Unlike your average dog, I love thunderstorms. The dark sky and the dark, dark clouds, the oceanic rain, the flashes and crashes and booms, even the flickering lights inside when the power is disrupted by the storm, it’s all disorder and surprise, the magic of unrestrained chaos. My cat, Oberon, gets wired during storms, racing around the house, darting from window to window to look outside, wide-eyed. That’s how storms make me feel, too.
When storms sweep in inside my head, it’s a different story. The lighting and thunder and torrential rains of anxiety turn me into a dog. I want to curl up and hide, whimper in fear at the unpredictability, the too-bright flashes of light, the cannonade of thunder, the rainy wash of emotions. They’re not fun, they’re not exciting, they’re just terror and sadness, an imminent threat to my well-being.
The weather outside has been hot and dry, but last night, a storm of anxiety flew in on butterfly’s wings. The storm hasn’t gone away yet. I’m managing to appear fairly well (or at least, I think I am), but inside, I’m shaking and on the verge of tears. I felt overloaded with energy yesterday afternoon, so the storm may have built off of that. I’m trying to remind myself that Energy is my gift and that this doesn’t need to be a weakness but a superpower. To that end, I’ve decided to try dealing with this anxiety differently than I usually do, which is to curl up on the sofa with my cat and watch TV and read and cry, waiting for the storm to pass.
Once upon a time, I got it in my head to walk from my apartment to a friend’s house during a monster of a storm. As I ran through the rain, getting soaked through to my bones and lashed by winds, I stopped, looked up at the blackened sky, raised my arms to the thunder and lightning, and I laughed. I laughed a lunatic laugh, loud and long, full of joy and excitement, embracing the vulnerability of being outside in a storm with little between the storm and me. A few blocks later, when I got to my friend’s house, I was still laughing.
Rather than stay whimpering in my house, I’ve gotten out to sit around people (even though people are making me nervous right now). Instead of trying to hide until the storm passes, instead of trying to beat my anxiety up (how do you punch a storm cloud?), I’m trying to embrace the primal tempest, to laugh and dance with it, to let it soak me to the bone and be okay with that. (I’ve also taken some Xanax, for the one-two punch of medication and therapeutic thinking.)
Being afraid of storms is a natural instinct and nothing to be ashamed of. If I have to curl up and wait it out, then that’s what I have to do, and so be it. But to play along with it, to cackle in the face of unrestrained chaos, what harm is there in trying this? I may not be able to completely solve the problem of my anxiety, but I can certainly try to game it, subdue it without fighting, trick it into being an ally instead of an enemy.
Creativity is my gift.