Years ago a friend told me something that I have taken along in my life as one of the top ten most important things I ever learned. I try to pass it along whenever I can because once you realize it's true it opens up a huge understanding to human nature and you can have more compassion for people. She told me that every action we make is motivated by one of two things; love or fear. At first I thought that couldn't be right, but when I thought about it I realized it's true. All other emotions stem from one of those two things.
But fear comes in great variety. We fear things because we don't understand them or don't know what to do to change the situation that made us afraid. But there is another kind of fear, and it's one I and most other people experience once in a while. That's irrational fear. I am not talking about those phobias we all have. I have a phobic type of fear of sharks. I guess in a way it's irrational because I live over a mile above sea level, 1350 miles from the nearest ocean.
The other morning I had gone to bed and a few minutes after laying down my heart started beating really hard, my blood pressure had spiked and then the anxiety began. I have been prone to anxiety attacks for years. The doctor told me to give up caffeine and spicy foods. But I love coffee. I LOVE IT! I try to limit it to two caffinated drinks a day and I do fine. But the day before I threw caution to the wind and had four. I also had horseradish sauce on my steak and I had to do my inhaler twice about an hour before going to bed thanks to some ant powder and a stiff breeze. The steroids in my inhaler make me incredibly shaky and jittery...but it's better than not being able to breathe and I only use it when I have an asthma attack.
If you have never had an anxiety attack you cannot understand what it's like. For some reason it effects your mental clarity. Every time it happens I am gripped with this absolute terror that I am going to have a heart attack and die. In the back of my brain floats the knowledge that this happens, I know what causes it, it will pass and I will be fine. But I can't ever reach back there to get that information to the front because I am so terrified. I have been through a couple situations in my life that caused real terror but when you are having an anxiety attack you can't differentiate between real terror and this type. It seems so real and so frightening. I usually try to call someone because it's comforting to hear a familiar voice but they never really understand why I am so afraid and think I am making too much out of nothing and want to get off the phone with me. I suppose they are right, but I can't discern that in the middle of the attack.
In that moment I would rather face the shark than feel the way I do. The interesting thing about irrational fears is that almost everyone has them. I remember seeing an elderly lady in a mall who had developed a fear of the escalator. She told me she used to have no problem going down them, but now she was always afraid she was going to fall. I took her arm and told her we would go down together.
If we just stopped for a moment to realize how someone else is feeling when they are facing that or any fear...maybe we could comfort them and let them know they are not alone, the world would feel less afraid overall. I think less fear in the world would make it a much better place.