Thunderstorm Panic

May 27th, 2010

lighteningAt least Cleo can sleep it off. When she freaks out at a thunderstorm and keeps us up all night, the next morning, the birds are chirping and she’s passed out on the floor while I write. She can sleep all day, I think, jealously. I can barely keep my eyes open and I have to go to school. I can’t help but feel guilty, though, wondering if it is true that anxious dogs are the result of anxious owners. Not to mention the fact that I traumatized her in her puppyhood by bringing her to fireworks and she’s never been the same since.

Wayne stayed out on the couch with her last night, after I’d gone to bed early. I woke up and the bed was half empty and I was wondering why he kept turning on the lights out there to wake me up. A boom of thunder explained things. At one point it wasn’t just thunder reverberating through the house, but the sound of wind or rain or something like a freight train. My heart pounding, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep for a while. I went out to the landing where Cleo was panting and shaking and wandering around trying to slink herself into cracks between the furniture and Wayne was lying on the new couch. “What is going on out there?” I asked him, wanting him to tell me it’s not a hurricane or tornado or the apocalypse.

“It’s just a thunderstorm,” he said, probably wondering what the hell was wrong with me, now. I have to admit, I was a little worried I had contracted my dog’s phobia of thunderstorms. Wayne shone his headlamp onto Cleo who was trying to shove herself into the tv cabinet. “Get her out of there,” he said. I tried, but she had the strength of terror in her, and he had to get up and slide a table in her way. I wasn’t helping any, and a little more awake, I could hear it really was just an ordinary, if close, thunderstorm.

I got back into bed and felt the pounding of my heart, familiar from all those panic attacks. Suddenly I imagined the pure fear Cleo must feel, which, even with all my self-talk, is immune to rational thought. It seemed completely hopeless to try to get her to calm down. I wanted to give her one of my Xanax, but I remembered how she went berserk when we gave her a sedative the vet prescribed. Wayne would have already given her the natural stuff, “Quiet Moments” which has no discernable effect anyway.

I thought of taking a Xanax myself, so I could quiet my racing pulse and get back to sleep, even though I’d stopped taking it months ago, maybe a whole year, when I decided enough trying to combat anxiety with drugs. They helped, but not enough, and I became convinced I had to do it with my own brain—meditation, mostly. Not that I’d been practicing meditating. I lay in bed, and decided to try to work with the thoughts. Wayne was taking care of Cleo so I could let that go. It was just an ordinary thunderstorm, I reflected, and a wave of calm unexpectedly washed through my body. That almost never works. Grateful, I fell asleep.

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