Nancy Rathlou

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I had a weird experience when I was around eleven years old. Standing on the edge of a deep gorge beside my baby sister, who I absolutely adored, I had a sudden and terrifying impulse to push her over the edge. The compulsion was so strong, I shrank away from the precipice, heart pounding, knees shaking, and took myself as far away from her as I could get. I now view that as my very first anxiety attack. I could not tell my parents. Even then, I knew they would not be sympathetic. My father would likely yell at me and my mother would be lost in a cloud of confusion. That was the crux of the matter, right there. There was no safe place to go… no safe person to take my fears to. Nobody knew the drama that I quietly struggled with on a “fun family outing” that perfect summer day. 

The next time that horrid sense of imminent danger tapped me on the shoulder, I was sixteen and flying high on LSD with my boyfriend. Yes, I had fled the family home at this point and found recreational drugs to be extremely soothing. But this time … BAM! My heart beat from within my chest like a jackhammer. Bam, bam, bam! Adrenaline coursed through my body, causing me to bolt directionless in a fullout panic; another anxiety attack, kept privately tucked within my fragile soul, out of sight from prying eyes. I had no idea what was going on.

It was two years, yet again, before another wave of fear swept over me, this time grabbing hold and refusing to let go. It would not subside and any medication I took (prescription or otherwise) in attempt to quell the beast, just seemed to intensify the dreaded angst. And here was I, a scrawny girl hitch-hiking her way across the USA, outwardly looking like a free spirit, inwardly discovering the depths of hell. 

Oh wait. If you have never been subject to random anxiety, you can’t imagine. So, let me try to paint a picture. You can be anywhere doing anything. Let’s say, for example, you’re eating in a restaurant. You’re tucking into a juicy steak and sipping a nice wine. Glasses are clinking, people are chatting amiably and you start to feel a horrible sensation creeping over you, a cloud of distress slowly consuming you. Sweat starts to trickle down your ribs, your hands shake and, distracted by this intrusion, you lose track of the conversation you were participating in, only a few short moments ago. Your heart slams in your chest and you gasp for air. Suddenly you can’t breath. Your tongue feels like a football and you struggle to swallow. All you want to do is run away. But there is nowhere you can go that you don’t haul that tenacious monster with you. Possession? Almost. It’s acute anxiety. 

You might think you’ve been cast into hell, as all the things you took for granted are ripped away from you; assurance, confidence, friends, evenings out, a simple walk around the block. No more! They are all laced with trepidation. Sure, you may think it’s hell. But the devil only laughs, You ain’t seen nothing yet, baby! Like riding in a car at 120 kilometres an hour and having an almost uncontrollable urge to open the door and step out. Afraid to go into Cont'd At Right...
door and step out. Afraid to go into that bathroom because, What if I grab a razor and slash my wrists? Afraid to be with people because, what if I loose control and hurt somebody? There, now you can call it hell. 

This state had me crippled for close to seven years before I got help, beyond useless and dangerous medications. Of all the fears I lugged around, the greatest was of going insane and the only way I could get the help I needed, was by checking myself into a hospital… a mental hospital! That was the first great fear I walked into, head-on, and the first step in a long, long process of recovering my soul. How fortunate was I to be paired up with a psychologist who believed that love, validation and the power of positivity were kingpins in healing these wounds? It could have been shock treatments or complicated medication regimes. But, no, I got love. I got to discover, there in that “asylum”, that I was worth healing, worth the time and attention poured out to me. Of course, it wasn’t an instant fix. God no! I had a lot of work to do; years of it, in fact. When I left the hospital, after nine months, I walked back into the world still full of angst, but better prepared to handle it. 

The next step was life on a commune; rustic, remote and rather hippie. Again, the main tool for remediation? Love. I must have done something right in my wicked childhood because there it was again; love and validation. I was enfolded and guided, but most powerful of all, I learned to give love and guidance. Wow. That was a major turning point. Learning to give genuinely, with heart and soul, is not as easy as you may think. Challenges abound, not the least of which is giving with ease and grace in the most unrewarding of circumstances. In the process of meeting my demons and learning to direct my energy outward, many doors were opened to me… doors that took me to amazing places and put me in the company of some extraordinary people. 

Once paralyzed by fear, unable to walk out my own front door, I have since walked along La Rambla in Barcelona, the Champs d’Elysee in Paris, shopped the Grande Bazaar in Istanbul, poked about the shops of London’s Soho District and New York’s Soho too. I’ve scaled the stone steps to the top of Santorini, chilled on the beaches of the Mediterranean and run my fingers through the sand that surrounds the pyramids in Egypt. And the friends I have made en route are amazing; deep, rich and loving. The list is too long and I don’t want to brag. I do, however want to share the celebration I experience, every day. 

Because I know fear in it’s extreme, I get high just doing ordinary things… things I once thought would never be within my reach. Am I free of the shackles that once so tightly held me in place? Pretty much. I won’t deny, that old hiccup of trepidation still shows up from time to time. But now I just walk through it, all the while marvelling at the tenacity of the beast. For me, it took this journey to come to know myself. And baby, once you know who you are, the world becomes a fabulous playground!
Find out more about Nancy Rathlou by visiting her Website, Following her on FacebookLinkedIn.Google+ & YOUTube  

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