Sunday, November 15, 2009

don't panic

Back in January I wrote about intuition and the debilitating panic attacks I had during my first pregnancy.

I remember the awfulness of those feelings very clearly, but the more time has passed since I've recovered from them the more I've realised how they were so very much a condition, how foreign those feelings of anxiety are to my normal everyday existence, and how in retrospect the seeds of those panic attacks had been quietly germinating for some months, finally blooming at a time when the most stable of minds starts panicking a bit at the thought of the approaching responsibilities of parenthood.

Anyway, the point of that post, and the worst thing about the panic attacks, were that they made me doubt my intuition, a sense I'm 98.5% confident about most of the time (gotta allow that small margin of error to cover my ass in case of any future 'I told you so's'). In that post I referred to an incident which occurred when we were on our pre-baby holiday before Frieda was born in 2007, an incident truly bizarre in it's circumstance, and maybe one which should've proven to me that my strong sense of intuition was still operating well.

One of the places we visited on that trip was Die Hel (translated - The Hell), a remote and isolated place of very few inhabitants and great beauty. Yes, it's at the bottom of that road.
Die Hel has a weird history; apparently many, many years ago some farmers from the region trekked deep into these mountains to establish their own hamlet after some kind of disagreement with their neighbours. Rumours of cattle-rustling, pig-headedness and even incest abound, all of which add to the mystery of this already weird place.

We arrived in the late afternoon and almost immediately I felt really uneasy. We moved around looking for a campsite where I'd feel better but soon I was in tears and wanting to leave, and as always during one of these attacks of anxiousness the main thing freaking me out was whether I was being irrational, or if my intuition really was screaming at me to Get Out of There Immediately. I couldn't tell through the fuzziness and emotional overload, and that was what was making me panic.
It really was impossible to leave, we'd driven for 6 hours to get there and even if we'd turned around and driven back through the dark there was no guarantee where we'd find the next place to stay in this remote area of the country. So we stayed, I took some of my anxiety meds, Husband heroically set up camp and got a fire going all the while trying to reassure me that everything would be Fine.
'Mols' he said, 'this is probably the safest place in South Africa. There's maximum 20 people living in this valley, all of whom have lived here for years, all of whom rely solely on tourism for an income - so aren't going to do anything to jeopardise that - there's no wild animals which could be a threat to us and no one is going to trek all the way here across these massive mountain ranges purely with the intent to do evil. We're fine babe, everything'll be fine. Here, have a lamb chop.'
Between him and the meds (and the lamb chop!), I calmed down from near-hysteria, but I wasn't comfortable and spent a fitful night in our tent, a night so still that (I kid you not) we could hear the termites chewing in the tree above us.

In the morning everything felt better, as it always does. Our campsite was lovely and we were keen to go out exploring a bit. We drove up the valley, admiring the views, stopping at a couple of landmarks. At the end of the road (it was short, the valley community is tiny - this is the point see?) we found a tiny little museum attached to the house of the government conservation officer and his wife, the only real 'authority' up there.
We went in and were pottering round the museum when I started to become aware of the telephone conversation taking place in the next room. I glanced at Husband and realised he'd noticed too, and was shooting anxious glances back at me. The conversation was in Afrikaans and the snippets I was overhearing were:
'Ja, we don't know where he came from'.
'My husband noticed smoke in the riverbed at 5 this morning, went down there and found this stranger.'
'He was acting really odd.'
'Later the lawyer up the valley reported a man on his doorstep, being threatening and irrational.'
'My husband and some other men have been out looking for him again but he seems to have disappeared.'
And ...
'He must've just hiked in here from god knows where.'

He must've just hiked in here. Hiked all this way to be weird and threatening and irrational.

We drove back to our campsite in silence. I could tell Husband was cursing that we arrived at the museum in time to garner this news. I was experiencing this strange mix of concern, obviously, that there was now an unidentified and odd-acting stranger at loose in the valley, and also oddly, relief. Maybe last night's anxiety attack wasn't pure over-emotional irrational pregnancy hormones, maybe my intuition was still functioning afterall. Who'dve thought the confirmation that a weirdo was about when camping in a small isolated site could hold any relief at all?
But relieved as I may have been, I also had every intention of packing up and shipping out as soon as we got back to camp, and I could tell Husband knew there was no way of dissuading me this time.

Luckily for him, when we returned we found some other campers had set up nearby to us, and immediately the presence of others put me at ease. We stayed, we braai-ed more lamb chops, we had a giggle and although I can't say I slept very well, I was more at ease than the night before.

That whole holiday was lovely, in the time we spent just the two of us, but looking back through the photos I can still sense that feeling of creeping unease that tinged that whole period.
As I enter month 6 of this pregnancy I've been looking out for signs of those feelings returning, but am relieved to find that although I remember them clearly, they're also very foreign to me. I think it's safe to say I'm not in that headspace at all.
But I often think of that incident in Die Hel, and wonder at the bizarreness of it all.


MissBuckle said...

I wish we could sit down and have a conversation right now!

I can so relate, and dealed with loads of anxiety during my pregnancy. For me the reason was that I had had a recent miscarriage, and I had debilitating thoughts of it happening again.

That, on top of constant nausiousness, had me frazzled constantly.

Still, I have never felt so protected and connected to my man as I did then.

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

I agree with Miss Buckle, this is a conversation to have over glasses of wine. The first experience with pregnancy was so filled with the unknown that I think it's impossible not to question everything.

What resonated with me in your post was the idea of not listening to your intuition. I think that's where our anxiety comes from - doing/saying/being something that is going against what we are truly feeling. I think this true all the time, and maybe it's heightened when we are pregnant as we are protecting so much!

happy this pregnancy is going well! peace!

Panic Disorder said...

I will try this and see how it goes. Thank you for sharing.