Panic. Just the word itself can induce panic. So what does panic mean? According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, panic means, “a sudden overpowering fright” and/or “a sudden unreasoning terror often accompanied by mass flight” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/panic). And I couldn’t agree more with the definition. Panic is just that simple. A sudden or instantaneous overpowering fright due to some external situation or sometimes an internal situation. However, on thing about panic is that generally when it happens we have no control over the initial reaction. Panic is part of our “program” that is there to help keep us alive. Or at least that was the original purpose of panic. However, in today’s modern world where we have cell phones, text messages, email, and other instantaneous forms of “communication”, one would “think” that panicking over not being able to get in touch with a loved one would be something of the “past” and yet because of all of the technology, panic is more common now then ever BECAUSE we are so used to being able to contact our loved ones whenever we want to and nearly instantaneously, that when we can’t get ahold of that person, the first reaction we have is panic. But then we can get ourselves into some big trouble because according to the above definition, panic can overpower us and cause us to try and take flight. But how does one “take flight” in a situation where taking flight does no good in trying to get ahold of a loved one? Let me share my story with you about a recent situation where I found myself in complete and total panic and all I wanted to do was flee but I couldn’t. This is my story and how I moved through my incapacitating panic.
My husband and I have a trucking company where we haul vehicles across the country. Now, I have my CDL and have driven with him many times, though my main duties are navigation, helping load and unload the trailer and generally keeping things flowing as well as possible. However, out on the road can be quite dangerous because of weather issues especially in the wintertime in the northern states. Ice, black ice, blowing snow, high winds, and white out conditions can all make traveling very dangerous and this is especially true when you are driving a rig that weighs nearly 80,000 pounds and is over 60 feet long. Traction and stopping are issues that come up all the time. So being experienced with those driving conditions and with the rig are quite important, if not life saving. And this is where I pick up the story.
Because I have been working at getting Spirit Mountain Healing Center up and running and generally taking care of the farm and my daughter, my husband and I decided that I would stay home and he would be out on the road. However, I would still support him on the road with things like weather updates, helping book loads, and other things that I could do from home. My husband has over 30 years experience driving big rigs (all kinds) in all types of weather including hurricanes and white out blizzards, so weather issues are nothing new for him. And yet, life and Mother Nature have ways of keeping us on our toes and challenging our limits.
My husband headed out last Monday morning fully loaded headed for Minnesota where he would unload and reload headed from another destination. That other destination was Twin Falls, Idaho. Things were going okay, though he hit a lot of snow on the way up to Minnesota and then had to deal with very cold temperatures and ice. Lots of ice. He slipped and fell twice while loading and unloading up in Minnesota. He wasn’t hurt too badly but his mood was becoming cautious, to say the least. He finally got fully loaded in the mid part of Minnesota towards the southwest and was headed for Idaho. Generally, we stay in contact throughout the day either via phone calls or text messaging to keep each other updated on how things are going for us. It was mid afternoon when I got a text from him saying that he had been hit be a huge gust of wind from the side which blew him over onto a patch of ice, which in turn caused him to careen into the median ditch. He then continued through the ditch and then found himself on the eastbound lanes of the interstate rather than on the westbound lanes. Now, he was okay, the rig did not flip because of his experience with this situation, and there no accidents on the eastbound lanes. He managed to get himself pulled together and turned around so he was heading the correct direction on the correct side of the interstate and continued down the road.
Now you can imagine my panic at the moment I read his text and the first thing I did was text him back, “Are you okay?” He text back “Yes, just badly shaken, but I’m okay.” And in that moment when I read that text my panic started to subside and ease. False alarm. No need to flee now. I knew my husband was okay and that was the most important thing. Now, fast forward time.
My husband and I have an agreement that he will always let me know when he is shut down for the night (this is big rig talk for going to sleep) UNLESS he is someplace where he does not have cell or Internet service. And believe it or not, there are many places, especially in the mountainous areas of the US, where our modern ways of communicating just do not work. Period. See where this story is going? Yep, you guessed it. He ended up in an area where there was absolutely ZERO cell or Internet service and he could not tell me he was shut down and safe. This is where panic comes into play for me. And I mean sheer panic. I hadn’t heard from him in a couple of hours and I knew that it was getting close to his shut down time, so I reached out to him and sent him a text. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Nearly 15 minutes went by and nothing from him. That is not like him. We stay in contact and have our “way.” Suddenly, I found myself with this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. And the questions started racing through my head. “What is going on with him? Why hasn’t he responded yet? This isn’t like him? Oh no, what is wrong?” And before you know it, my mind was racing with thoughts of the worst possible scenario. He had crashed and was dead on the side of the road somewhere between Minnesota and Idaho. Panic had set in and I was “off to the races.”
Instantly my mind was trying to figure out where he could be and how I could “get to him.” I was seeing myself driving like a crazy woman up north to find him and all sorts of irrational thoughts that were unrealistic and not helpful in any way, shape, or form, and yet my brain went there. This is the part of panic that we do not have control over in the moment the panic kicks in. The only way to get through panic is just that, to get through it and allow the body and brain’s natural process to work. However, I suddenly found myself calling a friend of mine who was a state patrol officer and asking him how the hell do I find my husband. Thank God he was calm and able to handle my panic. That’s partly why I called him. I knew he would be able to handle me and help me in my “blind panic” state. So, to make a long story, shorter, he told me to contact all the state patrols in the states where I thought he could be and ask if there were any reports involving my husband. The crazy thing is at this time of my panic, I did not even think, not once, about our agreement that if I don’t hear from him it is because he has not service. Nope. Didn’t even cross my mind. Just the drive to find my husband alive and safe. Panic at its finest.
Well, I am glad to say that after taking to 5 different state patrol offices, there were no reports of my husband being in a crash or any other issues and the weather and road conditions for the most part, were good for traveling. The other thing that several of the western mountainous state patrol officers told me that there were many places along his possible routes where there was zero cell service and that is most likely where he is since there were no reports of any interactions with my husband. I called my friend back and gave him the report. And he stated the same thing to me. It was at this time, that I found my panic starting to subside and I was becoming clearer in the head and was starting to see that he was most likely shut down and had no way of letting me know this information. And……that turned out to be the case. He was shut down and had no way of letting me know. He even tried to find a pay phone but those don’t really exist any more. So, there we were, stuck. He knew I would panic and have a long night (which I did) and I was stuck in panic mode for awhile trying not to think the worst and waiting for the phone to ring. I was hoping it wouldn’t be from a state patrol officer. And I am very grateful that the phone call I got at 4 am was from my husband, safe and sound. A happy ending, despite the panic. I let myself move through the panic so that eventually I could become more clear headed and finally be able to look at the different reasons why he wasn’t in contact with me and those reasons also included not having cell service.
To me, this is why we are experiencing MORE panic and anxiety in our daily lives. Because of modern technology, which is supposed to “help make our lives easier.” From my recent experience with my husband and modern technology, I can honestly say that modern technology DOES NOT make our lives easier. To me, it just adds more panic and stress. And that is not a good thing. Just something to consider when you find yourself panicked because you cannot reach your loved one and you find yourself thinking the worst.
Namaste, my friend.