In life, we all come across that point when the truth (we have been denying) stares in our face and we are left with no choice but to accept it. There is simply no escaping. It can either be an emotionally crushing moment or a liberating one. Well it actually depends on how you react to it.
This is my story. I have a fairly disciplined lifestyle and have never suffered from sleep issues until that day. A couple of weeks back, I switched off the bedside lamp preparing myself to sleep. As I tried to shut my eyes, I felt my mind abuzz with myriad garbled thoughts clamoring for my attention. It felt like all the neurons were jumping all over buzzing like busy bees. The next moment it felt like someone or something was severely choking me out of my breath. We do have a family history of cardiac diseases which threw me into a bout of panic attack. What was happening to me? Am I going to die? What do I do? Leaping out of the bed I gulped for air. My yoga practitioner friend would often advice that taking few deep breaths during flashes of panic, confusion, anger or extreme pain can help us tide over the initial onslaught and bring things into perspective. I tried doing that and thankfully it actually worked for me. My mind slowly calmed down and I felt slightly relaxed. I sat back and decided to figure out the trigger because something was definitely wrong. I always believe that our lives are all about cause and effect. Nothing happens in isolation. Working back to the events of the day, past week and months, it all became clear. The moment of realization was Zen like. It was the turning point, where I accepted the existence of a problem gaping at me. A problem that was largely self-created and absolutely avoidable.
About a year and a half back, I had taken over the charge of turning around a withering small business. The company was in a mess both financially and operationally. Sifting through the chaos I started putting systems and processes in place. However, I had started micromanaging important functions like procurement and sales. In a few months I was the company's "go to guy" or gal in my case. I was on a mission and became obsessed with the business (at least that's what people around me thought). It was kind of intoxicating. I started placing unrealistic expectations on myself and chased work like there was no tomorrow. Customers were of course happy that I was accessible at all times. A lot of important business conversation started happening after work hours. I was constantly updating my to-do list, checking and responding to emails, following up on procurements or sending order status to customers. I could not remember the last time I took a break or went on a small holiday over a weekend. Bottom line -- I was glued to my smartphone and tablet 24 x 7. I reached for them all the time, first thing in the morning, while gobbling down my breakfast, when my 6-year-old was animatedly narrating his soccer exploits and even in the middle of the night if I woke up. I was never switching off! The day (or the night) of the panic attack was no different. I had traveled out of town for meetings continued to catch up with work till I reached for the light switch. My body decided to rebel (with a good cause in the end).
Everyone around me had warned about my extreme habits and how it can come crashing one day. I had laughed off their advice saying everything is under control and denied that I am doing anything out of the ordinary. I was so wrong. I wanted to share the incident with people around me but could not do so out of shame and guilt especially since I had arrogantly brushed off their well-meaning advice. Yes, I accept that there is a problem and I need to work my way through.
Today opening up about my experience, writing about it, has a cathartic effect. I feel free. I would never like to go through it again. And no one should. My struggle to switch off is an ongoing one. I consciously take time -- out to reflect. And now I am more open to advice and propositions to improve my lifestyle.