Upon initial acceptance of the offer to uproot myself and start my life anew in Japan, I was nothing but elated. I couldn’t hold my excitement in and I often caught myself daydreaming of riding my bike to work and speaking Japanese with the locals as I shopped the corner market for my fresh fruits and veggies. I couldn’t stop smiling as I shared this amazing news with my family and closest friends. The adventures I would soon be faced with and this new life I was imagining brought a flutter to my stomach and I couldn’t wait to begin.
Then one, dark, cold and stormy night a few weeks after the “handshake” I had a face-off with my long, lost nemesis, Panic. Ok, maybe Panic was conjured up by a bit of recreational sampling, but that is neither here nor there….Panic was in my face regardless of how he got there. I think this was my worst bout yet and I’ve had many. I was trying to fall asleep when my mind literally started swarming with questions. It was like the floodgates opened and I couldn’t even concentrate on one before another entered, then another, then another…Then I could feel the sensation in my entire body. If you’ve experienced this type of panic attack you know exactly what I am talking about, if you haven’t then I hope you never do. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone…I mean that. Think about that feeling you get when you just realize you forgot an important appointment or when you “almost” get into an accident. That rush of adrenaline shoots through your entire body in a split second. Now imagine that rush you feel in those situations shooting through your body, only it keeps shooting back and forth, back and forth like a frickin pinball…it doesn’t go away…just ricochets off every corner of your body. My heart pounded so hard it felt that my chest would burst and I struggled to take in air while trying to rationalize the irrational thoughts that were plaguing my mind and keeping me from sleep. How will I know where to go? What if I get lost? What if Rufus doesn’t make the flight? What if I can’t take him? What if the whole thing is a scam? What if I get there and I’m stuck and I can’t leave? These questions/thoughts wouldn’t stop…not even for a short break and I knew it wasn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
So what does one do when they are having a panic attack in the middle of the night? Duh-they wake up their roommate! Poor Courtney, there’s nothing that can be said or done to ease one of this feeling. I was bombarding her with questions like: Why am I doing this? How could I be so stupid? How did I think I could do this? What was I thinking? All questions she couldn’t answer of course…although she gave it her best effort. She watched as I paced and yelled at no one in particular for my poor decision making; moving from the fetal position to child’s pose then back to pacing. Finally after 2 1/2 hours of sheer insanity (I think Court had already dialed the looneybin) I finally took a Xanex. Why did I wait so long you ask? Well, rational thought is pretty much an urban legend when in the midst of a panic attack. As the wonder drug kicked in, we perused websites and learned a few essential Japanese phrases to help ease my worry and in no time at all (Courtney’s version would say otherwise), I finally fell asleep.
My tune has definitely changed since that awful night. I am still excited and looking forward to this new change, but the thoughts and questions from my panic episode still linger. Of course, I’ve weeded (no pun intended) out the really irrational ones like “How will I know what train to get on from the airport?” or “Could this be a scam?” because I’m pretty sure I’ve got those covered at this point. I also know that Rufus, my biggest concern, will be fine. The questions that remain now are more along the lines of: Will the people I meet be as close to the caliber of those currently in my life? Will I fall in love with the culture or find it so awkward that I truly cannot wrap my mind around it enough to embrace it? Will I love my job or regret that I didn’t go for a general ed position like I had hoped? Will I be involved and find the right group of people to spend my time with and travel with? Will I be as miserable as I was when I first moved to San Diego? These are legit questions at this point and they really cannot be answered until I get there….they are the unknown. A few of the answers are also up to me and how I respond to this change and if I allow myself to open up and truly accept all possibilities. That part is up to me. I think the positive that came out of my miserable night with Panic is that I now understand the magnitude of this decision. I’m still proud of my decision and know it will truly be an experience of a lifetime. I am finally doing what I’ve always dreamed of…seeing the world!