Panic, Helplessness, and Control

Content Warning: Bodily Functions

This morning I went to go to my usual Wednesday morning chemo (which is every other week). My dad has been helping me with this. It's a great opportunity for us to chat and just be together (something about making lemonade with lemons) so it becomes something that I look forward to. Unfortunately what I don't look forward are the occasions when I feel like I have to go to the bathroom in a hurry. One of the side effects of my treatments is that when I need to go I need to go right then. Another side effect is that I don't tend to have much warning about this. I've been working with this for months now so I'm used to having to try to figure out a "plan B" on the fly for not crapping myself. I've become one of those folks that can figure out shortest-path algorithms to bathrooms in most locations.

Today was one of those occasions. As I was in the car I noticed that familiar feeling pop up again. And we were nowhere near the hospital.

Oh no.

Now this isn't the first time that this has happened and I've dealt with it before so it wasn't a question of whether I could or couldn't do this. It was more dealing with it in this moment.

I felt the panic start. And the first thing I wanted to do was stop feeling that. Relax into this. Stop panicking so I didn't feel so trapped and helpless.

In Leo's Zen Habits Podcast he had episodes on the Zen of Being and Being Confronted by Fear. One of the things Leo mentions in those podcasts is about being with the feelings that you are having without trying to run away from those feelings. So I took that as a practice area and felt the feelings of panic and helplessness, and then feelings of relief when things subsided. And each time I leaned into the feelings of helplessness and panic and felt them as fully as I could.

One of the fears that drives us the most is the fear of losing control. And boy howdy, when your bowels want to expel there is that feeling of helplessness, panic, and, yes, loss of control.

Fortunately I was able to make it to the super-secret bathroom before things went completely out-of-hand, but it really wiped me out. The rest of the day I felt kind of tired, both from the chemo and from that encounter. But it helped me to recognize the feelings that I have around my treatment, my disease, and how things have been progressing.

We don't get to choose all of our practice areas but we can lean into them and practice when they show up. Being with the feelings that show up and accepting them as they are without trying to run away from them is valuable. And we will be OK when those feelings subside.