The young horse's training usually involves a desensitization process. The cowboys of yesteryear (and some still today) would take a feed sack and introduce it to the animal. There are a lot of scary things about a feed sack. It rustles, it flops, it can cover a horses eyes or get wrapped around a leg. So, the cowboy begins rubbing the sack gently on a safe area, typically the shoulder or neck, and systematically moves around with it until he covers all areas of the body, saving the scariest parts (the face and legs) for last. Any time the horse gets scared, he moves the sack back to a safe place where the horse has already accepted the rubbing. One of the most important things about sacking out is never to move the sack away from the horse when he is scared, as it teaches him that if he panics, the sack will go away. Instead, a good cowboy will do the opposite and rub gently until the horse holds still, at which point he will move the sack away. Sacking out can be performed with any object, really. Plastic bags, a tarp, a set of electric clippers that the horse doesn't want buzzing in his ear. With patience, a horse can be desensitized to anything.
My anxiety attacks started last year. I don't know if it was because life became too much for me, or if it happened for no reason at all, but they've really been an obstacle to overcome. I have had difficulty sitting in meetings at work, riding in a vehicle with other people, and even sitting in my apartment all alone.
The day I started feeling anxiety for no reason while sitting at home on a weekend, I decided I wasn't going to live that way. Too freaked out to go to a doctor because of being in a small room with another person, I turned to the 'net for information. I purchased a kit which included relaxation CD's, a book, and a Tai Chi video. The quality of the materials was pathetic, but the information was helpful. I was grateful that there was no mention of God or spirituality anywhere in the materials. I had recently left all vestiges of my faith behind, and the thought of anyone trying to push it on me at the time was enough to bring on an attack.
One of the things mentioned in the book was not to give credence to one's feelings of anxiety. The author had given in to them and wound up too afraid to leave his home. I've kept this in mind all the while, thinking of it each time I wanted to skip an activity or avoid a meeting because they were pure torture. Can't say that I've stuck with it 100%, which is probably why I didn't get 100% better.
I was in a rut for several months, until my sister bought me a plane ticket to come see her in Colorado. I had to fly. Eek! I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't in control. It had been 4 years since I had been in a plane, and I used to enjoy it. This time I was sure something embarrassing would happen.
The fat guy who sat next to me took my mind off of most of it. I was the first one on the plane; we had to walk across the tarmac and up the steps into the plane. I felt like I was a famous person boarding her own private jet, and I considered turning around to wave to the cameras. This silly scenario was still playing itself in my head when I found my window seat and sat down. Not 5 seconds later, I was smooshed against the wall. My seat partner was gianormous! He took up 1/4 of my seat as well as a portion of the aisle. Had I seen him coming, I could have flipped the armrest down between us as a defense move, but his rolls would have swallowed it anyway. He stood back up to find his seatbelt, and I scurried for my own before he buried it again. I sat pressed against the cold plastic wall for 3 hours. There was no way to sit without touching him, either. It was so ridiculous that I was able to forget about getting freaked out.
Previous to the flight, a security guard noticed (before I ever did) that my license was expired. He ordered a full body cavity search (I'm lying about that part) and I had to have extra security on my bags. One of them was sent to Chicago, maybe because I didn't tip the baggage handler a second time, and I had to wait until late that night for the airline to drop it off at my sister's house. All that excitement actually calmed me down. Things went wrong, but they worked themselves out. Everything was okay in the end.
Two days after I came home, my mother called me at work. Dad had suffered a stroke and was having a helicopter ride to University Hospital. In addition to that being a terrible thing in itself, even the normal me can hardly bear walking into a hospital. I've been to the hospital he is in for therapy several times, and I've been better than I expected myself to be.
In addition to that, there have been the dates I've been going on. I've been a little nervous, not wanting to have to explain that I still have residual anxiety attacks, but I'm relaxing more and more. And I've been going to continuing education classes through work. I thought the class I took 2 months ago was going to kill me. My stomach was in knots all day. This time, I'm feeling pretty cool.
When I realized how much I've been doing and how well I've been dealing, I think about that sacking out process and the book I read. While I wasn't smart enough to make it happen for myself, circumstance has made it happen and I sure am grateful.