Friday, December 2, 2011

Panic Attacks, Hughie Hound, and the ties that bind

One of the reasons that I stopped working as an engineer on ships is that I burned out a couple of times and never took the time to properly heal. Hence my mind blew a fuse or two, and it may take the rest of my life to replace them. I can’t get too over-exited, and I should avoid large crowds and stressful situations, because when I don’t – and even when I do – I suffer from terrible panic attacks.

A panic or anxiety attack has not much to do with regular fear. As a matter of fact, when there’s actually something to be afraid of, my mind can focus on that, and a genuine anxiety attack won’t occur because of my mind’s pre-occupation. Anxiety attacks happen when my mind can wander freely, and wanders off too far and loses touch with consensual reality. Then suddenly I see the entire universe, and how it works, and how I suck at being a Christian.  I become painfully aware of either my own insufficiency, God’s wrath, or even (and those attacks are the worst) of the complete lack of sense, purpose or function of the entire universal complex.

Edward Munch - The Scream

When the universe becomes a machine, and I an automaton, and even God an illusion or, worse, a macabre predator feeding off the vineyard that we are, I feel as if I’m falling down a deep hole, the skin of my head tightens, my heart begins to race, I start hyperventilating and sweating like a hog. Then there’s nothing that can be done other than ride it out. I try to go on walks but every building, every tree and every star in the sky raises arms against me and seeks my destruction. Even death loses its appeal because during an anxiety attack, death is an ocean in which I will drown for ever.

But I’ve had this condition long enough to know how to deal with it. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and try not to sweat the big stuff. I’m not overly ambitious so I don’t get overly disappointed. I don’t watch movies that will upset me. I exercise and go on walks. I don’t sleep too late and I don’t work too late. I try to limit myself to translating Biblical names and writing chipper blog articles, and stay out of cosmology and complexity theory as much as I can.

Part of the reason that I frequent Mica’s Paradise is to get me out of the city and into the peace and quiet of nature. So far, I’ve had no anxiety attack while I was here. To me Mica’s Paradise is the most appeasing place on earth. During the day I work at the kitchen table, and at night I sit on the porch and listen to the crickets and watch the stars. When I am at Mica’s, the stars are always happy to see me and they are never angry with me. And everything there seems to buzz on a force-field of life and soul. There’s not a bad thing in Mica’s Paradise.

Lately I’ve taken an interest in Mica’s dog. I don’t think he has a name, or if he has one, he’s not aware of it. And he’s tied up. That may seem awful but Mica lives in an Eastern European rural environment where the rules are slightly different than in the West. Here dogs, like all other creatures, have to pull their weight, and Hughie Hound pulls his weight by sitting by the gate and snarling at any stranger who comes near. He’s been sitting there since he was a few weeks old, and that was seven years ago.

Hughie Hound has a leather belt around his neck, and a chain tied to the belt. The chain is about two meters long and the other end slides along a steel wire that runs for about ten meters through a good portion of the yard. So technically Hughie is tied up but he can walk around freely as far as the wire runs, dragging that chain along with him.

Mostly, Hughie lays in the sun or patrols the portion of the yard that he can access. But occasionally, he gets riled up about something, and then he runs around like he has no sense or any to speak of. He knows the wire very well, so while he’s running like crazy he never forgets to turn in time, and when he’s sufficiently agitated, he tears around the center of his territory, spinning like a wheel made from fur and drool. I’ve seen him in all kinds of tantrums but I’ve never seen him forget the limitation posed on him by the chain.

This morning I asked Mica if I could take Hughie for a walk. She’d never heard of such a silly thing, but I explained that in my culture, people take dogs for walks, and that seems to usually agree with both parties. And so she let me, and I went over to Hughie and took his chain off the wire.

I had to coach him ever so carefully to take the first step out of the usual range of the chain. He had probably long forgotten what would happen if he ignored the chain and ran too far and the chain would yank at his neck and hurl him back to where he belonged, but the association with shock and pain and humiliation was obviously still very much there. He winced when he stepped after me, off the ground that he had paced barren over the years and onto the grass that he couldn’t ever reach.

Hughie and I shuffled out the gate toward the neighbor’s vineyard. The chain hung limply between us. We visited a tree that Hughie inspected and quietly dealt with. He froze and stared motionlessly at a salamander that zipped out of the brush, crossed in front of us and disappeared again in the shrubs. And he looked at me. Every step we took, he looked at me to see if everything was still okay and that I was still in control and leading him into this greater world.

After about ten minutes I brought him back, slid the chain on the wire and went back to work. He’s out there now. I can see him through the kitchen window looking at me typing away at my computer.

I reckon that Hughie Hound and I are both chained up, and that we have become complacent with the artificial restrictions that were passed onto us. But here at Micah’s Paradise, every now and then, a force greater than us takes us off the chain and leads us onto greater worlds.

My friend Hughie


1 comment:

  1. I become painfully aware of either my own insufficiency, God’s wrath.. a beginner will enjoy this


Be nice.

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