I didn’t know until months later that I had suffered a panic attack.
Ever since, I avoided driving on this bridge, fearful I’d have another attack, which is the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced.
I feared driving over other bridges, because I’ve since had panic attacks on them too, but when you live on a peninsula, you can’t avoid them all. Just the thought of having to cross one would make me sweaty and nervous, but I would still do it… sometimes. The Sunshine Skyway though… nope.
I wasn’t ready for that.
After 2+ years and a lot of healing work, therapy, coaching, reading, mindfulness and meditation, I decided there would never be a perfect time to face my fear head on.
I worried I might go the rest of my life never driving over this bridge again. On the one hand, not such a big deal. But do I really want to go forever with this hanging over me??
My coach helped me put together a loose plan of how to increase my sense of safety when I finally decided to make the trek.
- Invite a co-pilot who will give me strength and support
- Prepare a playlist of uplifting songs
- Pray for support from all my angels, and envision myself and my car bathed in a beautiful golden light
This past Wednesday evening, I set out to make the trip.
Around the corner from my house, I felt a glimmer of panic.
“There’s no room for this right now. I’ve GOT THIS,” I told myself.
5 miles into the highway, the panicky thoughts tried to poke their heads up again. “Should I just pull over now? I can turn around now. I don’t have to go through with this!”
My co-pilot turned to me, noticed my sudden silence, and said, “Hey! You can do this!”
I focused on the music and let the good energy raise my confidence. We sang along to Justin Timberlake, P.Y.T., the Spice Girls, and more! As we approached the water, I relaxed into its beauty as the sunlight sparkled on the surface.
At the toll both, I nearly burst into tears as I realized how incredibly freeing it was to finally have gotten this far. I hadn’t gone on the bridge yet, but I sensed the hard part was over. I made it. The stress, the fear, the grief of losing my beloved father, the anxiety that held my head down all these years, it was all dissolving away.
I saw the bridge ahead in the distance and the immediate feeling was one of LOVE. Pure love. Awe. Admiration for its beauty.
I thought the closer I got, the more likely panic would return.
But it never did.
It was replaced with peace. With comfort. With relaxation. I’m safe here. I’m okay. This is never going to hurt me again.
I went up that bridge with not even a dollop of doubt.
It was SO EASY!!!! So mindbogglingly easy!!!! Did I really wait all this time to do this??
I’m FREE. I can finally relax. I can finally rest easy.
The storm is over.
Thank you for being here with me, for listening to my story and following along all this time. I hope in some small way you feel inspired to believe in yourself more.
If you’re faced with a terrifying fear, I get how overwhelming that is. I get how strongly a part of you is trying to protect you and keep you safe.
Be patient and gentle with yourself. You will know when the time is right. Trust yourself. Talk it out with someone. Let others encourage you until you’re strong enough to encourage yourself. You can do it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you will.
Your peace and freedom are worth fighting for.