woman having panic attack, maggie mcreynolds blog

Hijacked!

I got hijacked this weekend. Not by extortionists or terrorists or carjackers. Instead, I got hijacked by my own emotions.

It started when my mom, whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years, had to cancel a trip I’d arranged for her to visit me in Boulder. Even though I know my mom is as disappointed as I am and that we will find another time for her to come, I got triggered by old, old childhood stuff. “I’m alone in the world,” I told myself. “I’ll never be able to recreate the sense of family I had as a child.” And, more Eeyore-like, “There’s no point in looking forward to things because I just end up getting disappointed.”

Before I knew it, I’d been hijacked by my stories, and they were holding me hostage in an isolated, dark, depressing little room. A room populated with childhood monsters (clowns, icky creatures that lived under my bed for the sole purpose of grabbing me by the ankle and pulling me under, the dark and its nameless terrors, abandonment issues from my parents’ divorce, dragonflies—okay, I don’t know why I was afraid of dragonflies as a young child, but there you go, fears aren’t logical). I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. I could feel my lower lip trembling. Fleetingly, I considered whether eating an entire bag of Oreos would help before deciding it probably wouldn’t. Not only that, it would give me gas.

The thing is, just like Dorothy in Oz, I had the power to leave, to return to myself, at any time. But it took me longer than I would have liked to get clear enough to remember this and get out. I did it, though. Waved to my childhood terrors, blew a kiss to the dark little room, opened the door, and hightailed it out of there, back to the land of the grown-ups. And once I was back, I was fine. I mean, sure, I was still sad my mom wasn’t coming when I had hoped, but I had it in perspective and I went on with my evening. Just like that.

We all get hijacked from time to time, often by old feelings, old stories, old buttons that get pushed. Getting overtaken by our stories isn’t something to feel ashamed about or to punish ourselves for. What matters is the remembering: these are only stories, they have no real power over me. And with that realization, the hijackers reveal themselves to be crude, bumbling illusions—old childhood fears dressed up in boogey man costumes–and the door back to reality swings open.

I got hijacked this weekend, but I rescued myself, and I did it by being able to separate the me who was hijacked from the me who knows better.

What kinds of stories and thoughts hijack you? What could you do to find your way back?

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